Commentary: Three Great Additions to the USA Team Handball Board of Directors

Dr Harvey Schiller, Mike McNees and Bob Djokovich:  3 great additions to the USA Team Handball Board of Directors.

Dr Harvey Schiller, Mike McNees and Bob Djokovich: 3 great additions to the USA Team Handball Board of Directors.

It’s taken several months for the Nominating & Governance Committee to complete its work to select three new Board Members, but they are clearly to be commended for their ultimate selections, Dr. Harvey Schiller, Mike McNees and Bob Djokovich.  This post on the USA Team Handball website provides some top level background on each of the new Board Members.  Below is some supplemental information and some additional thoughts in regards to how they might help USA Team Handball.

Dr. Harvey Schiller

If you read a bit on Dr. Schiller’s background your first reaction should be along the lines of “Holy crap, this guy is going to sit on USA Team Handball’s board?”  The resume is long, varied and impressive.  He’s been the Executive Director of the USOC, the Commissioner of the most prestigious NCAA Conference (SEC), the President of Turner Sports and the President of Yankees/Nets.  And that’s just the highlights.  Watch these sports business reporters gush about his career and read the accompanying article to get a full appreciation.

Here’s a very accomplished sports executive that could have chosen do a number of different things as his next big thing and he’s chosen USA Team Handball.  The doors that he can open for the sport in this country are many.  Who could be better to talk to the USOC about more funding support than a former head of the USOC?  Who could be better to talk to the NCAA about making Team Handball a varsity sport then the former head of the SEC?  Who could be better to talk to sports networks about broadcasting Team Handball on TV then the former head of two major networks.  It’s hard to understate what a potential game changer his selection to the Board could be  for the sport in this country.

Mike McNees

Mike McNees appears to be another quality selection to the Board, but for different reasons.  Outside of a short stint as USA Track & Field’s Chief Operating Officer he’s mostly worked as a city manager for several mid-sized cities.  He surely learned a lot about the effective operation of a sports federation during that time and he was even the acting CEO during a critical transition period.  This short mention by noted Olympic columnist, Alan Abrahamson describe McNees as someone “who has kept things moving steadily, quietly forward, seeking little screen credit.”  Based on his background and this short commentary he could be an ideal independent director.  Someone with no dog in the fight, who has been in the trenches with another Federation and who could quietly apply some real world management oversight to USA Team Handball.

Bob Djokovich

With the selection of Bob Djokovich the Board adds a distinguished handball veteran who also has been a successful manufacturing executive.  The captain of the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team, he is generally considered to be one of the best players in U.S. history.  (In my book, certainly the best Center Back this country has ever had.)  Djokovich is also a former USATH Board President and will surely be able to bring that experience to bear as the new Board weighs decisions going forward.

Nominating & Governance Committee Process

While I personally think Djokovich is a great addition to the Board, I would be remiss if I didn’t address how his selection by the Nominating & Governance Committee might be called into question for a couple of reasons.  The first reason is procedural and relates to Djokovich being appointed to the Nominating & Governance Committee earlier this year in April.  The Nominating & Governance Committee was tasked with selecting the 3 Independent Directors and the Federation By-Laws clear state in section 8.10.5 that

“No individual who serves on the Nominating and Governance Committee may serve or be eligible to serve on the Board of Directors.”

The recent announcement on the Federation website commends the Committee for its work, but notably, the original 5 member committee has been reduced to 4 members (minus Djokovich).  I suppose if Djokovich resigned from the Committee it skirts that provision for technical reasons, but it’s hard to see how it doesn’t violate the spirit of the provision.

Setting aside that procedural issue, however, it should also not be forgotten that in 2004 Djokovich lost his re-election bid for USA Team Handball President.  In hindsight this outcome was disastrous as follow on events eventually led to the USOC’s decertification of USA Team Handball.  Still, it was essentially a referendum on his four years as President and it would have been more appropriate in my opinion for him to run as a Membership Candidate.  In doing so he could very well have had a resounding and redemptive victory.  Instead his selection (rather than election) has a somewhat hollow feel to it.

If you read the by-laws, however, the Nominating & Governance Committee is empowered to select almost anyone on the planet to serve as an Independent Director.  Adding two true Handball outsiders (Schiller and McNees) and one Handball veteran (Djokovich) may be just the right mix in terms of  what is needed.  I for one, certainly can’t complain about the outcome.

(Editor’s note:  I’ve reached out to USA Team Handball CEO, Matt Van Houten regarding the procedural issues related to Djokovich’s selection and I will update this post when I have further information.)