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Tex Maule
September 25, 1961
Here is the first report of a secret revolution that seems certain to wreck the all-powerful Amateur Athletic Union. Coaches and athletes in two major sports are involved, among them 50 of the most distinguished U.S. track and field stars
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September 25, 1961

The End Of The Aau

Here is the first report of a secret revolution that seems certain to wreck the all-powerful Amateur Athletic Union. Coaches and athletes in two major sports are involved, among them 50 of the most distinguished U.S. track and field stars

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Jim Beatty, who is probably America's best runner at distances ranging from a mile to three miles, was one of the 5,000-meter runners who failed to qualify. "I felt dead," he said. "I couldn't move. A few days before I left the U.S., I had the best workout of my life."

The international governing body of basketball—F�d�ration Internationale de Basketball Amateur—will consider ousting the AAU as U.S. basketball representative at its next meeting. This came about as the result of the last meeting of this group in Rome when an organization known as the National Basketball Committee, which represents most U.S. basketball groups, asked to be considered the U.S. international representative in place of the AAU. The central board of FIBA told the AAU and the NBC to go home and settle the matter of jurisdiction between themselves. The two organizations will meet in Chicago on October 2, and the AAU is clearly outnumbered.

"We have long felt a real delinquency in the leadership of the AAU," says Pete Newell, now athletic director at the University of California and the American Olympic basketball coach. "They have weakened us in national prestige. It is almost impossible to get AAU sanction for a basketball tour by a college team."

The colleges, obviously, provide almost all the basketball players for international competition, just as they provide almost all the track and field athletes. While it is a foregone conclusion that the NCAA, in combination with the YMCA and other groups, will control U.S. representation in international competition after the forthcoming October meeting, Ferris is not convinced. Following the NCAA-AAU meeting in New York, he said: "There are always people who are outs and who want to be ins. But they can't take over from the AAU. We are members of the International Amateur Athletic Federation. The NCAA is ineligible to be a member of an international group. It controls only undergraduates. The AAU is the recognized governing body of sports in the U.S. I don't believe the IAAF would oust the AAU."

Ferris spoke bravely but without much recollection of recent sports history. A precedent for the recognition of a governing body other than the AAU was established as long ago as 1947, when the ice hockey interests in this country left the AAU, and, more importantly, gained the recognition of an international group in doing so. Under the leadership of Walter Brown, hockey players and coaches petitioned the world body in control of the sport, Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace, for recognition outside of the AAU. No decision was made, and both the new federation and the AAU sent teams to the Winter Olympics in 1948. The LIHG thereupon rejected the AAU team, accepted the dissidents and since then, ice hockey has been autonomous.

Those who are backing control of individual sports by the people who play them and coach them rather than by the AAU point out that of all the nations in the world, only the U.S. has a single governing body for all of amateur athletics. In all other nations, each sport is governed by its own specialists.

"The most obvious people to instruct in track and field are the college coaches of America," says Canham. "These are men dedicated to track. They do not make much money. Their lives are spent in teaching kids how to run and throw and compete. As of now, they are under the thumb of the AAU. The deal is that the NCAA provides the coaches, the AAU provides the management. We can manage our own tours. The coaches are better fitted to manage than the AAU people. We travel first-class with college athletes. The AAU travel arrangements are something far less than first-class."

The big problem facing the rebel track and field and basketball groups is primarily one of organization. It is not enough to castigate the worn machinery of the AAU. A new and better organization must be offered, with safeguards against the abuses which are leading to the downfall of this venerable organization.

"We'll have to worry about getting money to finance a national championship meet," says Bill Bowerman. "I think we can get that in Seattle this year. They wanted the national championships a couple of years ago, but they wouldn't take it under AAU sponsorship. To guard against the AAU type of abuses we want to establish a committee of six coaches, which will be changed every four years, to pick Olympic coaches and coaches for foreign trips. And, on this committee, no member can vote for himself. Another thing. In our bylaws it will be clearly stated that once a coach has been named for the Olympic job, he's through. No more foreign tours. He can serve on the selection committee, but not on a foreign trip as a coach."

This would end one of the chief complaints about the old system. Larry Snyder of Ohio State, who was the coach of the U.S. Olympic team, also coached the team which went to Russia in 1958. Although it was not well publicized, Snyder, after his Olympic coaching job, went to Europe again this year as coach of the U.S. military team.

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