Which is not to say that the USOC has proceeded nobly, fighting long odds on a spartan budget. In fact, it has done little to trim its burdensome bureaucracy. For example, its House of Delegates (see chart, page 39), some 400 members strong, meets once a year at the USOC's expense to listen to reports that could just as well be read at home.
Policy is set by the USOC's executive board, which decides everything from which city will make the U.S. bid to host a given Olympics to how USOC funds are apportioned. The board has approximately 90 members. A body that size has difficulty deciding where to go to lunch, much less how to spend $149.9 million for the betterment of amateur sports. Amoebalike, it must divide itself into some 30 different committees to accomplish anything—a credentials committee, an international relations committee, a public relations and public information committee—all of which must meet separately to do business.
The expenses for all these committees, plus the House of Delegates meetings, will come to some $3 million in this quadrennium, according to USOC comptroller John Samuelson. "It is very expensive to put up 340 people in Washington, D.C.," he says, referring to the last House of Delegates meeting.
"We're top-heavy with our money," says Jim Fox, executive director of USA Amateur Boxing. "Only about 20 percent of the USOC's budget goes to the national governing bodies, which in terms of direct athlete support is where the rubber meets the road."
In this quadrennium, $30 million of the USOC's budget found its way to "where the rubber meets the road." That's about $200,000 per year per sport, a fraction of a typical NGB's expenditures on behalf of athletes. Frustrated by this lack of support, the NGBs have beefed up their own efforts to raise funds, often competing with the USOC for sponsors. "They have professional people there at Olympic House," says USA Hockey's executive director, Bob Johnson. "They're better fund-raisers than we are. I wish there was more teamwork."
Some big sports, frustrated by mountains of paperwork (this year there were 15 different types of USOC grants that an NGB could apply for), would like complete autonomy. But minor sports that can't attract backers must depend heavily on the USOC for their financing. "The only way sponsors are going to be drawn to a lesser-known sport will be if I sell it to them," says John Krimsky, the chief USOC fund-raiser.
The USOC has been far more adept at raising money than at spending it wisely, however. Direct mail campaigns—"somewhere in a lonely field in Kansas..."—now account for 13.4% of USOC revenues. Corporate contributions make up 41.2%. A tax checkoff program, whereby citizens can contribute to the USOC out of their state tax refunds, is now offered in nine states. The checkoff accounts for just 2% of USOC revenue, a figure which could grow dramatically if more state legislatures adopt the program.
The sale of TV rights to the Calgary and Seoul games, various Olympic trials, and the Olympic festivals accounted for $19.6 million, or 13% of the USOC budget for this quadrennium. And a new arrangement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), that will give the USOC 10% of the IOC's American television revenues, will provide an additional $40-$45 million in the next quadrennium (1989-92). The total USOC budget for those four years should be more than $200 million.
And that doesn't take into account the monies that the Olympic Coin Act is expected to bring in. Passed by Congress last October, the Coin Act enables the USOC to sell silver and gold commemorative coins minted by the U.S. Treasury. The USOC will reap $7 for each silver and $35 for each gold coin sold and must, by law, spend that income on training athletes or subsidizing their living expenses or providing facilities for them. Projected coin revenues: $50 million by 1992, $25 million of which will go to direct athlete support. But, says Helmick, "even $25 million for direct athlete assistance is woefully inadequate. It maybe amounts to $7,000-$10,000 per elite athlete per year. That should be more like $20,000-$25,000."
The USOC estimates it will have some $250 million to distribute to member organizations and athletes in the next quadrennium. Yet the USOC still operates like a little boy trying to plug leaks in a dike with his fingers: By the time it gets around to addressing one problem, two others have sprung up. Rarely has the USOC been able to exercise clear, long-range judgment.