The death of the Amateur Athletic Union (first reported as imminent in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED on Sept. 25, 1961) came a step nearer last week in Chicago during the 56th annual convention of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. At an orderly and well-attended session in "the gym-sized Williford Room of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, the college track and field coaches of the nation formed the United States Track and Field Federation, which will represent the majority of runners and field-event men and women in America.
The vote in favor of federation was only one of a series of developments that further eroded the rapidly diminishing power of the AAU. Coaches of basketball and gymnastics at the NCAA meeting voted to form separate federations for their own sports. It is likely that their lead will be followed soon by coaches of swimming and wrestling. If the AAU survives in any form, it will be as an equal or pro-rated shareholder with the big and small colleges, the high schools and the armed services.
The movement toward federation did not begin with the track coaches. Basketball men had been quarreling with AAU leadership longer. In 1920 they formed a national basketball council, which is even now petitioning the international governing body of the sport for recognition. But the USTFF, organized by the National Collegiate Track Coaches Association, is the first organization of any importance to formally challenge the authority of the AAU.
The track coaches have a wonderfully potent weapon with which to do battle: the means and the men to stage a national championship in track and field in direct competition with the AAU National Championship on June 22-23. The AAU championships are scheduled for Walnut, Calif., on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The coaches authorized their officers to plan their own championships on the same days in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The federation championships thus would follow the NCAA and NAIA (small colleges) meets and would be open to all athletes who qualify by time or distance for entry.
January 22, 1962
The Coliseum, with the Los Angeles Dodgers moving to Chavez Ravine, is installing what may be the finest running track in the country. It is expected to be ready long before June. "Some of the federation people have talked to me about this meet," says Bill Nicholas, chairman of the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission. "The Coliseum is available on those dates and there is no reason why the U.S. Track and Field Federation cannot use it."
If the USTFF and AAU meets do indeed come off on the same days, it is likely that the AAU entry list will read like a "who's nobody" of American track. In addition to all the college and high school athletes, the federation meet should attract the best of the postgraduate athletes, 50 of whom already are on record (SI, Sept. 25) as having endorsed the track and field federation. The NAIA has not yet placed its seal of approval on the new federation, but it is expected to do so when it meets in Kansas City in March.
Al Duer, the executive secretary of the NAIA, said last week, "I cannot speak for the NAIA as a group but I have talked to coaches and officials and I know that they favor this kind of organization. Some kind of democratic organization for the administration of track and field must come soon. We want to be assured that we will be given proportionate representation. If we are, we are for it I am sure."
Some postgraduate athletes are stronger in their support of the track federation meet than Duer. Harold Connolly, the world-record holder in the hammer throw, said last week, "I would compete for the federation rather than the AAU tomorrow. This is the best news I've heard in a long time." Connolly and his wife Olga had just returned home from a long cold afternoon's training when Connolly was interviewed. Olga, who is one of the best women discus throwers in the world, said, "I was very cold when I heard this, but now I am warm. I may begin competing again."
"I would certainly run for the federation and not for the AAU," said Jim Beatty, who, with Oregon's Dyrol Burleson, is one of the two best milers in the country. Parry O'Brien, senior citizen of the shot, was not as impetuous or as positive as Connolly or Beatty, but he did say that he would compete for the federation. "By the time this thing comes up," O'Brien said, "the AAU should realize it can't beat the federation. It would be a stupid and senseless thing for the AAU not to join the track and field federation."
At present, there is no indication that the AAU will join the federation. No AAU official was present at the NCAA or the track coaches' meetings in Chicago last week. Louis J. Fisher, the new president of the AAU and an attorney in High Point, North Carolina, said that the AAU had no intention of joining. He warned that the AAU was the only U.S. organization that was recognized by international authorities. When it came time to deal with the Americans, he said, the international groups would pick the AAU because that organization's members are led by unpaid people. He added that he believed a small group within the NCAA "is out to destroy the AAU for the interests of just a few selfish individuals." He declined to name these individuals.
The constitution of the new federation provides that the governing council shall consist of a representative from each of the member groups (hopefully, the NCAA, the NAIA, the high schools, private clubs, the armed forces and the AAU). No one on the council would be a coach, no one would be paid. The federation was formed not by the NCAA but by the track coaches' association, which includes members from the NCAA, the NAIA and high schools.
"The NCAA has no desire to control all track and field activity in the United States," said Walter Byers, NCAA executive secretary, in Chicago. "We are not organized to control anything but collegiate athletics in our group. We do feel that we should have proportionate representation on any governing body. We do not have that under AAU rule."
Before last week small-college coaches opposed Byers and the NCAA, mostly because they suspected both of a desire to govern track and field as rigidly as ever did the AAU. As one NAIA coach said, "On our level we work very closely with the AAU. The big colleges close their doors to us, but the local AAU people provide us with meets to compete in."
The provision for equal representation on the governing council of the federation apparently allayed the fears of the small-college coaches. There were no dissenting voices Saturday when the coaches' association voted to form the federation. The day before, in a round-table discussion of the relations of the NCAA with the AAU and the Olympic Committee, Alex Wilson, track coach at Notre Dame, stood up to object to the presentation by Chick Werner of Penn State, president of the track coaches' association. Werner had made the case for the federation, had described the grievances of the coaches against the AAU and had announced the final tally in a mail poll of coaches on the question of the founding of the federation. The poll showed 548 coaches in favor of the federation, nine against.
"I did not vote," Wilson said. "I wanted to know more about it." It turned out later that Wilson was under the impression that he was attending an Olympic Committee meeting.
After this, the coaches settled down to a long and careful discussion of the advisability of conducting the championship meet in direct competition with the AAU. One coach explained the reasons for putting on such a meet. "Say the AAU tries to compete," he said. "If they do, they will get only a few fifth-rate athletes. All the college athletes and the best of the high school athletes will compete in the federation meet, plus the top postgraduate athletes. Now the AAU has the international membership in the IAAF, so they have the right to certify athletes from the U.S. to compete against Russia in Palo Alto in the dual meet later in the summer. But if they certify athletes from their own meet, they'll have maybe a 20% team. I don't think public opinion would allow that. Or the State Department, for that matter. We have to have our best against the Russians. So the AAU people will have to concede that all the good athletes were in the USTFF meet. If they do that, they admit that they do not control the best track and field athletes in the U.S. Of course, they could cancel their meet. That would be conceding the same thing."
Began last year
This major revolution against the AAU had its inception in the fairly innocuous appointment of a "liaison" committee by the track coaches about a year ago at their annual meeting. In two meetings—one during the AAU championships in New York last year, another immediately following these championships—the coaches formulated the idea of the USTFF.
At the meetings in Chicago the executive committee of the track coaches' association caucused before the track coaches met, tied down details in the formation of the federation, then presented a complete program to the coaches.
A basketball federation probably will follow. It may, in fact, precede the track federation in gaining international recognition. FIBA, the international basketball governing body, is supposed to send a representative to the United States to judge whether the AAU or the new basketball federation does, in fact, represent the majority interest in that sport in the United States.
"We sent out 20,000 questionnaires to basketball coaches last year," said Wisconsin's Bud Foster, who is the most militant of the basketball people seeking representation internationally for the new basketball federation. "We got back about 14,000 answers. Of the 14,000, 38 were from AAU coaches. That's about how much basketball the AAU controls in this country."
A delaying action
In basketball as in track, the AAU has tried to delay a settlement. "The FIBA representative was supposed to come over here in March to watch the NCAA championships and whatever AAU basketball he could find," one basketball official said last week. "Now the AAU has tried to get his visit postponed to May. There is no basketball played in May, which is perfect for the AAU."
Byers has his own answer to this move. He is having the basketball scores in The New York Times clipped every day. These scores are divided into colleges, high schools, etc. There is no AAU classification because there is no real AAU basketball program. Nor, Byers maintains, is there any AAU track.
"Track meets are run on college facilities by college coaches," says Bill Bowerman, coach of Oregon and one of the leaders of the dissident track coaches. "They talk about their junior development program. They don't have any. Do you know of any track in this country owned and operated by the AAU?"
Bowerman, incidentally, has at Eugene, Ore. the largest track development program for youths in the United States. It is operated on the University of Oregon track facilities and it is his hope that other college coaches will begin similar programs at their schools. Whether they do or not, it is certain that the AAU as we have known it is through. If the organization survives at all, it will be as a considerably weakened member of several larger federations.
THE ORGANIZATIONS AND WHAT THEY STAND FOR
Like a proliferating bureaucracy, amateur athletics has brewed its own bewildering soup of alphabetical titles. Below are the main organizations concerned in the dispute over control of track and field, with capsule descriptions of what each says and does.
AMATEUR ATHLETIC UNION
For 74 years the AAU has been the major power for U.S. amateur athletics nationally and internationally. It:
Governs and administers all amateur athletics in the U.S., has special agreements and alliances with, among others, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the YMCA, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (small colleges), the CYO, the armed forces and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Sets and maintains tests for amateur standing and rules for the government of sports within its jurisdiction.
Claims jurisdiction over 16 sports, including track and field, basketball, gymnastics, wrestling and swimming.
Supervises those sports over which it has control and protects their participants from professional interference.
Supervises and conducts district and national championships (and occasionally disqualifies athletes who compete in other than AAU meets).
Recently the AAU elected new officers, with emphasis on the armed forces (the services generally cast their Olympic vote with the AAU), created the new post of executive director and split the duties of the former secretary-treasurer, Dan Ferris, who has been retired.
THE ARGUMENT: The AAU denies NCAA charges that it is dictatorial. It also claims that the NCAA is lax in maintaining amateur standards for college athletes (especially in its wrestling and gymnastics programs) and is lax in adopting international rules, to the detriment of our international participation.
NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
Formed in 1906, this organization serves as the overall national discussion, legislative and administrative body for major universities and colleges on matters of intercollegiate athletics. It:
Represents the colleges before Congress on various matters.
Sets and enforces rules, promotes and improves sports, preserves records, supervises contests, examines phases of competitive athletics and legislates on general administrative matters.
It is governed by an 18-member policy-making council elected at its annual convention, where each active (524) and allied (32) member has a vote. An executive committee of 10 transacts business, administers association affairs and carries out policies made by the council. Thirteen general committees, 13 rules committees and six meet committees aid the council in determining policy through reports and recommendations.
THE ARGUMENT: The NCAA feels it represents a majority of U.S. athletes yet it has only a minimal voice in the affairs of the AAU. It claims the AAU is politically oriented, old-fashioned, inadequate and at best careless about its obligations to the athlete. It has, therefore, endorsed the creation of new federations for track and field, gymnastics, etc.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS
This Organization represents 465 small colleges but has little investigatory or enforcing powers. It is an allied voting member of the AAU. Sometimes it finds itself in conflict with the NCAA over matters of jurisdiction.
THE ARGUMENT: The NAIA has consistently denied that the NCAA has a right to speak for all college athletics. It insists that the NAIA be represented directly on any coordinating bodies and that it have a vote proportionate to its size on all amateur athletic questions.
INTERNATIONAL AMATEUR ATHLETIC FEDERATION
Made up of 100 member countries, this is the supreme governing body for world track and field. It makes rules for international competition and decides who may compete, where and when. It is the IAAF that will decide ultimately whether the AAU or the USTFF will represent the U.S. in international competition.
NATIONAL COLLEGIATE TRACK COACHES ASSOCIATION
Numbering 860 members, the NCTCA includes NCAA, NAIA and high school coaches. It forms the basis for the insurgent track and field group.
U.S. TRACK AND FIELD FEDERATION
This is the name chosen by the track coaches for their new organization. Its founders propose that it be run by an executive committee and a professional staff that will be responsible to a governing council made up of one man from each of six groups; the NCAA, NAIA, AAU, high schools, armed forces and independent clubs. These groups would have proportionate voting rights within the association.
INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE
The world's governing body for the Olympic Games, this organization drafts a general program, determines world amateur standards and selects Olympic sites. Its executive committee serves as a jury of honor or appeal at the Games.
U.S. OLYMPIC COMMITTEE
This organization, which represents U.S. interests in the IOC, was formed recently by the amalgamation of two groups. Incorporated under Congress, it is a unicameral organization with a 42-member board of directors, in which the AAU has eight votes and the NCAA eight. The executive board of 25 members includes the secretary-treasurer and seven members of the AAU and the executive director and seven members of the NCAA.