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U.S. Ski Team Comes Up Short... again!

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 
Wow...just wow!

An excerpt from : U.S. Ski Team Comes Up Short... again!

Bryon Friedman says:

Quote:
As they say, History repeats itself, and once again the U.S. Ski Team cannot afford to fund their athletes, including me. After one of the best seasons in the history of U.S. Skiing (2 overall World Cup Titles, 3 discipline titles, 15 World Cup wins, and 37 Podiums) the National Team, led by Alpine Coordinator Jesse Hunt, does not have the financial backing to fully fund their team. What's wrong with this picture? As of now the athletes who are not funded include Erik Schlopy, who happens to be one of our best skiers and a 3-time Olympian, 7-time National Champion, World Championship Bronze Medalist, and 3rd place overall World Cup G.S. skier...again, what's wrong with this picture? Dane Spencer, also one of our best skiers, is coming back from a near fatal injury and happens to be a 2-time Olympian and National Champion. Oddly Dane was not even named to the team, even though this was his first year back after breaking his neck and crushing his pelvis. Dane and I were both given access to train with the National Team on our own dime, which is proposed to cost between $20,000 and $30,000 for the Season. Furthermore, Jake Zamansky (currently ranked 5th in the U.S. and 54th in the World in G.S.) who earned a World Cup spot by winning the Nor Am G.S. standings has been ostracized from the U.S. Ski Team and is not even allowed to pay his way to train with the World Cup Team...once again, what's wrong with this picture? Just wait; there's more. Recently the entire Men's C-Team was told they have to pay for the competition portion of their season, which will cost each of them $10,000. The C-Team includes the best up and coming athletes in our country including Will Brandenburg, who is ranked 1st in the World for his age, and Travis Ganong, who is one of the best 4 event skiers I have seen since Bode Miller. Do I dare say it again...what's wrong with this picture?

...

I'll tell you what's wrong. Our organization, or "company" as upper management likes to call it, has lost site of their core values. To put it bluntly, Jesse Hunt (our Alpine Coordinator) summarized it best by saying "the organization is not going the direction of the athlete/individual." This was a direct quote that I received from Hunt when I asked for help in my recovery from my injury. If the organization is not going the direction of the individual (keep in mind skiing is an individual sport, not a team sport) then where is it going? I'll tell you where. It's going to the pockets of the upper management, specifically CEO Bill Marolt, who egregiously recorded a $300,000 bonus this season on top of his already high $700,000/year salary (up from $559,880 in 2004). That's right, over $1million dollars for the CEO of a non-profit organization that can't even afford to sufficiently fund their own athletes...that's what's wrong with this picture! (Although I cannot find this year's accounting information as of yet, I have a reliable source within the organization that backs this claim). Either way you look at it, Marolt is overpaid, and although he is entitled to a good salary due to the stellar results the Team posted this year, his athletes are suffering.
post #2 of 64
Damned shame. Seems that in the US CEO should stand for Certifiably Extremely Overpaid or Cheat Every One, since our CEOs earn more than in any other country even if the company is in the red and tanking.
post #3 of 64

Not good at all...

...as you'll also note, Jesse Hunt got to be the flak catcher on this one, explaining that the shrunken USST was a result of higher criteria. Yep, it's a problem, and I don't know what the answer is. Everybody answers to somebody, and what I can't figure out is who Marolt answers to. Is it the board? Is it the trustees? My guess is, they have a totally results based, short term approach to things...let's see two overall WCs last year (forgetting, as Marolt did in an interview from the US Championships, that Bode is not on the USST...), some discipline titles...yep, I'd say we're doing great, and Marolt has a firm hand on the tiller...hand him another $300,000. So regardless of whom he answers to, it probably ain't gonna do me any good to get in touch with the real folks in charge and say "Marolt is stealing your money, and mine, too."

I get letters weekly from the USST asking for donations. The next one I get, I'm going to compose a form letter that basically says "Not a dime to the USST directly...but if you can show me how to route my money directly to an athlete in need, you've got my full attention."

The USST is about to undergo some unfortunate changes, is my prediction. One of the big new initiatives, going forward, as they say in corporate speak, is talent recognition (what a concept...ever hear of scouting before, guys?). The idea being, "let's find the best athletes so we can recruit them to be winning USST racers." Only problem is...most of the best athletes are in the world of baseball, football, basketball, or track and field, where there's fame and fortune to be found, and they ain't likely to be dumb enough to enter a money-losing proposition such as ski racing. Tennis, anyone?
post #4 of 64
what's the structure of the USST? Is it a private non-profit 401c3? Does it get any funding from the government?

I like sr55's idea of donations going directly to the athletes. Maybe someone should suggest to Bode that he starts a non-profit for this purpose?

Post something on skispace.com, which he's very involved in?

Anyone participate in that site?
post #5 of 64
post #6 of 64

Humm!!!

May 19, 2008

Hi Fellow Racing Enthusiasts:

Just did a simple "google" search on the top salary of the CEO of the American Red Cross. In a nut shell, 2004, with a revenue of 2.9 billion dollars and a expenditure of 3.4 billion dollars, the top salary at the American Red Cross was $650,000.00. I include the website as follows:

http://www.forbes.com/finance/lists/...niqueId=CH0013

(you may have to wait a few seconds to be redirected to the correct site, since initially you probably will be at an UPS site).

There is no way that the CEO of the USST heads an outfit even 1/10 the size of the American Red Cross. The numbers don't compute, greedy bastards.

Think snow,

CharlieP
post #7 of 64

Yep, all true...

Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlieP View Post
May 19, 2008

Hi Fellow Racing Enthusiasts:

Just did a simple "google" search on the top salary of the CEO of the American Red Cross. In a nut shell, 2004, with a revenue of 2.9 billion dollars and a expenditure of 3.4 billion dollars, the top salary at the American Red Cross was $650,000.00. I include the website as follows:

http://www.forbes.com/finance/lists/...niqueId=CH0013

(you may have to wait a few seconds to be redirected to the correct site, since initially you probably will be at an UPS site).

There is no way that the CEO of the USST heads an outfit even 1/10 the size of the American Red Cross. The numbers don't compute, greedy bastards.

Think snow,

CharlieP
...so all we have to do is state the obvious, the USST will throw Bill Marolt out on his fat ass, and everything will straighten out, right? Unfortunately, probably not. See my post, above. Bill Marolt is accountable to somebody, exactly who isn't clear. Whoever it is, however, just made him a relatively rich man, as CharlieP points out...so...who is going to point out to those people, whomever they are, that the emperor really isn't wearing any clothes? And even if we did, what difference would it make? The only thing that will make a change in the USST management/coaching staff is the same thing that makes a change in any sports organization: the team starts sucking darts. Which is about to happen, in my estimation. Watch this space...
post #8 of 64
post #9 of 64
It occurs to me, what needs to happen is that skiers need to organize, and cast off the yoke of the organization that isn't serving their needs. Given the way the internet has made direct communication and funding a functional reality, I believe it isn't beyond the realm of possibility to eliminate the middleman (greedy "managing" bastards) and get funding to take a more direct route to athletes without the parasites sucking the fat. Forums like this could help immeasurably I expect.

Exposure to the situation is the key, I expect there are many current donors who would be very sympathetic to athletes that are getting shorted by a self serving bureaucracy.

I'm not suggesting that there isn't some viable structure to the USST, but if the funding isn't reaching the athletes, then the athletes need to regain decision making power. Organization and exposure will procure leverage to make changes that are needful.
post #10 of 64
I am curious if the mass media knows of this whole disgraceful situation?
post #11 of 64
The only time ski racing makes the press is "Olympic Glory" or a scandal.

When is the last time you saw WC results in any mainstream media?

DW (German), TV has a small segment on their sports coverage on our cable provider after a WC race ... about 20 seconds worth ... but that is incidental and just part of DW's normal stuff.
post #12 of 64

That's exactly where I was going to go next...

Quote:
Originally Posted by volantaddict View Post
It occurs to me, what needs to happen is that skiers need to organize, and cast off the yoke of the organization that isn't serving their needs. Given the way the internet has made direct communication and funding a functional reality, I believe it isn't beyond the realm of possibility to eliminate the middleman (greedy "managing" bastards) and get funding to take a more direct route to athletes without the parasites sucking the fat. Forums like this could help immeasurably I expect.

Exposure to the situation is the key, I expect there are many current donors who would be very sympathetic to athletes that are getting shorted by a self serving bureaucracy.

I'm not suggesting that there isn't some viable structure to the USST, but if the funding isn't reaching the athletes, then the athletes need to regain decision making power. Organization and exposure will procure leverage to make changes that are needful.
...even before the recent news, there was a rumor that Ted Ligety and Julia Mancuso were thinking about joining Bode Miller's Team America (which, by the way, isn't dead, he just needs to get some replacement coaches...wonder where they might come from?).

And it's not much of a stretch to think of some B Teamers considering the same thing, when just before the season started last year, a bunch of them found out they were going to be billed retroactively for their training to the tune of something like $40,000. So, if I'm a B Teamer, I might be thinking "Gee whiz...I have to raise the money anyway, they can't keep me out of the races if I have FIS points...why should I put up with the US Team?"

Of course, the FIS, IMHO, isn't helping anything. Atle Skaardal made a pitch to the FIS regarding reducing the overcrowded schedule. The FIS answer? Same schedule as last year, basically. The hardgoods manufacturers are going broke supporting the WC, a point they've made ad nauseum to the FIS. The answer? Tough darts. The US can put on quality races all season long; it's always a crap shoot in Europe. The answer? You get maybe a few speed events in Canada, Beaver Creek, and Aspen, same as always.

I think high level ski racing is going to continue to exist, in some form, but it's obviously got to change. Factory teams, anyone?
post #13 of 64

I doubt it, see what Yuki says, below...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richie-Rich View Post
I am curious if the mass media knows of this whole disgraceful situation?
...Joe Couch Potato could care less about ski racing, except maybe during the Olympics, so the press, by association, isn't going to care either. A hot story is yet another NFL athlete getting busted for drugs or whatever, problems with the USST is page 18 news, if that.
post #14 of 64

Interesting stuff...

Quote:
Originally Posted by spindrift View Post
...I haven't read through all of it yet, but the bylaws are a fairly standard set of corporate speak with a mission statement and a section that says, as I suspected, that Marolt answers to the board. So you now know where his $300,000 bonus and salary increase came from.

The board is composed of a wide variety of folks, including athlete representatives and 6 trustees from the USSTF. So if the athletes have a beef, they supposedly have an avenue to express same. Oddly enough, we, as USSA members can file a grievance against the USSA, although there appear to be sufficient weasel words that say we can't actually complain about the CEO's performance.

But the board has a chairman (Dexter Paine, Woodside, CA (Foundation)), so maybe I'll start there...
post #15 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiRacer55 View Post
...Joe Couch Potato could care less about ski racing, except maybe during the Olympics, so the press, by association, isn't going to care either. A hot story is yet another NFL athlete getting busted for drugs or whatever, problems with the USST is page 18 news, if that.

Yep....they can use millions of tax payer dollars and take up Congress' focus (in a time of war) arguing over whether or not a retired baseball player took steroids 10 years ago (who cares), but they do not have the money to support our own national ski team.
post #16 of 64

I wasn't going to go there...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richie-Rich View Post
Yep....they can use millions of tax payer dollars and take up Congress' focus (in a time of war) arguing over whether or not a retired baseball player took steroids 10 years ago (who cares), but they do not have the money to support our own national ski team.
...but I'm glad you did. The only consolation is...what if the government did fund the USST? Who would be the CEO then? I'll give you three guess, where the first two don't count, and a big hint is a current VP who's a real good shot when it comes to fellow Americans....
post #17 of 64
The Boy Scouts of America

The PBA & PAL

The one thing these groups have in common is raking in cash and paying a high salary to the administration and brass.

Personally, I detached from the Boy Scouts as I was getting hustled to join because some parents sued the George Washington Council in NJ in order to find out it the brass were making the millions they were said to be making. After protracted court battles to hide the information it turn out (from memory), they were making big $$$$$$$$$$$ on the backs of the kids who were going door to door.

My point is, at some time the weasels will sniff out the green and create an empire. I quit writing checks to the USSA/USST this year after these issues arose toward the start of the season (see my prior posts), and will probably never join or give again.

I also predicted that the Alpine events will be going the was of the luge and other arcane events as other forms rise and take over. To host a half pipe event is probably peanuts when it comes to closing half a mountain for a race.
post #18 of 64
It sure seems to me that with some modest internet effort, we could organize some form of direct-to-athlete donations. Whether money, services, equipment, airline miles (much of their travel is not donated - although if things haven't changed at least they don't have to pay luggage overages), food, etc. Hell, if we just sent a bunch of them pre-paid cards to Jamba Juice, Starbucks, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Safeway, Shell, Mobil, etc., they'd go a long way.

If you think the Alpine Skier athletes get screwed, you should see the Alpine Snowboard team. Many literally live out of their cars to be able to train and compete.

Check out the video on Tyler Jewell's myspace page entitled "Another Day in Paradise."

Any why the f can't we embed videos in this stupid site? Every other forum allows it.
post #19 of 64
Bear with me. This is going to be long. A lot of pent-up frustration.

This is starting to get a lot of air-time in ski racing venues. Lots of chatter on ski-racing.com, for example. Not matter whether you are an athlete, a parent, a coach, or a fan, you're frustrated. The closer you are to the USST, the more frustrated you are. We have friends who are coaches, former coaches, athletes, dumped athletes, and oh-so close athletes, and they are all dismayed. A lot of talking going on.

The sad fact is that Bill Marolt has free reign to do whatever he pleases. The governance above him is a joke. He's really accountable to no-one. Do any of you know any trustees, or board members? The ones that I know are big money guys, investment guys, who fly to their homes at Deer Valley{or other similar low rent spots} in their private jets, and host cocktail parties with $1000 cabernet. They wouldn't know the difference between a SL and a DH ski if they were sitting on their floor. Positively clueless. These are also men who are incredibly busy, and the USST/USSA board committment has to be a fun, or recreational one. Some of these guys are venture guys who sit on a dozen corporate boards!! Being on this one is fun, and obviously there is no heavy lifting. They are messing with a lot of their own money on these other boards, and in some cases in touch with them on a weekly basis. There's a lot of pressure. This one's more like a badge of honor, or a club. That's all I can think of.

So Marolt spins "results" any way he wants. There are no stock analysts grilling him with tough questions, demanding real facts. Hey, we won TWO overall WC globes, and TED won the GS globe. Best in the world. High fives. Some of these trustees earn $20MM a year, so what's a lousy $300K bonus? Hell he's a CEO, all the CEO's we know make good money. A million bucks in nothing on "the street." We don't know about that non-profit stuff, as all we do is create profits. Hey, let's go take some runs in our cool USST stuff. I have an overwhelming sense that the majority of the board and trustees are way out of touch. This is a great deal for Bill, and franky for Jesse. No real oversight, do what they want, earn a bunch. And by the way, Bill, lose that stupid term, "the company, "

Meanwhile, this athlete funding requirement is absurd. When you reach the USST, after having spent a small fortune of your family's hard earned money, is the answer to pay? This is the USA, and this is a National team!! Without question there's enough gross revenue in "the company" to pay for the athletes. As many of you have mentioned, it's how "the company" is mismanaged. My opinion is that they should be able to raise more money, and have more gross revenue to work with. Then, their efficiency at putting that money to work only has to move from horrific to marginally average to make a change. By any measure, it's terrible. Has anybody looked at all of the blah-blah middle management jobs? How many really impact the ski team, or the athletes?

I swear that any competent manager could figure this out.

I was at US Nationals to witness the annual USST love-fest again this year, including the latest generation of young "chosen ones." It makes me want to puke. This system is not about the athletes, at all, other than the decade old mission to identify young talent and be all over them. Or to showcase the big names, and use them to drive in some revenue. Real clear. To see how well Bryon Friedman skied, having apparently been told that "If you win the DH, you stay. If not, you're off..." was both inspiring and sad. He's a class act, and a hell of a speed skier. And, oh by the way, he was coming back from a tough, tough injury. In no other business would "the company" treat the assets and key employees this way. Is this paying attention to the athletes?

It was equally sad to see some of the D team kids, skiing well, with a lot of potential ahead of them, knowing that they were gone as a result of not making C team criteria. So much for being a "chosen one" two years ago. Good luck clawing your way back. Nationals should be a fun event. They were for the 1990's, 1991's, and 1992's. The pressure on the older skiers, on the bubble, was more evident than I've ever seen. Even those at the top of their game were feeling the pressure on their friends. Sad.

And as many know, being a USST coach, for the most part "can't suck enough." They make no money, have no home life, and don't get a lot of thanks. It sure isn't the pinnacle of the profession. If "the company" had their act together, they might figure out a way to hire the best, pay them well, and keep them. They might actually think about a career path. How much longer does it function with these guys looking at this as paying their dues as a means to land a nice program director's job afterwards? I can't imagine that the staff is real energized for these Mammoth camps, they were all burned out a month ago. Maybe they recharge fast. I won't get into the changes, appointments, etc. From a coaching {and athlete} perspective, Jesse should probably move on. It seems like big change is needed. Again, solving the coaching riddle shouldn't be that hard, should it? I don't get the sense that "the company" feels that the coaches are among the most important employees. Shouldn't they be?v

I think we have some other interesting developments on the horizon that the USST is wrestling with, and perhaps not liking. At one end of the spectrum, evidently Hunter Schlepler may be declining the D team invite. Why not stick with the coach that helped him with his recent explosive development? He had an incredible year result-wise, and his basic skiing is equally impressive. If you had a kid of his age with his talent, and you knew that after the D team, you absolutely HAD to make C team criteria{and still pay for that}, wouldn't you stick with the proven deal and some continuity? Particularly SINCE YOU PAY YOUR WAY ON THE D TEAM. Maybe there's a better result for the same money{or less}. Why do we even have a D team, with the strength of all of the alpine racing programs in this country? It's not like the race starts are different, unless getting demoralized in the occasional Europa Cup is a bonus. He's the only D team nominee with a sibling on the team, so perhaps he, his dad and sister have looked at this with a different set of lenses. I find it interesting.

At the top end, Bode's Team America concept works. They'll be back in great shape. Rumor has it that Julia Mancuso has hired her own coach to manage her situation. I would suspect that the USST is doing everything possible to somehow make it work within "the company." We'll see. He knows his stuff. Ted Ligety spend a lot of the second half of the season training with Bode, from what I hear. I've heard some grumblings that he may want his own deal, and isn't delighted with the USST. There are some guys who have been let go who are by no means done with ski racing, and we'll see them surface in some interesting places, I'm sure. All of these athletes know each other, and the friendships have nothing to do with who's got the current team jacket. I swear that "the company" misses that. Seeing a former teammate treated like dirt, and knowing you could be next just has do be demoralizing.

I have helped fund athletes, all of whom have been screwed by the team at multiple times, and to varying degrees in their careers. I would encouage each skier in this country to give whatever they can in a way that matters the most. To me, it's not the USST. I'd like these skiers to have "100% dollars" to use.

This is not going to change quickly. It is only going to change when Marolt is removed from his job, or by some small miracle if the money available to the USST increased to a level where despite the horrific leadership and dreadful mismanagement, more resources could flow to the coaches and athletes. If Marolt were clued into this, and thinking soundly, he'd get some of the hitters to match his donating his $300K bonus back to the team. If he got 4 trustees, that would be $1.5MM. At $30K, that would fund 50 athletes. And at their current 50% efficiency, it would still fund
twenty five. It shouldn't be that hard!

And like many, I find the fact that the USST management, and for the most part coaching staff, looks down their noses at the NCAA to be both foolish and sad. The top half-dozen guys in the NCAA, if provided with the same training, logistics, technicians and skis{don't overlook those two} as the team guys might be kicking a lot of USST ass. But then again that might get people to question the business model of "the company." I thought that NCAA thing worked OK for this small "company" called the NFL!

Having all of these age requirements and hurdles is very interesting, when we see WC success at all ages. Some women at 16, some men at 38. I don't know if the other ski federations have similar criteria. I don't understand how a 26 year old with three world rankings in the 70-80 range is a poorer "investment" than the 23 year old with two 135's? Particularly if the older guy is more consistent, and is getting faster by an incrementally wider margin. Very strange. It sure weeds out the NCAA kids.

The NCAA is now so competitive that most boys {and more girls} take a year to ski full time {or two...} before college. The average age of the men at this year's NCAA championships was 23. These are among the most competitive fields in the country. There's potential there, and potential that the USST/USSA only minimally has to fund. But if you're 25 when you graduate....B team criteria or out. That 25 year old, with all of the advantages of the USST and the maturity and focus, could move from a 135 WR to a 35 in three years. but he may not go to a 52 WR in one year. I don't get it.

It seems to me that the only reason that we even have a D team, and a D team staff, and budget, is to name and coach the upcoming US Jr. Worlds team. Obviously Hunt and Marolt put a lot of resources into Jr. Worlds. Maybe I'd shift those resources elsewhere, and let the dozens of top notch programs, independent programs, PG programs, and NCAA programs do some of the development. All of those people are going to fill the fields at all of the same NorAMs and FIS races. Is the D team turning out better skiers? Did Tommy Ford have his recent year because of the D team....dunno. But D team and Jr. Worlds are part of "the company" culture and mission. I don't sense that anybody on the inside is questioning whether we need it. If you dumped it, could you have a bigger and fully funded C team?

And when Zamansky makes that B team criteria, but is cut loose anyways? I don't know anything about the situation. But if the USST is all about their great criteria, how do they blow it off for him? Perhaps it's because he's been a "chosen one" for a long time, and he's plateaued with a world GS ranking in the 50's? The guy has earned a WC start through NorAms! I just don't get it. Seems like neither "way" works!

Notice that I didn't even mention "the center." Don't get me going on that!

Like the ski industry, and the sport don't have enough challenges!!

Crazy. Think about how to influence some change. We sure need it.
post #20 of 64
Great post! We on the fringes don't have the kind of insight to envision what actually needs to be done.
post #21 of 64
Horrible dicotomy of wealth at the top and not enough for the skiers that make it happen. Very enligtening and sad at the same time. What the heck does this Bill Marlot guy do that somebody else couldn't do as competently for a quarter of the salary. Didn't he own Market ski bindings years back as well.
post #22 of 64
Clearly the current situation with international racing must change. The whole of USSA should be devoted only to junior developmental programs and representation for Olympics and World Championships where national teams compete/gather as a "team". After that the racers should have to join a professional "factory" team no different than in pro cycling (hopefully without the doping) This will no doubt bring in additional sponsorship dollars and create a true pro tour and even potential TV exposure. Bring in special events like Slaloms under the lights in major cities etc.. There can be so much done from a marketing and merchandising standpoint here to create revenue streams for the teams. The FIS can be the governing body similar in function to the UCI providing they can be enlightened to the prospects (good luck there). Each Pro Team can negotiate its own salary's, coaches, techs, trainers, suppliers and contracts and raise money on its own accord- and be responsible for it. They can create additional revenue from merchandising and special appearances etc.. Why not have Team "FedEx" with Miller, Raich, Byggmark, Blardone, and Bryon Freidman for that matter. There are so many companies that would jump at the chance to sponsor a team on an individual basis where they can never afford overall WC sponsorship. Ski manufacturers would be responsible for only supplying contracted teams not countless national Ski Supplier POOLS- a HUGE savings to the industry. I can go on for hours on how all this would work and the way this is a win-win situation for the athletes and the industry- certainly for the fans!

Each team will also be responsible for its training, schedule, public relations, travel and transport, etc... Athletes are signed to contract by term and can move from team to team as desired. Each Team would be required to have a certain number of members to keep the race fields full and a point system would be used for qualifying criteria. There can be more team events as well as team/manufacture rankings. Why not have special "winner take all" events? Head to head races again?

Again, find a steep street in a major city - throw snow down- put up the lights and have a SL race downtown with 100,000 people watching and partying. Events can be put on by professional event promoters (X Games/Red Bull events) where TV rights can be sold per event and again bring in sponsor dollars and increased prize money.

I met recently at my office with the recent ex-head coach of the USA Mens team and we both agreed this direction is the future. How do we get it moving- Bode's Team America is a start, whats next?
post #23 of 64

All very good stuff, everybody...

...I think muleski's and srd's insights are especially perceptive. We are definitely at a crossroads. If the FIS can't get its act together, and I have no reason to believe it will, then ski racing will have to change. Ski Racing (the magazine) did an article earlier in the year that basically said that ski racing currently faces a lot of challenges (including but not limited to global warming)...but it'll survice somehow. It'll just have to change. So if the FIS doesn't change, who's to say that interested parties couldn't come up with an alternate circuit? Which is something Bode's proposed.

Assuming that the FIS continues to control racing for some time, which is probably going to be the case, then the next issue for Americans is obviously, So what about the US Team? Well, for all of us who have supported it so far, we have two choices: we can either continue to support the team and try to affect some change to the team, or we can support the racers, encourage them to continue to race and strive for their goals...but outside of the USST. I plan to do the latter.

I think muleski is right on the money in terms of how the board looks at Marolt and the way he is running the team. I've seen a ton of boards of directors in my corporate career, and as muleski points out, it's definitely a good old boys club composed of other CEOs whose only concern is that the guy who reports to them makes the bottom line numbers, whatever they happen to be. Beyond that, in their non-board lives, they're CEOs, and like most other CEOs, they don't care because they don't have to.

However, I do think it's a good idea to point out to the USST board that you can't fool all the poeple all the time, and not everybody in the USSA constituency thinks their decision-making (or lack thereof) is universally wonderful.

We had a similar situation occur a few years back at the University of Colorado in Boulder. to make a long story short, the Men's Tennis team got sacrificed to get the CU Regents to agree with the AD's position that the athletic budget was in trouble, and he needed to cut a sport and garner additional monies to keep the budget in balance...and, oh by the way, to keep funding the football team, which had just spent a lot of money paying off the contract of the former head coach...a whole other story I won't get into here.

CU Men's Tennis, after decades of languishing at the bottom of the Big 12, showed an amazing resurgence to the top of the Big 12 and to #23 in the country, under the tutulage of some great coaches and via the efforts of some truly great and inspired athletes. Those coaches were also my coaches, on the side, and the players were my friends and hitting partners. And I had a lot of local buddies who were in exactly the same position. So naturally, when the cuts were announced, we went out and did a bunch of fundraising...only to be told it wasn't enough to cover a full 3 years of funding. So we petitioned for an audience at the spring Regents meeting. The coaches and a bunch of people from the USTA went and made their pitch, basically to a roomful of glazed eyeballs. As one of the presenters said "They had long since made up their minds to rubber stamp the AD's decision to cut tennis, and they were just wondering what was for lunch."

So CU Men's Tennis was officially dead. Unbelievable, but sadly true. There really was nothing anyone could do, at that point, to reverse the decision. Up to this point, a bunch of us, yours truly included, had been emailing individual members of the Board of Regents at regular intervals, making our pitch and generally trying to sway their opinions, and they, of course, had been telling us they were completely open to a reconsideration of their position, which was, of course, hogwash.

So at that point, I wrote a letter to the Regents, essentially saying, okay...you got what you wanted, but not everybody loves you, and a few of us who have been around the block once or twice know what you don't seem to understand, which is that you rubber stamped a bad decision made by a buffoon, and in doing so, you acted unethically, irresponsibly, and without regard for the sport and the people...the players, coaches, and fans...involved. Guess what happens next? Yep, that's right, we vote with (a) our wallets, so CU never again sees any donations from us and (b) at election time...Regency is an elected position, remember? Beyond that, we don't forgive, and we don't forget, and you best not, either. What you did stunk, and the sooner you realize that and deal with it, the better you'll be able to sort out the rest of your lives. I recommend you do it soon, because it ain't going to go away.

I never got an answer back to that one, which doesn't surprise me, because I was right, and they were wrong in two very fundamental ways: (1) They thought they were doing the right thing, and (2) even if it wasn't the best for a (ahem) Small Minority of People, nobody would notice, and nobody would call them on it.

Well, they were wrong, and so is the USST Board of Directors. I'm in the Words 'R' Us Racket (translation: I'm a professional writer...), so I'm going to draft up a letter along these lines and get it off to the USST Board ASAP. As I say, even if it doesn't change anything, sometimes you have to let the weasels know that somebody is watching what they're doing, after all. Watch this space...
post #24 of 64
That was a good post. I would add that Ligety had to literally force his way onto the team by lowering his points so much in the pre WC Colo races. His method wouldn't have worked today. Eventually the powers that be in American ski racing such as Phil Mahre are going to force some sort of showdown with Marolt. Either to get rid of him or change his direction. There isn't a single former team member that isn't disgusted with the pay to play system you describe. Something has got to give here.

- Fossil
post #25 of 64
As an aside I would like to observe at this point on how right Bode was/is in light of what has manifested. I say this in response to all those who may have thought he was done for and was making a huge error breaking away from the US Ski team. Where is the mass media now?
post #26 of 64
Richie, keep in mind that Bode has been training with the Austrian and a few other teams so he is not totally a solo act.

It does take massive organizational effort to secure off season training sites and maintain the courses.

If the structure and venues can be arranged by corporate sponsors and that is indeed possible, so be it. However, that would (possibly), cut down on the nationalistic fervor the fuels the Euros who are so passionate about their teams.

Would a team that had Bode and a mixed bag of others under a corporate banner work? OK, it works for NASCAR .... but will it work for ski racing?

Is the problem limited to the USST, or are other teams in trouble?
post #27 of 64
Interesting ideas, and times. Keep checking periodically on Bryon's blog. Many people who have much USST experience and ties are weighing in. Also check skiracing.com's forum. Clearly a lot of people are dismayed, and speaking up. I find SRD's perspective to be interesting, and right on the money. This model is broken, and over the long term is not sustainable. Ski racing has to change. Some form of factory teams, and a break {other than Olympics, and WorldChamp's, etc.} from the National teams makes sense over the long haul. But as SkiRacer55 also points out, this slightly political body known as FIS controls the racing today. I think that the issue of tremendous Nationalistic pride, in a factory team setting might be handled much as it is in pro cycling. Some of those teams have a National flavor {USPS a couple of years ago?} You might have a team sponsored by organizations like UBS, Swissair and Nestle, made up largely of Swiss skiers, skiing on Stockli's? Who knows? Right now, the cost is killing the smaller countries, and the cost to the hard goods companies is through the roof. And in North America, we need fans!

Yuki, good points about Bode. Although "the company" may not love him, he has a lot of friends in the sport, and so did Johno and Forest. They were able to train alongside a number of other national teams, and likely split the costs of the hill space, share duties, etc. They shared...novel approach. I think that the only real challenge, other than the massive logistics, was in speed training. You don't show up with a team of 5-6 people and pull off super G training. But you don't do much mid-season, anyways. What I keep in mind about Bode is that he is an absolute rock star in Europe and Scandinavia, and Team America was able to move from vision to reality because he had a huge revenue stream to invest in the operation. My bet is that after his year, the investment has paid off. He may be unique is his ability to pull it off, on the scale he has.

As SkiRacer55 has suggested, the hope for quick change is at the board level of the USST. I actually think it's more specific than that. A lot of the board members are athletes, coaches, etc. The key people on that board are the officers, and others appointed through the foundation. They are the ones that just might give this some consideration. I think honest, rational letters expressing some degree of outrage, and logically questioning this game plan may have some impact. The foundation guys are the power, and the money.

Bill Marolt's not going to be fired. Jesse Hunt isn't going to be replaced, and suggesting that type of action will likely not do much good. However, questioning how they could compensate their top brass for this "performance", and allocate resources as they have is fair game. To me the dumping of athletes still on the rise, the age criteria {which I see as budget control}, and asking athletes to fund their own way is the outrage. It also looks embarassing, I bet, to this group of truly successful businessmen. I'm not sure than any of them would be asking for employees to start paying for parking, closing down the cafeteria and having employees bag their lunches, etc. I keep thinking that the athletes are the key to "the company", the real assets, and yet that's where they're getting cheap. How do you guys run this railroad? You can sell more {ie raise more money}, spend less {and if it's through cutting headcount, do it with non-coaching staff, and non-athletes}. Don't cut the athlete headcount or funding to square your budget.

Do you think the Yankees or Red Sox would be sitting around saying, "well we didn't get the TV deal, and couldn't raise tickets that much, utilities are way up....I guess that we need to go with a three starting pitchers on the staff." Now that I think about it, the teams that can't compete payroll wise dump the older, higher paid players, and then struggle year after year. So maybe it's about that slogan "Best in the World?" My intent in writing is to approach this as: "Surely you folks are busy, and thank you for donating your time and experience, but CLEARLY you can't be aware of this...."

I had a chance to read all of the comments on Bryon's blog last night, and it's pretty amazing to see the breadth of people weighing in. It's a small groundswell, but a real one. There also seem to be a couple of glimmers of hope. There's a reference to a very recent press release or conference by Tom Kelley {USST PR} in which he mentions factually that Bryon has no funding because he did not meet criteria. True. BUT, he also mentions that all A, B, and C team members are FULLY FUNDED. That is either a slip of his tongue, or a substantial change. One of the posters on Bryon's blog mentions that a friend of his heard the other day that while he was previously unfunded, he now will be funded. I'm going to try find out what I can. If that change has taken place, seemingly due to this "activity", that's impressive.

I also noticed that the team is talking about some elite fast track coaching program. Not sure if I have the terminology correct, but it sounds like some type of career pathing, and planning to avoid an empty cupboard after the 2010 games. At least I see it as a public acknowlegment that holding onto coaches is an issue. I still think a big part is compensation, and perhaps a smarter way of managing some time off....which is admittedly a real challenge.

I'm pretty energized about this, which is good, because the rest of the news isn't too uplifting!
post #28 of 64
Question?

Identifying the source of the problem ... as they say .... follow the money!

It seems to me that the bulk of the funds come not from corporate sponsors, but from the J-racers and parents, the grass roots of the sport!

After the publicity last year regarding the womens team, I made the decision not to cut the check and carry my cards since I was inactive anyway with the exception of my sons card. But, I figured what the heck, it was in essence for a few years a "donation" to the USST as well as checking the donation box as well.

Seems to me that it would be darned near impossible to cut off the cash flow since that would bring the lower local activity to a halt.

So, any "grass roots" change would probably have to start at the state sanctioning level .. VARA, MARA, PARA ... and I have no clue as to the politics at that level.
post #29 of 64
What a tool that Gary Black Jr., discredited everything Friedman wrote... but it turns out its Black who is full of BS, Freidman was right on. With bonuses and "reimbursements", Marolt's take is close to $1m.
post #30 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiRacer55 View Post
Only problem is...most of the best athletes are in the world of baseball, football, basketball, or track and field, where there's fame and fortune to be found, and they ain't likely to be dumb enough to enter a money-losing proposition such as ski racing. Tennis, anyone?
This will all work out okay because everybody knows that the population of extremely wealthy white folks that love the sport of ski racing is HUGE in the US and these same white folks also happen to produce the best athletes in the world.
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