Friday, September 17, 2010

Athletes to USA Swimming and the USOC: Please, sir, can I have some more?

1000-years ago the western world had only three employment options: Peasant, religious, or royalty. Some 300-years later technology, but mostly the bubonic plague, changed all that. That is when the peasant class said to the royal class, "I am not going to plow your fields today because tomorrow I may be dead." Hence, the royal class was forced to pay the peasants to do the work that they needed completed so as to support the society around them and avoid anarchy and starvation. Capitalism and the Renaissance followed thereafter.

USA Swimming is a government certified monopoly and all the athletes within their umbrella are their "peasant class." What gives the governing body so much power is not their government sanction to be a monopoly but rather the exploitation of how much these athletes love their country and want to swim.

Garrett McCaffrey wrote a disturbing article for Swimming World in regards to the economic disparity between governing body officials and the athletes that bring in their salaries.

From Swimming World:
One year ago, the Pro Swimming Task Force was formed. Its main objective: financial support for the professional swimmer through the Athlete Partnership Plan. Had it passed, the original plan would have increased the annual $21,000 stipend and extended the reach of financial support from 42 members to 55 members of the national team. All athletes who placed in the top six in any Olympic event at U.S. National Team Trials, who also are top 16 in the world, would have made $50,000 this year from USA Swimming and the United States Olympic Committee. The proposal would have accomplished the goal of financial support for professional swimmers, but yesterday it fizzled out at the United States Aquatic Sports Convention.

[...] "What went wrong with the Athlete Partnership Plan?"

In the end it appears that the deal breaker came down to name and image rights. The athletes' agents argued that the athletes already do enough for the governing bodies with their name and image rights, and the 2008 profits for USA Swimming and the USOC would back the agents' argument. [..]

My Take: USA Swimming, CEO Chuck Wielgus makes close to $700,000 a year. Coach Mark Schubert makes $250,000 or more. God knows what USOC, IOC and FINA execs make?

Mathematically it has come to a point where swimmers should forget going pro and accept a scholarship instead. They should forget swimming all year long as well and devote those six, long, hours, each day during the summer and the off season enhancing themselves, their families, their churches and communities. I think by doing so would not only reap lifelong economic and social benefits but swimming would remain a positive, life long, recreation rather than another burnout story as illustrated by Ian Thorpe, Alexander Popov, and our own, Michael Phelps.

Take a swimmer like, Dagny Knutson, who has effectively lost the potentiality of a $200,000 scholarship simply for the potentiality of a gold medal and supreme aquatic glory for our country? Is it an exaggeration to say that a gold medal won't mean a thing to the average American some 6-minutes after her event?

All the swimmers wanted; just 55-0f-them in total, was a middle class income. They won't get it but the suits in the NGBs will get that and more.

The video above is a scene from the movie, Oliver Twist, with Oliver asking for more "swill" for both himself and the other kids in an industrial age orphanage. they got none!


Anonymous said...

Any chance a swimmer could rally the rest and uprise en masse? Just go on strike, set up their own thing, change the whole thing to be better for them.

Tony Austin said...

If Michael Phelps said pay them or I retire, it would get done. He has that much power.

For instance, for every post I do on Phelps, he will outscore a Lochte post no less than 200%.

I am still getting a zillion hits over my Michael Phelps "beard" post.

I have my opinions on what has to happen to make swimming viable and profitable and it requires a for profit governing body, tech suits, gambling and new style of pool.

Tom Willdridge said...

Alex Popov burnt out?

Anonymous said...

Interview with GM and Tyler Clary has more info on

Wielgus pretax income in 2009 was even higher: 731,629. This does include bonuses.

Schubert pretax in 2008: 381,105. This also includes bonuses.

Tony Austin said...

The CEO of the company I work for makes less salary and bonus per year and we make more money than USA Swimming.

I just back from San Deigo from a Sharkfest swim, I will look into this some more. Funny how a $34-million-a-year-plus organization could not come up with an extra $1.375 million to keep swimmers interested and moving towards Olympic glory.

That is simply 5% of the budget.

TedBaker said...

I may disagree with you on the tech suit issue but I don't disagree with you on this one. USA Swimming has betrayed their athletes and it is a travesty.

One point of clarification, though: I believe Mark Schubert supported the athlete's proposal and, when it was rejected, I believe he resigned from his position as Head Coach for USA Swimming.

Tony Austin said...

USA Swimming is taking on shades of "Shakespeare's Richard the III." I suspect several other people will be getting canned or leaving due to the desire to "spend time with their families."

Something really pissed of Wielgus at the convention and Schubert got his head chopped off. The nonsense about Schubert committing media staff abuse which allegedly happened a month ago was simply window dressing. If that was the real cause, he would have been spanked the day after Pan Pacs.

The fact that Chuck Wielgus still has a job amazes me: Here is a CEO that has had an anti-trade lawsuit brought against the organization, several child abuse lawsuits, a complete evisceration of the sport's coaches on two new programs; (ESPN, ABC News 20/20), a sexual harassment email cover-up which was exposed, and numerous questionable salaries.

What professional sports body would tolerate a CEO as sketchy as this?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how Wielgus is still there as well. What would it take to get him out?

Tony Austin said...

What would get Wielgus removed? To get caught with either a dead girl or a live boy!

No seriously, to get him removed the Board of Directors would have to remove him and they are standing by him 100%

Amy said...

I completely agree, it isn't worth it. Those few minutes of glory and fame and then all they have left is their suit and something heavy around their neck.

The politics aren't going to change anytime soon, so what needs to change is the swimmers mentality.

Instead of going pro they should take the scholarship offered to them, volunteer in the community and build a life and a reputation that people won't forget so easily.

Tony Austin said...

Swimmers spend 6-hours a day for years getting great and that is generally on top of school work or a job.

Imagine spending 6-hours a day focusing on a college thesis, a .Phd, solving a community problem, learning multiple skills?

If this keeps up, USA Swimming will be getting what they paid for: fewer swimmers and less talent.

Anonymous said...

First of all most of the 18yo that go pro are still going to school. The limitations that the US places on swimmers with Olympic dreams by a 25yd pool and limited practice hours are not worth it to some. I know of a swimmer who is taking classes, volunteering in their community, swimming at the highest world levels, traveling the world, and is able to represent herself better than 99% of the college athletes out there. I also know of swimmers who are going to fully enjoy a college life post 2012 without the constraints of swimming in college. It cracks me up when people act superior because people choose not to swim in college. I was a college athlete and my best academic years were after my athletic years were over. As far as the scholarship money goes some people are blessed with parents who want them to achieve their dreams and money isn't an issue. Actually swimming has alot of that. I wish people would get off their high horse about this issue and stop judging. Maybe it is sour grapes. It all works for these amazing, driven, and focused kids. It’s not like other sports where if you go pro you may not know how to read.