The bitter struggle between the Amateur Athletic Union and the various federations that have set up autonomous organizations in other sports was settled, more or less, last week—thanks to the last-minute intervention of Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
Although published reports of the closed meeting in New York between the warring factions leave the impression that the AAU walked away from the meeting with all the plums, this was not the case. The federation groups, headed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, came off far better. In fact, the AAU will no longer be the controlling body of amateur sport.
The new agreement
The argument between the two groups has been centered around selection of coaches for teams traveling to meets outside the country and international representation in track and field. The new agreement gives the United States Track and Field Federation (the NCAA-sponsored body) the right to select Olympic coaches and athletes. After the 1964 Olympics Colonel Donald Hull, the energetic new head of the AAU, has agreed that international representation will be by a "coalition" group, in which the AAU and the federation will have six men each on a governing committee. This represents precisely what the federation wanted: an equal and firm voice in the policies of amateur athletics in the U.S.
The NCAA and AAU representatives met November 12 at the Olympic House on Park Avenue and argued for some 13 hours without making any discernible progress. Informed of the deadlock, Bob Kennedy flew to New York and took over the chair from Tug Wilson, head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, at 9 p.m. He quickly directed the discussion away from the recriminations that had occupied most of the day.
"I'm not interested in the past," Kennedy said. "I'm interested in what is happening right now. Say I'm a 100-yard-dash man and I compete in a federation meet not sanctioned by the AAU. Would I be eligible for the 1964 Olympics or not?"
After a hurried huddle, the AAU officials present said, "No."
Kennedy in effect said bosh, then brought forth a proposal. He asked the AAU if it would agree to let him arbitrate the dispute if all else failed. The AAU delegation caucused, came back with a refusal. Kennedy put the same question to the federation representatives. In the federation caucus, the NCAA's executive director, Walter Byers, said, "We don't want the Government looking down our throat; let's agree." All assented, and the federation group told Kennedy that they would be most happy to let him arbitrate the difficulties.
At this point the AAU—still unwilling to accept arbitration but even more reluctant to defy the Attorney General—began to move toward a settlement. In the next few hours the principal differences were resolved. It was further agreed that the specifics of the settlement would be kept secret, so that both organizations could obtain the concurrence of their members before announcing terms. Following the meeting, however, news releases, apparently inspired by unofficial AAU sources, misleadingly indicated that the settlement represented a drastic retreat by the federation. A cautiously worded joint statement issued by Byers and Hull did little to clear up the ambiguities.
Nevertheless, Colonel Hull remarked, "If I had to say that one or the other of the groups made the most concessions, I would say it was the AAU. Both groups gave up some of their pride and I suppose neither organization likes doing that. We wanted to keep the terms secret because too much press might give our members the wrong impression. We still have some small hurdles and some fine points to decide, but I think we will be able to negotiate in the new atmosphere."