The USA Curling breakdown

I hadn’t planned to write anything about USA Curling outside Reddit, but I think it’s important to clear up a few things and reframe some of the discussion.

Let’s start with this. The following two things can be true, and they are true:

  1. USA Curling has every right to insist that its regional associations admit only USA Curling member clubs.
  2. USA Curling is likely violating its own bylaws, along with the USOPC’s bylaws and maybe even Wisconsin statutes, and souring its relationships with the curling community in the way it is pursuing the GNCC matter.

More detail …

USA Curling’s regional associations

One argument from GNCC and its backers is that one nonprofit can’t tell another to change its bylaws. Specifically, USA Curling can’t tell GNCC to kick out members who aren’t paying dues to USAC.

OK. But then GNCC can’t tell USAC to change its bylaws. Specifically, GNCC can’t tell USAC to accept it as the regional association of the national governing body.

Think of it this way. If you’re running the United Way, you can’t tell a specific charity how to keep its books — unless that charity wants to be part of the United Way.

Back in the realm of Olympic sports, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC, formerly USOC) is under pressure from Congress to have tighter control of things from the top down. USA Curling is beholden to the USOPC, which threatened it with decertification a few years ago because the national teams weren’t doing well enough, and it has a big audit coming up.

So USA Curling has every right, if not an outright responsibility, to demand that its regional associations toe the line. A lot of people in the GNCC orbit simply don’t get this.

Now here’s the problem for USA Curling (first, the legal part) …

USA Curling bylaws

First point: USA Curling is absolutely in the wrong when it comes to voting rights.

Potomac Curling Club (my club, but I’m not involved with this) has asserted that clubs do not need to leave GNCC and declare themselves “At-Large” to protect their votes in the upcoming Members Assembly, where USAC’s move to expel GNCC needs two-thirds approval and clearly will not get it without some shenanigans.

Another simple citation here from USCA Bylaws, Section 10.4. – Member’s Vote: Regional Curling Associations, At-Large Clubs, and Member Clubs which are Members of USA Curling in good standing shall be entitled to vote at the meeting of the Members’ Assembly in accordance with USA Curling policy.

Mediate, alleviate, arbitrate …

Where was I? Oh, right. Not listening to an INXS single from back in the day.

Joe Calabrese writes, and I’ve heard from elsewhere, that USAC rejected the idea of an independent mediator.

There’s a difference, of course, between mediation and arbitration. In the latter, USAC won’t have a choice. USOPC bylaws make that quite clear, and if it somehow doesn’t come up with the current fiasco, it will come up when an athlete from a club that has left the inner circle isn’t allowed to play in a national championship. Or when clubs move to decertify USA Curling.

Now or later?

As explained above, USA Curling can demand that GNCC expel members who aren’t USAC members.

But can USA Curling’s board and staff demand GNCC’s ouster now?

I think not.

In December 2020, a special Members Assembly approved Bylaw 5.0, a temporary amnesty on dues for clubs that had shut down during COVID.

The policy outlining why GNCC is facing the boot is USCA Policy 21-08 (5.d.i): “The date of compliance shall be January 31st of the current year using the final membership numbers provided by USA Curling.”

But given the one-year amnesty, dues were only in arrears as of Jan. 31, 2022, not 2021. USCA Policy 21-08 (5.d.ii) states that punishment kicks in one year later. That would be Jan. 31, 2023. In fact, you could make an argument under USCA Policy 21-08 (5.d.iii) that the Regional Association’s membership cannot be terminated until the end of the next fiscal year, which would be June 30, 2023.

So GNCC should have another year. (Disclaimer: Not a lawyer.)

The question: How would everyone use that extra year?

The way forward

There’s no evidence is anyone is really talking here. The point of the member uprising should be to change that.

And the discussion should center on answering these questions …

What are the roles of a national federation and a regional association?

I asked this on Reddit a month ago, noting that GNCC charges much more than Minnesota charges and also provides many more services. Great, if you’re taking advantage of those services. If you’re not, you (I) may be wondering why you’re paying so much to two organizations that haven’t sorted out who’s in charge of training, playdowns, insurance and whatnot.

Can USA Curling redefine “membership”?

A bylaw proposal from Orlando (with assistance from elsewhere) essentially eliminates club memberships in favor of individual memberships. Personally, I’m uneasy with this, in part because it makes voting an absolute ******. Like Joe Calabrese, I’d prefer a model akin to what USA Fencing does, offering a hybrid model of club and individual memberships. (I spelled it out in another long Reddit post.)

Either way, though, a discussion of what constitutes membership is worth having.

Can USA Curling regain enough trust to remind people of its importance?

As someone with more than a passing familiarity with international sports governance (hey, stay awake!), I’ve been frustrated that a lot of the discussion on the topic has compared GNCC with USA Curling. That’s apples and oranges. Or apples and bicycles. (In a Reddit post, I said “ice cream to concrete.”)

Did GNCC weather the COVID storm financially better than USA Curling? Sure. That’s because GNCC basically had no expenses. USA Curling has obligations that don’t go away.

And it’s important to have a strong national body. That’s how you effectively market the sport, a large chunk of USAC’s budget. That’s how you get your sport on TV, another large chunk of the budget. That’s how you can potentially build a grassroots foundation akin to the US Soccer Foundation, which was spun off from (and later sued over IP, but that’s another story) the US Soccer Federation. That’s how you make sure your sport is covered in SafeSport’s databases, and that’s how you build strong national teams from the grassroots up.

Hopefully, USA Curling will do a better job with the TV aspect of it and be more responsive to its members.

Then, hopefully, its members will rally around it.

Promotion/relegation 2022, by popular demand (sort of)


Apologies for misleading people with the headline. I’m not saying promotion/relegation is going to happen because of popular demand. The growth in MLS and other “closed” leagues is a rather powerful argument against that argument.

No, I’m doing a post by popular demand. Also because MLS is growing too much, moving up to 30 teams and a Leagues Cup competition with Mexico.

So yes, it’s time to reconsider. First, I’ll need to sum up the thousands of words I’ve written on the topic, much of it on my own blogs but also occasionally in outlets like The Guardian. Bear in mind that if you want a good synopsis of how U.S. soccer arrived at this point, I wrote the book on the subject:

It only mentions pro/rel in passing, but the “historical and cultural reality check” is relevant. People often say “pro/rel works everywhere else, so why not here?” without considering what makes the USA unique and difficult.

A quick look back at the issue:

Yes, I’ve written plans for pro/rel in the past. And given the Leagues Cup and growing intermingling with Mexico, I think these plans need a rewrite.

I already wrote a suggested league(s) calendar to accommodate the Leagues Cup. It’s at Soccer America.

So let’s go farther. This might seem unusual, but bear in mind that a lot of countries (see England, Japan and the Netherlands) have historically had narrow gateways between amateur and pro divisions. Also, Brazil had one year in which the final 16 teams included qualifiers from the lower divisions.

The goal here is simple: Maximize opportunity, minimize risk.

Start with a licensing requirement based on facilities, staffing, academy and competitive criteria. Instead of joining MLS as an expansion club, an existing club obtains a MLS license, with which they’re guaranteed a place in either the first or second division. Other clubs can get an MLS associate license, which guarantees a place in either the second or third division. The third division can grow almost indefinitely through independent leagues with their own competition rules. If you really want to have pro/rel within a third-division league, fine.

So here’s the deal:

Fall season

Late July (as soon as practical after World Cup or other international tournaments) to mid-December, 20 weeks plus playoff final. Also note CONCACAF Champions Cup.

MLS Division 1: 16 teams, all with full licenses. East/West divisions. Top four in each qualify for Leagues Cup and cannot be relegated. Top team in each division qualifies for single-game MLS Cup at warm-weather neutral venue just before Christmas.

MLS Division 2: 16 teams, full or associate licenses, with room to grow. Four teams qualify for Leagues Cup. Those with full licenses are promoted.

Third division: Independent leagues that govern as they see fit.

Spring season

February to mid-May (finished in time for World Cup/other international tournament). Also note Open Cup.

Leagues Cup: 12 MLS, 12 Liga MX. Four-team single-elimination playoff.

MLS Promotion Cup: All full-license clubs that aren’t in Leagues Cup play for spots in MLS Division 1.

Third division: Independent leagues continue, with associate-license teams rejoining. National tournament of qualified teams determines which teams play in Division 2 the next season.

Other tournaments

CONCACAF Champions League (really Cup): Knockout tournament in fall but give byes to quarterfinals to Leagues Cup, MLS, Liga MX and CONCACAF League champions. Play-in round spots go to runners-up of those competitions, CONCACAF League third-place finisher, Caribbean champion, U.S. Open Cup winner and Canadian champion. (If someone qualifies for the play-in round by two different routes — say, Open Cup winner and MLS runner-up — that team gets a bye. If any other spaces remain, go to third place finisher in Leagues Cup.)

U.S. Open Cup: Local leagues and third division play qualifying rounds in fall. In mid-January, surviving teams face MLS teams (excluding League Cup teams) in 20 four-team groups at warm-weather sites. That takes us to 32 teams for knockout tournament culminating in May final.

The rationale

Existing MLS clubs face little risk to the nine-figure investments they’ve made. Every year, they have a chance at the Leagues Cup. They’ll either have a chance at MLS Cup or promotion.

Up-and-coming pro clubs get a new pathway that could see them reach the second division and even the Leagues Cup, in addition to the Open Cup. Over time, they may solidify and earn a full license.

Other pro clubs can play in regional leagues. Over time, they may earn an associate license.

Youth players will have opportunities with local clubs that cannot lose pro status unless they collapse. You won’t see an entire state’s kids lose their pathways to the pros just because the senior team had injury problems and got relegated.

And it’ll be fun.

And it’ll never happen.

Best of SportsMyriad 2014

The best-read posts and the most-overlooked posts of the year. (In other words — what you read and what I’m still attached to even though you didn’t read it, so in the spirit of the holidays, please give it another chance!)

BEST-READ (not counting the 2014 medal projections and all related posts, which destroy all, and not counting 2012’s Single-Digit Soccer: Flunk the 2-3-1?, which still gets traffic)

5. Women’s soccer: Show me the money: Building off Allison McCann’s piece on NWSL salaries and her ill-timed piece on Tyresö.

4. Wrong time to suspend Hope Solo: If nothing else, I confused people who think I wish nothing but ill on the USA’s controversial keeper.

3. Washington Spirit vs. FC Kansas City: Goal rush: An early game for the Spirit and an atypical game in retrospect, rolling over the eventual champions with a first-half surge instead of waiting until Minute 90something to conjure up an unlikely result.

2. Single-Digit Soccer: Give U10 travel the boot: This will be one of the big issues in my book.

1. Remembering Dan Borislow: Once the shock of the news passed, I wrote a remembrance of the former WPS magicJack owner that I hope captured his complexities.

(Hey — no pro/rel posts!)

MOST OVERLOOKED

MLS, USA and Canada 2022: One vision: A few offbeat suggestions for soccer’s future along with a couple of current trends. And Peter Wilt as FIFA president.

NWSL: Spirit, Breakers and the end of reality: One of the craziest women’s soccer games of the year.

An offbeat proposal for NWSL 2015: Solving the scheduling dilemma.

MLS: Time to quit playing hardball: Written nine months before the CBA talks really got underway.

UFC, MLS, markets and monopolies: Why the MLS lawsuit is a bad precedent for the fighters now suing the UFC.

Why I prefer the Olympics to the World Cup: Really. Includes a good John Oliver clip.

College athlete unions, paying players and unasked questions: Not just picking a fight with Jay Bilas.

‘Enduring Spirit’ epilogue: Thoughts from Diana Matheson: Hey, she was nice enough to respond to my postseason questions. Read them!

U.S. Open Cup: Top 14 teams and upset history: See the spreadsheet!

Break up the Olympics: Let all four U.S. bid cities host the Games.

War on Nonrevenue Sports returns: USOC gearing up: Has anyone noticed that sports other than football and basketball are endangered on college campuses?

STUFF I WROTE ELSEWHERE

A little knowledge on the USA TODAY layoffs: Essentially a pointed rebuttal to some guy who thought he knew what was going on.

Weird Al-related question: Lamest claims to fame: In which I point out my strange connections to everyone from Kim Basinger to George Will to Ben Folds.

Why we believe utter crap: Political scientist Brendan Nyhan has figured it out.

Leon Sebring Dure III: 1931-2014: My father’s life as a Marine, designated hitter opponent, survivor, and man who showed his love for the world with a sense of responsibility.

In defense of the Spin Doctors: Seriously.

Farewell to Landon Donovan: My memories of covering the legend.

Most Essential Simpsons Episodes of the Last 5 Seasons: Written to coincide with the marathon.

More from me at OZY.

In the New Year, expect a lot of Single-Digit Soccer and the start of the 2016 medal projections. Can’t wait.

The 2013 book extravaganza

This year, I’m doing a lot less freelance work and focusing on a few projects:

1. I’m following the Washington Spirit of the new National Women’s Soccer League through its debut season and will publish an electronic book as soon as possible after the season is finished in late August.

2. I’m writing about youth soccer, specifically the Under-10s and below, for a book called Single-Digit Soccer.

3. I’m still blogging at SportsMyriad and will work up 2014 Olympic medal projections.

Two opportunities to publish my work:

1. My book on The Ultimate Fighter is finished. My representative for publishing rights is Margaret O’Connor at Innisfree Literary.

2. If you’re interested in Single-Digit Soccer, please contact me. I’ll also be open to deals on the Washington Spirit book, but I plan to push that out quickly and won’t be going through the usual publishing process.

If you need me for soccer, MMA or Olympic writing, feel free to contact me. I’m limiting my time but will listen to good offers. The work doesn’t have to pay a ton — if you think the topic is up my alley, go ahead and ask!

As always, enjoy following SportsMyriad and my lively duresport Twitter feed, where I always seem to find a good soccer argument.

Time for a women’s sports and fitness channel?

At espnW, former WNBA president Val Ackerman explores women’s sports on TV with consultant Neil Pilson, who mixes some blunt assessments of the broadcasting landscape with a couple of interesting ideas, such as this:

One possibility would be to have [the channel] show more than just women’s sports. See if you could link with women’s health. See if you could link to some form of children’s programming that would link daughters and mothers together.

So would a women’s sports and fitness channel make sense? Particularly if it’s part of a larger sports/entertainment company that offers cross-promotion? (In other words, the dedicated channel would show a lot of women’s sports, while the “main” channel would pick up big events and highlights.)

And if ESPN doesn’t do it, would Fox (now launching a full-fledged ESPN rival) or NBC (building on soccer and Olympic sports) consider it?

Spring makeover on the site

I didn’t intend to spend so much time tweaking the site this week. Frankly, it’s all a rookie mistake, though I’m far too old to be a rookie. I updated my theme without backing up or making a child theme and all that.

So widgets that were once in their proper form were suddenly too wide or nonexistent. The fonts were all out of whack. I suddenly have a second menu bar that won’t go away.

I’ve more or less replaced all the widgets. I tweaked one font slightly. But I’ve given up replicating the old SportsMyriad look, at least for now.

But I figured I might as well make a few small changes while I was trying to restore some sort of order:

1. Most of the categories I use with some sort of regularity are in that second menu bar.

2. I also added a couple of tags in that second menu bar: NWSL and Single-Digit Soccer. Not coincidentally, these are my two book projects this year.

3. The UFC ladders project is on hold for now. No one’s reading it, and it’s a bear to update.

Feedback welcome.

Monday Myriad: April 8

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Monday Myriad, Jan. 21: Figure skating fights and chess marathons

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Monday Myriad: Jan. 14

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Monday Myriad: Jan. 7

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