U.S. Olympic sports get ‘D’ for self-governance, according to CU Boulder evaluation

The organizations charged with governing Olympic sports in the United States received a median score of ‘D’ for the way they govern themselves in a first-of-its kind evaluation unveiled this week by University of Colorado Boulder researchers.

The research, presented Wednesday at the international sports governance conference Play the Game in Eindhoven, Netherlands, found that out of 22 national governing bodies (NGBs), Track and Field ranked first, with a score of 79 percent. U.S.A. Cycling, U.S.A. Triathlon and U.S.A. Swimming all scored lower than 60 percent. U.S.A. sailing ranked last.

NGBs are nonprofit federations responsible for selecting and sending teams to the Olympic games and supporting the growth of the sport all the way down to youth levels.

“Sports organizations have not historically been well known for following procedures of checks and balances and democratic processes because we haven’t been paying much attention,” said lead researcher Roger Pielke Jr., director of the Sports Governance Center at CU Boulder.

“But with so much attention being paid to doping, sexual abuse scandals and corruption in sport, we thought it would be useful to ask: How well are U.S. organizations governing themselves?”

For the evaluation, Pielke and a team of student researchers used parameters established in a 2015 report by the Danish Institute for Sports Studies, which assessed the self-governance of international federations, like the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), charged with preserving the integrity of their sport on a global scale.

That study found that of 34 international federations assessed, the median score was 46.3 out of 100. In the new evaluation, the median score for U.S. NGBs was 62.

“The good news is that U.S. organizations are, in general, better governed than their international counterparts, but there is a lot of room for improvement,” Pielke said.