In a move that comes as no surprise, USA Track & Field announced today that its board of directors has selected 47 year-old Indianapolis native Max Siegel, a marketing executive with ties to the sports and music industries – and former USATF board member – to serve as its new CEO. USATF has been operating without a full-time CEO since the board dismissed Doug Logan in September 2010 after a rocky two years at the helm. Chief Operating Officer Mike McNees had been serving as interim CEO.
Mr. Siegel becomes the fourth chief executive in the organization’s history following Ollan Cassell (1980-1996), Craig Masback (1997-2008), and Doug Logan (2008-2010). He will assume his duties on May 1st under a two-year contract reportedly valued at $500,000 per year with performance bonuses.
Since USATF announced last month that it intended to hire a new CEO before the June track & field trials in Eugene, Oregon – thus ending a protracted 16-month interregnum – many long-time observers of the sport surmised the selection would come from within the USATF family. And since Mr. Siegel had been a USATF board member (2009-2011) whose firm was hired last October to oversee the USATF marketing effort going into the summer Olympics, he was widely expected to be named to the CEO position.
It had been a long, rancorous road to Mr. Siegel’s selection, however. Officials had hoped to have a replacement named well in advance of last year’s U.S. Track & Field Championships, but sources close to the sport’s governing body told the Indianapolis Business Journal at the time that “there are signs that board members can’t agree on who will make a suitable replacement for Logan, and that one of their own is increasingly interested in the job.”
Last year’s search committee chair Steve Miller told the Chicago Tribune, “This has been a lot more protracted than I imagined.”
Miller thought he had the ideal candidate, but University of Oregon track coach Vin Lananna turned down the opportunity. Many track insiders thought that USATF board president Stephanie Hightower’s own strong interest in the job had increased the difficulty in securing a new leader. Whether fair or not, those same insiders now believe that in Mr. Siegel Ms. Hightower has found a suitable ally.
Interesting, though, that among the criteria listed in the March 26th press release announcing the resumption of its CEO search under a committee chaired by Ms. Hightower, USATF said of the ideal candidate: “It is vital they are someone who is either in or has a long history with the sport of track and field.”
Then Mr. Siegel’s acceptance statement began: “I am honored by the opportunity to serve as USA Track & Field’s CEO. Since I first got involved with USATF in 2009…”
Mr. Siegel has spent 20 years in sports and entertainment marketing since graduating cum laude from University of Notre Dame law school. His last posting was as President of Global Operations at Dale Earnhardt Inc., where he helped sell sponsorships that promoted NASCAR. What doomed Mr. Logan’s reign – he came from a background at Major League Soccer – was his lack of support on the USATF board coming into office.
Mr. Siegel is much better positioned politically. His experience on the USATF board and recent marketing contract work for USATF, short though these stints have been, may prove their value as he navigates the tricky political waters of the arcane organization, always the toughest assignment for any leader of such a varied and conflicted entity. And while Mr. Logan gained unanimous support of the selection committee, he failed to receive a unanimous vote of the board, something Mr. Siegel was accorded. Remember, too, that Bill Roe was still president of USATF when Mr. Logan was hired in July 2008. Hightower took over the position four months later. Logan was then terminated in Sept. 2010.
“Countless members of the track & field community had suggested that we consider Max for the position,” Ms. Hightower was quoted in the announcement press release, “citing his success as an executive, his rolodex and his ability to bring people together to get things done. Selecting Max unanimously has brought a renewed unity to our board and will enable the organization to recalibrate our structure and function so we can move forward as a professional organization.”
This blog advanced the candidacy of Tracy Sundlun, who has spent 40 years in the sport. Mr. Sundlun failed to receive an invitation for an interview.
“This sport has it all,” Mr. Siegel was quoted in the announcement release, “charismatic stars, great stories, unmatched diversity, grassroots participation in the tens of millions, a multi-billion-dollar sporting-goods industry, and a passionate base. Connecting those dots is what the board, our staff and volunteers will work together to achieve.”
Attenuating such disparate dots is the force-field Mr. Siegel has now entered. Long bedeviled by internecine squabbles, USATF has seen the fortunes of its sport plunge dramatically over the past twenty-odd years. Those with an interest in the sport can only wish him luck. He has worked with rock stars like Britney Spears and Usher. His CV lists representation of sports Hall of Famers like the NFL’s Reggie White and baseball hit maestro Tony Gwynn.
Notwithstanding, in his short time as the USATF marketing consultant, Siegel did not sign any major deals, saying, “I consider what we’ve done so far to mainly be foundational and behind-the-scenes work.” That consulting contract will terminate My 1st, when he takes the reins as CEO.
The full USATF release is below.