Sports Briefs

Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2003

Woods, Mickelson settle their differences

SAN DIEGO -- Less than an hour after Phil Mickelson acknowledged he was wrong to criticize Tiger Woods' equipment, his cell phone rang.

Just like that, golf's latest feud appeared to be over.

''I did call him back,'' Woods said Wednesday. ''We talked and cleared the air. Everything is fine. No worries. As we all know, Phil can try to be a smart aleck at times. I think that was one of those instances where it just backfired on him.''

The only worry Woods has now is the condition of his left knee -- and his game.

He'll know more about both when the Buick Invitational begins at soggy Torrey Pines, marking the return of the world's No. 1 player following knee surgery Dec. 12.

Baseball plans for international travel

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Baseball is setting up plans for tougher security for major league teams traveling out of the country amid the threat of war and terrorism.

Advance personnel, including a former Air Force officer now working as a consultant to baseball, have traveled to Japan, major league security chief Kevin Hallinan said Wednesday.

The Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics open the season in Tokyo on March 25-26.

''We want to make sure we have done adequate planning for teams leaving the United States if it turns out our country is at war,'' Hallinan said.

Campbell says USOC should be reworked

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell likens the U.S. Olympic Committee to an ill-conditioned athlete, and believes Congress should be the trainer to whip it into shape.

Former Olympian Campbell said the USOC can't be counted on to reform itself, so Congress must step in and do the job. The blueprint should be other large charities that have proven they can manage large amounts of money efficiently and get results -- something he said the USOC has failed to do.

''If the USOC was an athlete and I was a coach, I'd tell them they have to get rid of a lot of fat,'' the Colorado Republican, a 1964 Olympian in judo, said Wednesday. ''They can't win with that much fat.''

USOC officials have been feuding, and that led to resignation last week of president Marty Mankamyer. There also have been allegations of conflicts on interest that prompted calls for the resignation of CEO Lloyd Ward.

Critics of the USOC's structure, including Ward, have said the 123-member board of directors is bloated and breeds contention among leaders.

Campbell said there are no other non-profits with such massive boards of directors, and points to inefficiency at the USOC.

Seventy-eight percent of the $127 million spent by the USOC in 2001 was used for athletic programs, while 22 percent went to fund raising and management, according to documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

By contrast, the American Red Cross spent 10 percent on overhead.

''One of the changes I'm going to make come hell or high water is more (government) oversight,'' said Campbell, the most outspoken congressional critic of the USOC.

Ward has said the Olympic committee has a mission and structure that make it impossible to compare its spending to other charities.

On Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee will hear from David D'Alessandro, CEO of John Hancock Financial Services, one of the USOC's biggest financial backers.

He has challenged USOC spending. Last month, he threatened to pull the company's $10 million sponsorship unless he gets a full accounting of the USOC budget.

''It is no longer possible to overlook the seemingly nonstop turmoil and controversy that afflict your organization,'' he wrote.

The latest USOC blowup stems from allegations that Ward tried to steer Olympic business to his brother's company. An ethics investigation ended with Ward being given a light reprimand and denied a $184,000 bonus.

Mankamyer also was criticized by USOC officials for using the allegations against Ward as a way to oust him from his post. Mankamyer resigned last week rather than face a no-confidence vote from USOC's executive committee.

Ward is the USOC's fourth CEO in three years, and Mankamyer was its third president since 2000.

Seeking to salvage its tattered image, the USOC executive committee assigned a task force to recommend ways it can change its management structure from within -- but the move was met with skepticism by Campbell.

''Unless they make some major structural changes and reduce what I consider to be a pretty bloated bureaucracy, I don't think we're going to ratify that,'' he said. ''I think we're past the time where we can just trust them to conform to a high standard without any reform from Congress.''

Olympic wrestling gold medalist Rulon Gardner also supports streamlining the USOC.

''Ultimately we want the athletes taken care of,'' Gardner said. ''That is part of the goal of the USOC.''

USOC leaders had expressed interest in participating in Thursday's hearing, but Sen. John McCain, who chairs the Commerce Committee, did not invite them to attend.

''Senator McCain feels it's important to hear from people outside, to have an external review of what's going on,'' committee spokeswoman Pia Pialorsi said.

McCain has said the committee should appoint its own, independent task force to recommend changes to the USOC management structure, particularly its unwieldy board of directors.


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