Saturday, May 28, 2005

Constitutional Crisis

Well, since the French are all worked up about the EU Constitution, I thought I'd weigh in on the US Handball constitutional crisis.

Before, I do so here are a few caveats that you should take into consideration:

1) I've been friends with and a team-mate of Mike Hurdle, since 1987, when he was just an outspoken, aggressive 17 year old kid that was a little rough around the edges. (I guess he's a little older now.)

2) I'm an active duty Air Force Officer, and I have a great deal of respect for a retired Army Colonel (JimThome) that was instrumental in starting the WestPoint program.

3) I voted for both Mike and Jim in the last election. So, I'd like to think that my bias is probably a little more neutral on this topic then most of themembership. If you do the math on the election results, however, this was a split ticket from more of the membership than you might think.

4) I'm not a lawyer, I wasn't at the infamous meeting and I haven't spoken to anybody, so all of the information I've received is from email traffic andweb postings.

That being said here's what I think in a nutshell.

1) Are we doing the right thing procedurally?

Well, I guess a group of lawyers could decide for certain if the infamous vote was legal or not. In my opinion, the text in the current constitution forgetting a new constitution certainly hasn't beenfollowed. And if you can't waive that text with a vote then the process hasn't been followed correctly. Legal aspects aside, it also has all the "appearances" of a segment of the board sneaking something past the rest. The key word here is "appearance". Justbecause something looks that way, doesn't necessarily mean that it's true. Regardless, appearances can be just as damaging as reality and Board Membersshouldn't be surprised like that.

2) What will arguing about the procedures accomplish?

The only thing following a strict interpretation of the process will accomplish, will be to delay the process. If it doesn't matter how long it takes for us to develop a new constitution then a delay shouldn't concern us too much. I think the President's letter presents a pretty good case, however, for USA Handball to be proactive and I just don't see any real harm with moving forward. Everybody still gets a chance to review the document and make suggestions so why not waive the 21 day requirement? It's been highlighted by some that the Board and the Executive Committee should see it first. I don't think our current constitution requires that, but if the $3,000 Club (i.e., the Board of Directors) wanted to add a short window for their review, I don't think it would hurt anything as long as it was done quickly. That USOC letter gets my attention though, so let's don't waste too much time.

3) Is the new constitution a good thing?

I saw some hint in the email traffic that this was a power grab by the current President. Well, the constitution is now on the website, so opinions can now be substantiated. When I compare it to the letter from the USOC to the constitution, it appears to do a pretty good job of following the USOC's instructions. I won't go through all the details, but I will highlight one remarkable aspect. It calls for an immediate Board of Director's election after approval of the Constitution. In other words, the current President, who under the current constitution is in a safe seat for four years is now open to immediate ouster. I would not call that a power grab!

In fact, one could argue based on the results of the run-off election for VP, that the President will be out of a job shortly. The logic being that many people didn't bother to vote in the first election and were shocked at Mike's election to President. The membership then got energized and made sure that their vote in the VP run-off counted. Theoretically, this membership segment will come out and vote again and take back their federation.

Bottom Line: Let's move on, provide our comments to the new constitution, approve it, and then vote for who we think can best lead USA Team Handball in the years to come.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

"What? No Lobster and Filet Mignon?"

From the USA Team Handball Website:

May 16, 2005: History is Made - At the Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, April 28th, in Houston, the Board of Directors unanimously approved a “Give, Get, or Get Out” proposal.
It was originally proposed by the Chair of Resource Development to raise much needed income. The Board, after lengthy discussion, agreed to allow expenses to be used against the total. Normally, Board members receive their airfare, hotel, and sometimes a per diem to attend meetings. The adopted proposal has each Board member “pay their own way” and deduct it against their $3,000 per year obligation.
The end result is that the organization is getting and/or saving a total of $3,000 per Board member each year. This is historic. No other Board in the history of handball in this country has had the courage to step up personally and become financially responsible to this degree.
The new administration, under President Mike Hurdle, has stressed the need to be more business-like in its approach. And this certainly shows us his leadership is in the right direction.
Special thanks to Dawn Lewis and Mike Thornberry who took Peter Siskind’s proposal and got consensus from the Board.

Say what you want about the current board and the somewhat divided leadership it is currently providing, this is truly historic and somewhat amazing.

A little background for the uninitated. The title of of my blog entry refers to unsubstantiated rumors that when previous Boards used to meet in the 80’s and 90’s, they would go out to dinner at fancy restaurants and charge it to the Federation. I don’t know if this is true or not, but the mere fact that it was rumored, tainted the commitment of those who served on the Board.

The membership might disagree with some of the steps currently being taken by some members of the Board, but no one in the membership can claim that this Board isn’t showing a lack of personal commitment. What other Board can claim this level of support? My guess is that this might even ruffle some feathers with the other minor sports if the USOC points out Team Handball as an example to other NGBs.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A New Format for Nationals (Part 2)

Further to my earlier post, here is how the 2005 Nationals results would have alloted extra bids for the 2006 Nationals:

1) Garden City (Defending Champion- Automatic Qualification)
2) Southeast Region (Condors)
3) Northeast Region (NYC)
4) West Region (LA THC)
5) Southeast Region (Atlanta THC)

Northeast (2 Bids + Defending Champion)
Southeast (3 Bids)
West (2 Bids)

Taking into account geography here's how I would initially assign the regions for the 2006 Nationals. I only used the 12 elite teams and the top 8 from Div I here is the breakout. There may be some other teams that want to participate.

Northeast (2 Bids + Defending Champion)
1) Garden City (Defending Champion- Automatic Qualified)
2) New York City
3) New England
4) Cleveland Vipers
5) USA Deaf (assumes Wash DC- Galluadet Univ)
6) West Point

Southeast (3 Bids)
1) Condors
2) Atlanta
3) Carolina THC
4) Carolina Blue
5) FIU
6) Houston Stars
7) Houston Firehawks

West (2 Bids)
2) Cal Heat
3) Santa Clarita
4) Utah
5) Kansas City
7) CSU


Northeast: Garden City has automatically qualified and NYC is a strong favorite to qualify. New England, Cleveland (Div 1 Runner-up), USA Deaf, and West Point fight for the remaining bid.

Southeast: The Condors and Atlanta are strong favorites to qualify. The 3rd bid is a dogfight between the other 5 clubs.

West: The California teams (LA, Cal Heat, and Santa Clarita) will duke it out with the Div 1 Champ Utah for their 2 bids.

Potential Formats:

Northeast: The first question the Northeast teams will need to consider is whether Garden City participates in their regional competition. If Garden City does participate, they will need to factor that in to their format. (i.e. they need to make sure that the 3rd place team and likely final bid goes to the third best team, not just the team that had fortunate bracketing. With the exception of West Point, none of these teams, to my knowledge, have organised any significant tournaments. Hopefully the need for regional qualifers will change that. With only 6 teams, it would be possible to have a simple round robin competition over one weekend to determine the seeding. A tournament in New York would be within driving distance of all the teams. Maybe the Deaf Team could host it at Gallaudet? They certainly have the facilities there. Only New England would have to buy some plane tickets.

Southeast: While several clubs have demonstrated the ability to host competition, geographically, this area is a little more challenging. The Houston and FIU teams are pretty much out of driving range. It's also quite possible that this region is larger than 7 teams. Perhaps teams could be grouped together into 3 groups of 3. For example, (3 Houston teams), (3 Atlanta teams), (2 NC, and FIU). The Houston teams could travel to NC and play the 2NC and FIU teams. The 2NC and FIU teams could travel to Atlanta and play the Atlanta teams. And the Atlanta teams could travel to Houston to play the Houston teams. This would result in a 9 team round robin while requiring every team (with the exception of FIU) to travel only once. (Sorry, FIU, but Miami is a long drive from anywhere)

West: This region could use the format that I described in the previous post.

Is this format workable? I say YES. With all of the tournaments now being played it should be simple to substitute a portion of that tournament slate into some regional qualifiers. And while its nice to get a California Gold Cup T-shirt or a Carolina Blue Cup trophy, I think it would be better to play for a ticket to the big dance at Nationals. While there's bound to be disagreements that will arise in getting organized, I think just about everyone prefers to decide seeding and qualification on the court rather than by a committee.