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U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Announces Roster And Priority Areas For College Sports Sustainability Think Tank

By U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee | Nov. 12, 2020, 2 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and USOPC Collegiate Advisory Council today announced the 34-member roster for the USOPC College Sports Sustainability Think Tank. The think tank, which will commence later this month, will identify innovative solutions to help sustain Olympic and Paralympic varsity programming opportunities within college athletics. 

“Our country’s unique college system is critical not just to the health of our Olympic and Paralympic teams, but to the longstanding vitality of sports across our country,” said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland. “Now is the time to assemble leaders who are passionate about keeping this ecosystem strong for today’s athletes and for the generations to come.” 

The USOPC think tank will initiate three working groups focused on the areas of partnerships, sport economics and regulations. Chaired by Scott Stricklin, University of Florida athletics director and USOPC CAC member, the effort is a collaboration across schools, the NCAA, the USOPC, National Governing Bodies and Team USA athletes.


The partnerships working group will explore options to drive national alignment around Olympic and Paralympic sport structures and examine innovative collaboration opportunities across a variety of stakeholder groups. The 11-member group is comprised of:    

Greg Byrne (chair), University of Alabama athletics director
Gene Smith, The Ohio State University senior vice president and athletic director
Jennifer Frasier, NCAA director of division I governance
Katie Bynum, USOPC chief strategy & growth officer
Max Siegel, USA Track & Field CEO
Cayla Barnes, Olympian (ice hockey) and Boston College student-athlete 
Jessica Heims, Paralympian (track and field) and University of Northern Iowa student-athlete
Brett Gorman, USRowing director of coaching education and USRowing national team coach
Martin Jarmond, University of California, Los Angeles director of athletics
Greg Brown, former Learfield IMG College president and CEO
Caroline Rebello, Evolution Media Capital managing director


The sport economics working group will review sport-specific and nationwide sport economic management models to promote sustainable behaviors for lasting sport sponsorship. The 11-member group is comprised of:

Rob Mullens (chair), University of Oregon athletic director
Sandy Barbour, Pennsylvania State University vice president for intercollegiate athletics
Kathleen McNeelly, NCAA senior vice president of administration and chief financial officer
Sarah Hirshland, USOPC CEO
Rich Bender, USA Wrestling executive director and USOPC board member
Sho Nakamori, former national team member (gymnastics) and Stanford University student-athlete 
Maddie Musselman, Olympian (water polo) and University of California, Los Angeles student-athlete
Jeremy Fischer, USA Track & Field national team coach
Val Ackerman, Big East Conference commissioner
Jamie Pollard, Iowa State University director of athletics
Don Bruce, University of Tennessee professor in the Haslam College of Business 


The regulations working group will explore regulatory adjustments to allow schools more flexibility to manage their sport profiles in a meaningful and sustainable way. The 11-member group is comprised of:
Chris Plonsky (chair), University of Texas chief of staff and executive senior associate athletics director
Bubba Cunningham, University of North Carolina director of athletics
Stan Wilcox, NCAA executive vice president of regulatory affairs 
Rick Adams, USOPC chief of sport performance & NGB services
Pat Kelleher, USA Hockey executive director 
Kendall Spencer, national team member (track and field) and University of New Mexico student-athlete
Sierra Schmidt, national team member (swimming) and University of Michigan student-athlete
Adam Krikorian, USA Water Polo women’s senior national team head coach
Robin Harris, Ivy League executive director 
Ray Anderson, Arizona State University vice president for university athletics
Jim Knowlton, University of California, Berkeley director of athletics

Each working group will explore both short- and long-term initiatives that encourage and support broad-based sport sponsorship of Olympic and Paralympic sport opportunities. The working groups will spend time in November and December ideating on the stated charge. 

“We are grateful to the administrators, coaches, athletes and industry experts who are willing to help us transform the landscape to support Olympic and Paralympic sport opportunities at the college level,” said Strickin. “There is a renewed appetite for exploring creative avenues to support broad-based sports, and we need to lean in now.” 

Feedback from the think tank working groups will be formalized into recommendations that will be shared with the USOPC CAC in Q1 2021. Final recommendations will be brought forward to the NCAA/college leaders and USOPC board of directors as appropriate. Recommendations may involve specific action items and/or best practices and may organically evolve as work begins.