By Ken Stone
Updated at 1:10 p.m. June 12, 2018: USATF spokeswoman Jill Geer issued this statement via email Tuesday: “USATF reopened bidding for the 2020 Olympic Trials on May 1. At the request of Mt. SAC President William Scroggins, Max Siegel and Renee Washington had a subsequent, private telephone conversation with Dr. Scroggins to focus on moving forward positively and productively. Given Mt. SAC’s rich history of hosting track meets, USATF encouraged Mt. SAC to bid on a range of future USATF events as part of USATF’s normal bidding process once Mt. SAC’s new stadium is complete. All USATF events have specified processes for bids and awards, and at no time did any USATF official unilaterally award, or offer to award, the 2021 USATF Championships to Mt. SAC or any other entity. Since that private phone conversation, which did not include the author of the private memo that was cited, we have worked with Mt. SAC to conclude the details surrounding the closure of the 2020 bid. USATF is focused on moving forward with awarding the 2020 Olympic Trials in coming weeks.”
Mt. San Antonio College has been promised the 2021 national track and field championships, which also will serve as the U.S. qualifying meet for that summer’s IAAF World Championships in Oregon, according to a college official’s private memo.Doug Todd, the Mt. SAC Relays meet director, quoted that assertion in a memo obtained by Times of San Diego — first from a noncollege source and then from the Walnut school itself.
In the days after Mt. SAC was told it wouldn’t host the 2020 Olympic Trials, said Todd’s “timeline” memo, USA Track & Field CEO Max Siegel and Mt. SAC President William Scroggins discussed the 2021 national meet in a conference call.
“Mr. Siegel said that he would award that to Mt. SAC and would ‘relay that message to Adam and Duffy.’ We were all very surprised with that offer,” wrote Todd, who said he wasn’t on the call but heard about it from Scroggins.
Adam is Adam Schmenk, USATF managing director of events and entertainment properties/broadcasting. Duffy is Duffy Mahoney, USATF chief of sport performance.
Todd’s timeline — prepared for his organizing team as a postmortem of Mt. SAC’s lost bid for the 2020 Trials — said Scroggins asked Siegel if the USATF Board of Directors gave him the authority to award the 2021 meet to Mt. SAC.
“Mr. Siegel replied that it did,” the memo said. “Again, we were and still are very surprised by that pronouncement.”Todd said the idea that the 2021 team selection event for the 2021 world meet at the University of Oregon in Eugene would be anywhere other than Eugene “seems odd to our [local organizing committee].”
“We had another phone call scheduled for Monday, May 7, 2018, with USATF at their request. We rescheduled that one due to illness of one of our participants and then USATF rescheduled once, as well. Currently, we have that original May 7 call scheduled for Tuesday, May 29, 2018.”
Mt. SAC didn’t respond to further questions about the May 29 call or the original promise regarding 2021.
Lananna didn’t respond to requests for comment, but in a phone interview Monday, TrackTown USA CEO Michael Reilly indicated the alleged USATF promise to Mt. SAC was news to him.
“We’ve had no discussions with USA Track & Field about the U.S. championships in 2021,” he said, noting that bidding for that event hasn’t even opened.
“We’ve made no assumptions about the 2021 USATF national championships,” said Reilly, who answers to Lananna and a board of directors. “We’ve had a very great working relationship with USA Track & Field on any number of events that we’ve collaborated on. When they’re ready to make a decision on what their process will be for 2021, I’m sure we would be interested in hosting that event.”
USATF spokeswoman Jill Geer said Monday via email: “Our previous public press release stands as our comments related to Mt. SAC and the Olympic Trials.”
USATF’s 168-word statement on Mt. SAC, posted May 1, dealt only with reopening the bidding for the 2020 Trials after noting “continuing litigation surrounding construction of a new Hilmer Lodge Stadium at Mt. San Antonio College.”
The IAAF world outdoor meet has never been held in the United States. (But the 2016 IAAF world indoor meet was held in Portland, Oregon.) The 2021 meet was awarded to Oregon without the traditional bidding process.
In the most recent American-hosted Olympic Games, the Olympic Trials were held at the same venues — Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1984 and Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Stadium in 1996.
On Friday, Mt. SAC spokeswoman Jill Dolan said the Todd timeline hasn’t changed since Times of San Diego obtained it May 30.
“Please be advised that Doug Todd’s timeline is his recollection of events, dates and conversations,” Dolan said. “It is not an official Mt. SAC document and should not be treated as such.”The Todd memo also indicated that USATF CEO Siegel would refund the rights fees Mt. SAC had paid the Indianapolis-based sports body — at least $312,000.
“Mr. Siegel agreed to refund the money we had paid to USATF, but he told Dr. Scroggins that ‘we did not have a contract in place because it had never been fully executed because we (USATF) never signed it!’” Todd said, paraphrasing the conversation.
“In addition, Mr. Siegel told Dr. Scroggins that we were behind on a number of important deadlines for preparation. When asked by Dr. Scroggins why this did not come up earlier at the time they first felt these concerns or why these concerns were not shared with us in person, on the phone or in writing, Mr. Siegel replied that ‘we (Mt. SAC) should have known what we (USATF) wanted / needed.'”
Another revelation in the six-page memo regarded USATF’s view of how the 2008 Olympic Trials were conducted in Eugene.
Three months after Mt. SAC was awarded the Trials, a Sept. 27, 2017, meeting was hosted by Mt. SAC that included representatives of the U.S. Olympic Committee, USATF, NBC and college officials.
“A number of items [were] discussed, but the one that stuck out with us was the USATF statement that (paraphrasing here) ‘TrackTown really didn’t get it right their first time in ‘08 and that both USATF and USOC were here to help and support you through this first go around.'” Todd wrote.
“On three separate occasions, I used the phrase ‘We noticed that TrackTown did it this way’ or ‘we noticed that Eugene did it this way.’ On all three occasions we were told (paraphrase) ‘Don’t worry about how TrackTown did that, not everything they did we liked.’”
Todd’s chronology also sought to portray the school as assuming USATF felt all was well with its Trials preparations.
“USATF accepted our assurances and answers given, as evidenced by the passing of the November 17, 2017 cancelation deadline,” Todd wrote an unknown number of people. “USATF had been very clear: Satisfy our concerns or lose the trials. Our assumption was that we satisfied their concerns because the deadline had passed without any cancelation or even any comment.”
Todd, who also serves at Mt. SAC athletic events coordinator, said Mt. SAC felt strongly that its January 2018 conference call and letter to Siegel “had alleviated their fears [about stadium work being held up by lawsuits]. This position was further validated when USATF sent us our final contract on January 16, 2018, for signature.”Todd asked that if USATF had not been satisfied with Mt. SAC’s finances and financial backup plan, “why send us the final contract just 12 days after our phone call and 5 days after receiving our follow-up letter?”
Todd’s memo said the next communication from USATF came April 27 — a text seeking a conference call.
“We finally connected with our group and USATF’s group on April 30th,” he said. “That is when we were informed that they were pulling the Trials from us.”
In that April 30 call, Mt. SAC officials “spoke back against [USATF] assertions regarding the legal issues and our readiness, but it was very clear early in the call that this was not a discussion, and that the decision had already been made.”
A USATF lawyer said the USATF board was unanimous in its decision.
Todd said he wrapped up the call by asking when Mt. SAC would get back the money it had paid USATF.
USATF Deputy General Counsel Donald Woodard “did not give me any type of answer,” Todd wrote. “He said he could not comment on that one way or the other.”
After pressing Woodard again, Todd said the answer remained the same.
“This was obviously very concerning,” Todd wrote, “but we realized we would not get any resolution to this question by speaking with Mr. Woodard any further, and we ended the call.”
Later that week, Siegel supposedly told Scroggins the rights fees would be refunded.
Todd also said USATF reported that it had received tremendous pressure from “their partners” to resolve the situation.
“Our assumption is that ‘partners’ means Nike, NBC and the USOC, but we do not know that for a fact. They seem to us to be the largest stakeholders,” Todd wrote. “Perhaps there are others.”
He also asserted that USATF’s decision to reopen bids for the 2020 Olympic Trials was premature.
“We know USATF feels they exercised extreme patience with us. We think the best course of action would have been to bring us before the USATF Board for very direct and probing questioning,” Todd wrote.
“Given the stakes, it would have been better for all if the board had had the opportunity to talk with our Mt. SAC LOC and legal team in person, rather than to rely on those transmitting the facts and our message to them.”
Minutes of USATF board meetings — held about six times a year in recent years — are posted, but they reach only Feb. 5, 2018. No available minutes address the 2021 USATF national championships. The USATF calendar has yet to list a national championship event in 2021.
In concluding his bullet points, Todd said: “We will continue to serve the sport in any way we can” and “work with everyone involved in the sport to offer options and opportunities for high level competitions in the Los Angeles market and, in particular, at Mt. SAC.”
USATF has yet to reveal a new host for the 2020 Olympic Trials, despite signaling last month that the decision would be announced “around June 8.”
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: