USA Team Handball is in the midst of ironing out a final agreement with Auburn University to establish Residency Programs for both its Men’s and Women’s National Teams. Going ahead and signing on the dotted line for this agreement which would last through the 2020 Olympics is one of the biggest decisions USA Team Handball has made in years. Arguably, it’s the biggest decision the Federation has made… ever.
I could certainly argue the merits of Residency Programs, but I’ve already done that extensively. I’m somewhat of a skeptic based on my own experiences and the changing times. I also have some doubts as to the timing and most certainly disagree with the total lack of strategic planning to underpin why this is the way forward for USA Team Handball.
No, this time around I will simply make the case that if USA Team Handball is going to start a Residency Program it would be better to take it’s time, do it right and get the full approval of a Board of Directors.
Here are 3 reasons why:
Reason #1) All options should be explored: USA Team Handball has not put out a solicitation notice of any kind and has not discussed the possibility of a Residency Program with any other University or city. That USA Team Handball is willing to go sole source without even a precursory exploration of other options is pretty much unfathomable to me. This is not to say that sole source isn’t justified in certain circumstances. Sometimes it’s clear that there’s only one viable option, but in this case USA Team Handball hasn’t even floated the possibility to others. Heck, even Auburn only became a possibility as a result of unrelated phone call. And sometimes time is of the essence. A formal competition and a weighing of proposals takes time. Which leads to reason #2.
Reason #2) There’s no rush: While there were bold pronouncements that the Residency Programs would make the U.S. difficult to handle in as little as 18 months there’s little illusion that it’s a long shot prospect at best for the U.S. to qualify for Rio. Both CEO Van Houten (in my office visit) and Coach Garcia Cuesta (on the Argentine podcast) made that abundantly clear: The real and realistic focus is 2020. If 2016 was a realistic goal you could make a good case that a Residency Program was an immediate need. Heck, you could have made that case 2 years ago- Which is the point; it’s too late for Rio. And, if we’re talking about 2020, the difference between starting a full up program in the fall of 2013 or the fall of 2014 is pretty marginal. Yes, it would help some but not enough to warrant rushing forward. Why, it could even be argued that waiting to the fall of 2014 would give more time to fully define all aspects of the program and have it clicking on all cylinders on day 1.
Reason #3) Common Sense: The Federation By-Laws detail the roles and responsibilities of the Board or Directors and Section 6.2 E) identifies “review and approve significant corporate actions” as a specific responsibility of the Board. If signing on for a 7 year National Team Residency Program doesn’t fall under the definition of a significant corporate action then nothing does. Why even bother to have a Board of Directors?
Board of Directors Status
Which points to the problem that USA Team Handball doesn’t currently have a fully constituted Board of Directors. On January 1st of this year, the Board had only 5 members. With President Jeff Utz’s departure in April that further dropped to 4. The Board has not met in months and wouldn’t have a quorum even if it did meet. Yes, for all practical purposes there is no Board of Directors currently providing policy, guidance and strategic direction. Steps are being taken, however, to rectify this glaring problem. An election for 2 “General Membership” Board Directors will conclude on 6 September and a Nominating & Governance Committee is hopefully in the final stages of identifying 3 “Independent” Board Directors. Seemingly, a nine member accountable Board is just weeks away.
And at that time the Board should review plans for Residency Programs and provide guidance and strategic direction. Perhaps that would be approval of the Auburn Residency Program. Perhaps it would be a decision to slow down a bit and explore other Residency Program options. Maybe it could even be a decision to develop a Strategic Plan that identifies organization goals and objectives first, before jumping into solutions. Regardless, there’s no significant harm in waiting for a Board to make decisions that a Board should make.