Originally published on August 20, 2018
(ATR) It’s the first day of work for Sarah Hirshland at U.S. Olympic Headquarters in Colorado Springs. The new CEO was hired after a nationwide search recruited her from the U.S. Golf Association where she was chief commercial officer.
Hirshland takes the USOC job as the organization navigates its way through the aftermath of the sexual abuse scandals in gymnastics and swimming, among others. Lawsuits filed by victims of the abuse are among the most serious matters she has on her desk that comes with a view of Pike’s Peak.
The U.S. Congress may be considering changes to the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act that governs the USOC. With Congress demanding accountability from the USOC as well as USA Gymnastics and other NGBs, changes to the 1978 law may deliver more responsibility to Hirshland and her team.
She’s the third woman and the 12th person to hold the CEO duties since the USOC moved headquarters to Colorado nearly 50 years ago.
Hirshland succeeds Susanne Lyons, a USOC board member who stepped in as interim CEO in February. Scott Blackmun, after eight years in his second stint as CEO, resigned for treatment of prostate cancer. Blackmun’s role in the USA Gymnastics scandal may still be an issue for him and the USOC, despite his separation from the organization.
An internal report on the USA Gymnastics saga is expected to be delivered the USOC board sometime soon. That report is expected to discern whether Blackmun and colleagues at the USOC are to be faulted for the gymnastics calamity. And it’s likely to signal the kind of changes in Colorado Springs that Hirshland will have to lead.
Hirshland got off to a shaky start last month when she rebuffed Aly Raisman, who was trying to say hello. Hirshland scored no charm points when she told Raisman that USOC lawyers had advised her not to speak to the abuse survivor. The USOC was already on the back foot with the abused athletes when nobodyfrom Colorado Springs could be bothered to attend the sentencing hearing last January for the former USA Gymnastics team doctor convicted of abuse.
On the international front, Hirshland will be making herself known in Lausanne to IOC officials at some point. The name of her predecessor is still included in the latest roster of IOC Commissions as a member of the Marketing Commission. Whether Hirshland will sit on a commission is up to the IOC President. USOC chair and IOC member Larry Probst is likely to help find her a spot. Hirshland will be in Buenos Aires in October for the IOC Session and other meetings as well as the Youth Olympic Games.
Blackmun also held an elected position on the Executive Council of Panam Sports that he has since relinquished. If Hirshland is to take Blackmun’s place, the Panam Sports general assembly in Lima Sept. 5-6 is the next opportunity for that to happen.
The Peruvian capital is likely to become more familiar to Hirshland in the months ahead, as she will oversee the preparation of Team USA for the 2019 Pan Am Games. The continental competition will be the biggest event under her watch in the next year.
Tokyo 2020 preps are already in progress for the USOC. But with two years to go there is plenty of time for Hirshland to make her mark on how the USOC executes its plans for those Olympics.
Hirshland is one of the three chiefs who will run the marketing program for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. She’ll work with Probst and LA 2028 chair Casey Wasserman to raise $2.5 billion in revenue targeted for domestic sponsorship sales. As USOC CEO, Hirshland should have a seat on the board of LA 2028 when the organizing committee takes shape. A former employee of the Wasserman Media Group, she already has a rapport with the LA chair.
Unknown is the impact Hirshman will have on the existing staff. Recruitment is open for her executive assistant.
No word on the pay packet for Hirshland. Blackmun received nearly $1 million annually. According to figures from the USGA, Hirshland was paid about $600,000 per year.
Reported by Ed Hula.