Monday’s confirmation that Max Siegel would be named CEO of USA Track and Field brought mixed reviews from the track and field community at-large.
Siegel, formerly a NASCAR and recording industry executive, will assume his duties on May 1 on a two-year contract worth a base salary of $500,000 a year.
Philip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune tweeted earlier today that New York Road Runners CEO Mary Wittenberg and USATF Chief of Sport Performance Benita Fitzgerald Mosley were other candidates for the position. Tracy Sundlun, Competitor Group Senior Vice President, actively campaigned for the job but was not interviewed for the position, according to a report from Toni Reavis.
Many have been skeptical of the hiring, seeing Siegel as too much of a insider at USATF.
Siegel’s public relations was brought on to consult USATF on promotional matters in October 2011, shortly after Siegel resigned from the governing body’s board of directors. Some familiar with the situation were uncomfortable with the nature of the hiring since no other marketing agencies were looked at to fill the role.
Scott Douglas of Runner’s World also points out Siegel’s book, Know What Makes Them Tick: How to Successfully Negotiate Almost Any Situation, was actively promoted by USATF despite it not having direct ties to track and field.
Some have also questioned the effectiveness of Siegel’s PR firm on USATF marketing efforts.
Many of these criticisms are valid in my mind. However the final decision was made by Stephanie Hightower and the board of directors, it has been made.
Siegel has a strong resume of success in the sport and entertainment industries. As President of Global Operations at Dale Earnhardt Inc., he helped sell sponsorships that promoted NASCAR, a sport that has grown from the fringes of the American sporting landscape into popular consciousness.
Track and field was once a sport with wide mainstream appeal but now fallen from its peak in the days of star athletes like Frank Shorter, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Carl Lewis. Perhaps Siegel’s leadership and promotional experience are what track and field in this country need to grow as we move forward.
Only time will tell, but until then, let’s give Siegel a fair shot at the job before dismissing his ability to help lead USATF into the future.