A new age has dawned for the sport of track and field, and Georgetown resident Craig Masback has been thrust into the greatest challenge of his life: turning around a sport that has been on the ropes for years.
"Our family, like most, is dysfunctional," said Masback, 42, after he was officially named the executive director and CEO of USA Track & Field, the sports national governing body, yesterday at a news conference in New York.
"We won't solve all the problems immediately," he said. "We are now open to new ideas and open for business. Our sport has lost much of its place in people's consciousness, but I believe this is temporary."
First, Masback must undo years of mismanagement of USATF, which overseas track and field, long distance running, road racing and racewalking. He must also reverse the trend of sponsors shutting down major U.S. track meets by taking their money elsewhere.
Masback, signed through 2001, replaces 59-year-old Ollan Cassell, who presided over the governing body since 1965, during which the sport evolved from an amateur sport into a professional one.
Cassell, whose contract was to expire March 1998, was voted out by the USATF board last December. He negotiated a severance package and left July 8.
"There's not much you can do," said Cassell from his home in Indianapolis, where USATF is headquartered. "The way I feel, if that's what they feel they need, then that's fine. Craig has asked me what to do. I told him to come in and assess what you think needs to be done."
A search committee that included USATF President Pat Rico took six weeks to select Masback from three finalists.
"My first priority is to go out and listen to what the community and the constituent groups have to say," said Masback, who will give up his job as a senior associate at the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering as well as his job as a track and field broadcaster.
"No. 2, I will take these ideas and implement them. I want to take assets we have and use them better," Masback said. "Beyond that, I have to start to put in place the longer-term goals of getting track and field back to its place. It needs to get out of the AP notes status of most newspapers."
The challenge is formidable. While neither Cassell nor the organization would comment on the state of its finances, reports say that USATF has a huge deficit.
"The year after the Olympics has always been a tough year for Olympic sports," Masback said. "This year is no different."
Masback is qualified for the position, having become one of track and field's most recognizable faces with his broadcasting work since 1982.
His credits include the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympic Games for NBC, the World Championships for ABC, the NCAA Championships for CBS, and the Goodwill Games for Turner Broadcasting.
Masback also …