The U.S. Olympic Committee has selected Paul Tagliabue ’65 to lead a panel examining the governance structure of the board. The USOC and its board have come under fire after the board underwent a massive restructuring and lost its bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Tagliabue, who served as commissioner of the National Football League from 1989 to 2006, will lead an independent committee that “will assess the size, structure and operating practices of the USOC Board, and will recommend changes, if appropriate, for consideration by the Board,” the USOC said in a statement November 12.

After a similar process in 2003, the USOC cut its board from 125 members to just 11.  However, the small committee has been accused of lacking experience and being out of touch. Its bid for Chicago as the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics failed this fall even after President Obama made a personal pitch before the International Olympic Committee in September. American Olympic leaders ''seem to live on a kind of island without really considering that they are part of a more global world,'' IOC executive board member Denis Oswald of Switzerland told the Associated Press last week. ''This has been their attitude, ignoring a bit the rest of the world. Certainly this was felt as a kind of arrogance by the rest of the members.''

Tagliabue, who was a lawyer for the NFL before taking over as commissioner in 1989, is widely regarded as the best commissioner in the history of the league. During his 17 seasons in charge, the NFL was the only major American sport to avoid either a player strike or lock out and before leaving his post Tagliabue negotiated a new labor agreement with the NFL Players Union that will last through the 2010 season. The league’s revenue and popularity sky-rocketed during his tenure, and he was also influential in instituting strict substance abuse policies.

“The board of the U.S.O.C. felt the time was right for an independent assessment of our governance structure,” said new committee chairman Larry Probst. “We are extremely pleased that someone with Paul’s sport, business and leadership credentials is willing to take on this role.”

Posted on November 16, 2009