The sprawling Amateur Athletic Union of the United States, long in iron control of almost every amateur athlete in this country, began to die last week in a small room on the fourth floor of the Olympic House on Park Avenue in New York City. This room was the scene of the fourth meeting between AAU and National Collegiate Athletic Association officials. The NCAA is the governing body for major college athletics in the United States.
While the AAU will not die overnight, it cannot survive long. Walter Byers, executive director of the NCAA, told SPORTS ILLUSTRATED at the conclusion of the New York meeting: "The NCAA's articles of alliance with the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States were canceled some time ago. Since then we have met four times with the AAU in an effort to reach agreement on what our future relations will be. Our meetings have not been successful, and no additional meetings are planned."
At this moment members of the National Collegiate Track Coaches Association are being polled by their powerful executive committee on the advisability of severing relations with the AAU and forming a United States Track and Field Federation, which would have complete control of that sport in the U.S. Within the next few weeks, the NCAA basketball coaches are expected to leave the AAU and form their own autonomous basketball federation.
Says Byers of these movements: "Naturally, we are keenly interested in the action of the National Collegiate Track Coaches Association. This group is representative of the national interest in track and field and is an affiliated organization of the NCAA. In the area of basketball, we feel strongly that a new basketball federation should be organized, with the AAU only a part of it instead of the controlling body. We see a clear parallel between the situations in basketball and track and field."
The action of the track coaches was backed strongly by 50 of the best track and field athletes in the U.S. (see page 23), all of whom agreed to desert the AAU for the new body when it is formed. These athletes were polled by Dick Bank, an editor of Track & Field News, who, admittedly, is no admirer of the AAU.
The Coaches Association (NCTCA) sent out its own questionnaire to 800 members. The questionnaire was preceded by a fierce indictment of the AAU, drafted by members W. J. (Bill) Bowerman, head track coach at the University of Oregon, and Don Canham, track coach at Michigan and executive vice-president of the group. The statement, which reflects the growing dissatisfaction of track and field athletes as well as coaches, was endorsed by the 12-man executive committee. It read as follows:
"We, the executive committee of the NCTCA, in association with the athletes who have signified willingness to join the United States Track and Field Federation, feel that we will be better fitted to implement the physical fitness program advocated by President Kennedy and better able to prepare the track and field athletes of this nation for local, national and international competition by operating as an autonomous body. Hence, the members of this executive committee recommend that NCTCA no longer recognize the right of the AAU to suspend, penalize or levy dues upon any member of this organization, coach or athlete; nor recognize the right of the AAU to select track and field teams for international competition representing the United States. We intend to pursue this new program through existing collegiate bodies.
"This action is taken in order to place in the hands of those best fitted to assume it the responsibility for the development of track and field athletes of the United States.
"We feel that the AAU has failed in its obligation to further understanding and good will between the United States and foreign countries by its careless, often arrogant disregard of requests and invitations by foreign countries for American teams and by its poor handling of relations with foreign officials upon tours. We pledge the utmost cooperation now and henceforth with the U.S. State Department in furthering the good will and understanding between this and other nations which is so much a part of international competition.
"We pledge, too, the inauguration of a comprehensive program for the development of junior athletes in this country similar to the programs already put in operation by some of the members of this body."