Thursday, January 12, 2012

USOC: Well connected

A Surprise Nomination From USOC

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Moving quickly to put the controversy of recent weeks behind them, members of the U.S. Olympic Committee's executive committee needed less than five hours at a hastily arranged meeting here Monday to nominate  of Colorado Springs to serve as interim president for the final 14 months of Robert Helmick's term.

The speed with which they agreed upon a selection was no more surprising than the selection itself.

As chairman and chief executive officer of the philanthropic El Pomar Foundation in Colorado Springs, Hybl, 49, is considered one of the most powerful men in Colorado and has ties to the White House. But although he has been active in the USOC for 10 years, he is known within the organization primarily for his work behind the scenes and only recently became a non-voting member of the executive committee.

Nevertheless, the announcement of the choice was greeted enthusiastically within the USOC. Executive committee members predicted he easily will receive more than the majority of votes necessary to become president when the 105-member board of directors is asked to vote this week by mail or fax. The deadline for returning ballots is Friday.

"There couldn't have been a better choice," said George Steinbrenner, one of three USOC vice presidents.

Earlier Monday, Steinbrenner argued for appointing a nominating committee that would consider potential candidates over the next week to 10 days before submitting a name for a vote to the board of directors at its next scheduled meeting here Nov. 3. But Steinbrenner said he was persuaded by others among the 28-member executive committee in the meeting at a downtown hotel that it was in the best interests of the USOC to choose a candidate as soon as possible.

Helmick, 54, resigned Wednesday after six years as president because of controversy over whether some of his business deals as a sports law attorney and consultant represented a conflict of interest.

The issue attracted not only the attention of the media but also of sponsors, contributors and some members of Congress, creating concern within the USOC that its efforts to prepare athletes for the 1992 Winter Olympics at Albertville, France, and the 1992 Summer Olympics at Barcelona, Spain, would be impaired.

Once it was decided to announce a candidate Monday, 11 executive committee members were appointed to a nominating committee that met in private. One of their first actions was to eliminate virtually everyone whose name had been mentioned by stipulating that the nominee could not be a current officer, a past president or a candidate for the next full, four-year term as president that will begin in November of 1992.

"We didn't want the next few months to become a campaign by the interim president," said USOC Secretary Chuck Foster, who presided over Monday's meeting. He said the nominating committee considered 12 candidates but was unanimous in support of Hybl.

Hybl, like Helmick, is a Des Moines, Iowa, native. But Hybl has lived most of his adult life in Colorado, receiving a law degree from the University of Colorado in 1967 and, five years later, winning election as a Republican to the state's House of Representatives.

He attracted the USOC's attention in 1981 as a special counsel for President Ronald Reagan's transition team at the White House. One of his responsibilities was to advise Reagan on policies relating to the boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics during the previous administration.

Hybl returned to Colorado Springs later that year to become president of the El Pomar Foundation, the largest in the state. But he also has maintained his Washington ties, which, executive committee members said, could be important in regaining the confidence of the White House and Congress.

"We shouldn't lose sight of the Olympic Committee's goal, which is to field the very best teams we can for the winter and summer of 1992," Hybl said.

"But it's also important that we address our standards and our ethics so that we are sure there are no conflicts of interest or even appearances of conflicts of interest. I think we will have a set of standards soon that shows we are worthy of the trust that the American people have given us as the U.S. Olympic Committee."

The executive committee resumed its meeting Monday night to discuss ethical guidelines for officers and other executive committee members. Also under scrutiny recently has been the USOC's executive director, Harvey Schiller, who was accused by U.S. Skiing of commiting ethical and procedural violations.

Foster said special counsel Arnold Burns, a former U.S. deputy attorney general who was commissioned to review Helmick's business arrangements, will expand the scope of his investigation to include the charges against Schiller.


Hybl Wins USOC Presidency Without the Electoral CollegeOlympics: Lenard is defeated in vote that could have gone either way.

INDIANAPOLIS — No longer needing to consolidate their efforts against now-defunct Eastern Bloc sports machines, U.S. Olympic Committee members turned on themselves this fall. They were so equally divided that the result of the first contested election for president in the USOC's 102-year history Saturday could have been altered by one voter.

"It was like a shot at the buzzer," said Dick Schultz, the USOC's executive director, after the vote by the board of directors.

Whether the shot was a hit or miss depends on one's perspective. Bill Hybl, 54, of Colorado Springs, Colo., won over another lawyer, Michael Lenard, 41, of Los Angeles, by a vote of 91.04 to 88.68. Because the votes of the 99 directors were weighted differently according to their positions on the board, that represented a difference in no more than three of the secret ballots and perhaps as few as one.

The long-range impact of the election remains to be seen. Both are familiar with the inner workings of the USOC, Lenard as a vice president for the last eight years and Hybl as interim president in 1991-92, and their goals are largely the same.

Their constituencies, however, are different. Lenard, a team handball player in the 1984 Olympics, has been a leader in empowering athletes within the movement. Hybl, who heads a foundation in Colorado Springs that has funded projects by the USOC and its sports governing bodies, has been more closely associated with the movement's officials.

Lenard was supported by the athletes, who hold 20% of the votes, and Hybl by the major governing bodies for sports such as track and field, swimming, gymnastics and figure skating.

"At the end of the day, it probably doesn't make much difference who won," said Tom Welch, a nonvoting but interested observer as president of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

"Either way, we're going to have Olympic teams that are well-funded and represent the country to the best of their abilities. As long as that's the case, there's no great public interest here."

But interest within the USOC was intense, so much so that the election originally scheduled for today was moved to Saturday afternoon to relieve tension and halt the internal politicking that had been pervasive since members began arriving here Friday.

Outgoing president LeRoy Walker used part of his farewell address before announcing the result of the vote to implore members to "show greater concern for each other, greater concern for the organization, to develop a greater sense of trust and take the high road toward a greater sense of fellowship."

The strife intensified when a nominating committee selected earlier this year was considered by some as weighted toward Hybl. An ethics committee found that two members, Don Porter of the Amateur Softball Assn. and Warren Brown of USA Basketball, had been involved on behalf of their sports in financial dealings with Hybl's El Pomar Foundation.

Although the ethics committee found no wrongdoing on either part, it recommended that they resign. They refused and Walker allowed them to remain on the nominating committee, which slated Hybl as the official candidate for president, 15-0.

Never before has the official slate been challenged, but that changed when 15 member organizations moved to have Lenard's name put on the ballot. Some members described the ensuing campaign as a "civil war," although Hybl and Lenard remained for the most part above it.

"I hope it didn't get personal," Hybl said. "Things generally aren't said by the candidates. They're said by those working for them."

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