Things Are Happening – October 16, 2018

A. What a Bono

How’s a person supposed to preview worlds sufficiently when things keep happening?

Anyway, to the surprise of no one, USAG’s interim disaster Mary Bono resigned today as CEO, not quite four days after being hired. Although, the announcement came late Friday, and the next two days were weekend days, so we’re looking more at 1.33 business days at best (no credit as a wolf double). That means there’s still some discrepancy over whether this counts as defeating MLT’s short-tenure record or not. Thoughts and math welcome.

In her resignation statement, Mary spares a thought for the real victim in all of this—herself. For how dare she be forced to suffer at the hands of her own thoughts, words, and actions. Charitably, she also spares a thought for the secondary victim—us—for not getting to experience the wonder that is her. I guess.

The second paragraph is probably my favorite. “I had a storyline to roll out, I tell you! A storyline! Look how calculated to garner sympathy and deflect criticism it was!” That storyline, and the lack of understanding that we the public are looking for qualifications not storylines, is probably what accounts for the board making this bizarre selection in the first place.

She goes on to tell us that she is being personally attacked (translation: she had to face actual criticism for her bad takes and it made her feel yucky in the tum-tum for a second), defends her work for the law firm that represented USAG in 2015 (which the board apparently thought there would be no problem with), and goes on to kinda-sorta double down on the Nike tweeting that got her in trouble in the first place, but also rewrites history by pretending it was just a single emotional reaction to a phrase in a commercial. It wasn’t.

If anyone out there is studying narcissism right now, these last few USAG resignations should be a whole class. BUT WHAT ABOUT MY REPUTATION. Because that’s what we’re all concerned about here. Her reputation. How unfair is it that her reputation be based on a thing that she said and did?!?! Especially when it could be based on how much money she has, or who she knows, or how white she is, like normal! You know, the stuff that really matters.

Anyone who trots out #butmyreputation loses me instantly. Get over yourself.

So what now? We’ll forget Mary Bono was even a person in about 30 seconds, so moving on, this isn’t really about her. It is still about a board that for some reason thought this was a good idea. To appoint a divisive character who was previously associated with those true heroes, the USAG lawyers? To appoint a politician? On what planet did those look like good ideas? Even before this whole Nike incident, this felt like the complete wrong direction to go, which will probably get lost now. There were big problems well before we found her twitter.

The board needs to check itself and adjust those priorities. Or better yet, just get out?

If not, maybe try a character who doesn’t have any prior associations with your nonsense at all? Who is likely to support the concept of athletes speaking, regardless of who they are or what they’re saying or how? For an organization that has been on the bad guys team an awful lot lately, and that has a big problem with silencing athletes already, those should be basic requirements. How were they not?

Also, can we really trust a CEO who doesn’t use the serial comma?

B. Dan Kendig retires

Dan Kendig, who has been head coach of the Nebraska women’s team for 25 years, announced his retirement today. It’s just a retirement party around here, suddenly.  I thought this was supposed to be a lighter year for coaching changes.

Unlike Miss Val, Kendig isn’t going on a farewell season tour. His retirement is effective immediately, which is pretty unusual for October since preseason has already started. We’re expecting to hear more information soon.

For now, Nebraska already had a qualified understudy associate head coach in Heather Brink, who will take over head coaching duties.

Which also provides an opportunity to bring back this:

C. The Gabby bars

By popular demand, I’m including the long-lost Gabby Douglas 2011 team final bars routine, which took place back in the days before the internet existed apparently because we had never seen it. Until now.

D. GymCastic

Fear not, we just recorded an addendum to this week’s episode to address Mary Bono’s retirement. I may have done a sassmonster-fueled staged reading of her resignation letter. #ManyRegrets

Look out for the episode coming soon. As well as getting into the Bono situation, we’ll talk about the US selection camp, Simone’s new vault, potential worlds lineups, the Tom Forster Q&A, the US individual world cup selection procedures, Youth Olympic Games, and Romanian nationals. It’s a jam-packed treat, especially if you’re a fan of Jessica’s rage-o-meter.

54 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – October 16, 2018”

  1. wow, i thought there would be some heat on bono for the tweet but didn’t expect the resignation… oh well…..

    Why couldn’t they just offer it to some rational people? lol.

  2. btw, i didn’t know you were going to do a preview on worlds teams…. look forward to it as usual!

    1. And if you could find out what’s going on with Brittany Rogers that would be good… Have checked social media and other sources but can’t figure out if she’s injured or retired or what.


    This blog gives a bit more detail on Kendig
    “Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said Kendig chose to retire after Moos approached Kendig on Monday with “compliance issues” that NU plans to self-report to the NCAA and could result in violations. Moos wouldn’t elaborate on the nature of violations and wouldn’t rule out that they’ll be major violations. He said Nebraska intends to send them to the NCAA in the “near future.”

    “Dan was transparent and good about it,” Moos said of his lengthy Monday conversation with Kendig. At the end of that conversation, Kendig decided to retire. Moos said he learned of the potential violations last week from his staff. He said they’re not related to recruiting or any current member of the program.”

  4. “Bono, 57, has a background in gymnastics. She trained at several clubs for a decade.”

    This was the last line in the announcement of her resignation. So, not a highly competitive gymnast, with a real understanding of what elite life is like. More like one of the pedophile coaches who bounced around different gyms evading the law.

    I guess that’s what they thought qualified her to hold this position. If this continues, we should start numbering them, like Murphy Brown did with the long line of incompetent secretaries she fired each week! Lol

    1. I feel like 10 years of training does qualify you as having some basic gymnastics knowledge over a layperson. I do not think you need to have been elite to hold this position, and I do think *some* knowledge of the gymnastics world helps. A lot.

    2. Personally, I don’t really care–at least not anymore–how much involvement with gymnastics the CEO has. As Spencer pointed out in a recent podcast, the gymnastics world is so small, so trying to hire from within it naturally results in problematic people being in power. And while some knowledge of gymnastics is helpful, it is really not all that relevant to the CEO’s job. The CEO needs to understand the business, financial, organizational, and legal side of things. Running USAG is probably not all that different from running, say, USA Volleyball.

      Also, the elite program is a tiny part of USAG; why should that be the CEO’s focus? There are other people whose job it is to run that specifically. USAG encompasses thousands of member clubs in I don’t know how many different regions… that’s a lot to oversee. (I think it’s also worth mentioning that part of the problem seems to be that the last group of management was so focused on promoting its elite that it neglected horrible abuses that were occurring at the club level.) It would be awesome if the person in charge could be an accomplished business and legal professional, a kind and decent human being, AND a former gymnast, but the first two components are much more vital than the third!

      1. I agree with this. The person doesn’t have to have had anything to do with gymnastics. That’s what advisors are for. In fact, I would rather not have someone who thinks they know something about gymnastics as CEO or on the board, because then they may be less likely to take advice from a variety of advisors… in other words, you’re locked in to one person’s “expertise.” No gymnastics background!! A competent leader!

        Anyway, a good recruiter will understand all this already.

      2. I spoke with someone with sports administration experience in another sport about this and she suggested something I thought was actually reasonable. Someone from freestyle skiing. There isn’t much crossover of personal so it avoids people tainted from the old USAG culture, they have excellent concussion protocols and all around have a better relationship with athletes. Bonus being that aerials has similar skills.

      3. If you hire someone who knows NOTHING about gymnastics, you get Kerry Perry, who was a puppet, based in part on her total lack of knowledge about the sport. Others at USA Gymnastics had to run things for her, because she knew so little about gymnastics and how it worked.

        The problem with the CEO position at this point is that anyone who would actually be good at it, is far too smart to take it. The dumpster is not only on fire, but floating out to sea, hard to imagine why anyone sane would want to climb aboard.

        Ron Galimore has been running USAG since the day Steve Penny was tossed out, and everyone involved in gymnastics knows it. Ron will keep running it until someone finally ousts him, too, which should have happened a long, long time ago.

        Every member of senior staff should be gone, like, 20 yesterdays ago. Keep Tom and Brett, and the part-timers who run rhythmic and trampoline, because someone has got to do the paperwork to run the programs, but make it clear their positions are not guaranteed to continue under new mgt. Then, start from scratch with an entirely new executive team that excludes anyone who was a previous full-time employee of USAG. It’s the only option at this point. If they won’t do that, then decertify. Immediately.

      4. @Anon (the second Anon) – I agree with all your points except the first sentence about Kerry Perry. I don’t see Perry’s incompetence as a result of lack of knowledge about gymnastics. It was just incompetence on multiple levels for multiple reasons.

    3. @ Carla — Are you honestly stating she is like a “pedophile coach” merely because she only did gymnastics for ten years????? I don’t understand the comparison you are trying to make.

      USAG needs a competent CEO. I don’t want to see a former gymnast with no managerial experience or business experience running USAG. They may be able to relate to gymnasts, but there is so much more needed to run a successful organization. Plus, someone from outside the gym environment won’t have those deep-rooted or life-long connections to other coaches/athletes. It’s a lot harder to fire or report a friend than an acquaintance or co-worker. They could use someone with business and risk management knowledge.

  5. Just read a chunk of this aloud. The response I got: “Is there any mechanism for the athletes to stage a coup?”

  6. Thank you Balance Beam Situation for bringing us material like this and being a voice for all the people that are disgusted with the terrible job that USAG is doing. That entire board needs to GO.

  7. While we are at it, where is Sabrina Vega’s TF bars routine? Many forget she did bars during finals and I also don’t think we’ve ever seen it

    1. Yes please! Vega is a complete joy to watch. The more archival footage, the better!

  8. The entire board should resign after this debacle. It was bad enough that they waited as long as they did to get rid of KP. Now this mess. Please. I was not especially impressed with their credentials as board members when they were hired and would like to know who is doing the recruiting. USAG leadership is in waaay over its head. The USOC needs to take over, commit some resources to recruitment, and find people who are actually qualified to do their jobs, not people who have peripherally-related experience and used to do gymnastics once. The athletes deserve so much better than this.

    1. But we can’t keep getting rid of entire boards every time they do one thing we don’t agree with (unless it’s something egregious and criminal). And how many people here can actually name the specific duties, activities, responsibilities, and authorities each board member has. As far as the CEO hiring, the core search committee was Brent Lang, Kittia Carpenter, Justin Spring, and Kimberly Till, with the assistance of the Spencer Search firm. It was probably somebody’s job to check Bono’s social media, but I doubt it was all of these people’s. Somebody who was supposed to either didn’t check, or didn’t realize it would be problematic if they saw the Nike stuff. But that is just part of the board and we don’t know who didn’t catch what and who was supposed to. We can’t just call for the heads of the entire board without knowing who dropped what ball. That won’t help.

      1. Nitpick: As Spencer said, the social media oversight was relatively minor; there were other red flags that should have disqualified her much earlier than that.

  9. Im hoping the athletes do not feel any of this USAG craziness in Doha and they can just focus on their job at hands. What a mess of an organization. I agree with kristen above- the elite world is just a sliver as there are so many hard working club owners and coaches out there who cannot have faith in their own governing body who pay USAG to be member clubs. These board members are cannibalizing their own business.

  10. Maybe it’s not productive to speculate, but I’d be interested to hear if someone has a theory on what kind of compliance issues cause an immediate retirement like that. I feel like NCAA coaches in other sports get hit with serious compliance violations/investigations and don’t resign or retire.

    1. It could also be a personal choice by Kendig meaning he was told he would face suspension or the team may face potential sanctions. To get ahead of it, he resigns, or if he thinks it’s unfair, he could say if you suspend me, I’m out.

      For other sports, compliance issues are often either payments to athletes/families, benefits not approved by the NCAA, recruiting violations (contact too early or during a dead period), coaches getting involved with academic affairs (personally talking to professors to influence assignments or grades), and it could even be violations committed by an assistant under Kendig. Nearly every program self-reports minor violations every year, but the fact the AD wouldn’t say whether these were considered minor or major violations makes it sound pretty serious. Also, the thing to remember is the NCAA could punish the program with scholarship reductions or post-season bans if the violations rise to a certain level.

      1. Another site reported that Kendig was paying the volunteer coach so Nebraska had too many paid coaches….it didn’t say what the payment source was but just that it was against the rules and had been going on for a while

      2. Wow that is a serious violation. If Brooks was that paid volunteer coach, he could face suspension from the NCAA.

  11. What about Jennifer Sey for USAG President?

    She’s a former elite gymnast.
    She was one of the first to speak out about the abusive culture (read her book if you haven’t it’s amazing).
    She has a good college education – in business I believe.
    She’s worked in the business world for many years.
    She hasn’t been associated with USAG (as far as I know) since at least the 1990s, so she wasn’t involved in most of the bad cultural decisions between 1995 and 2018.
    I don’t believe she’s associated with politics.

    She’s qualified for the position. The question is does she want it? USAG should be begging Sey to come and save them from themselves.

    1. ADDING:
      Perhaps Gymnastic should do a podcast answering all the reason why Jennifer Sey would be a good choice or bad choice for USAG president – kind of like going through her resume and qualifications and then deciding if she should take the job or not.

      1. I don’t think they should do a podcast on a specific person unless that person has shown interest in a position. No one should have their name associated with this dumpster fire unless they choose to be involved. If Sey expresses interest, then great. But if not, let the woman live her life without people publicly scrutinizing her resume for no reason.

      2. Yeah, I can see that. But perhaps a Gymcastic episode outlining their top 5 (or 10) picks for USAG president which Sey could and should be a part of. I mean this as a serious thing so no Aly – and I do love her – should not be included because her resume doesn’t qualify her.

        Should Aly be included on a (volunteer) committee for SafeSport or something like that – yes. It would be a good move is she wanted to make a difference in the future.

        The only reason Jennifer Sey might not be a good fit right now is because the person they need NOW is a short-term person to get USAG through all of the mess and get them to a more stable ground. Jennifer may be a better choice for USAG going forward when they are are ready to start building towards the future (i.e. a long-term president).

        I’d through Miss Val in as an interim solution after she retires from UCLA to get them through the 2020 Olympics – she has knowledge of the problems from working with and helping numerous former gymnasts deal with the mental and physical issues USAG has left them with so she may have good ideas on how to go forward.

  12. I’m a new subscriber to your blog and just wanted to say, I THOROUGHLY enjoy your passive-aggressive, condescending tone when you talk about certain topics. It is hilarious, and I aspire to be able to write like this.

    1. If you listen to Gymcastic regularly, you actually have Spencer’s voice in your head as you read his blog posts. It makes it even better – soooooo salty!

  13. People need to be calling out board members by name. Justin Spring, Steven Legendre, and ivana hong to name a few. I (begrudgingly) read an embarrassingly amount of tweets about this whole debacle, and very few people mention the USAG board, and literally no one was calling them out by name. They need to be held accountable.

    1. What did Ivana Hong do? I know it’s a stupid question, but I’ve been following pretty closely and didn’t know about anything sketchy from her.

      1. Nothing sketchy that’s been reported to my knowledge. She and Steve Legendre are on the board as athlete representatives. They were on the board in that position when the USOC demanded the entire board resign (with the athlete reps the only board members eligible to be elected to the new board).She’s an official name that has been part of the USAG structure by nature of her position, so it’s more of a guilt by association thing. As a generalization, people have a tendency to just call out names that are there when they’re angry, even if they don’t have a clear reason why this or that person needs to go. I still haven’t heard any good reason why a few of the now-permanently-ineligible board members from last year needed to resign either.

      2. Wait, Ivana Hong is “Guilty by association?” What? SHE’S ON THE BOARD. This isn’t like oh, she knows someone from the board, or oh, she worked with them before. Ridiculous.

        As for the comment of “the board can’t resign every time something bad happens.” Why not? This was a huge oversight that should have been handled properly. It wasn’t just the Nike tweet. It wasn’t just the law firm association. There were multiple oversights. Fire the board.

      3. Typically a Board of Directors operates with either simple majority or 2/3 rules. Thus, without knowing how Board members vote on specific issues, you may be advocating for people to resign/be terminated even though they may have been a voice of reason voting against questionable Board actions.

    2. Rumors abound that Ivana Hong resigned from her position at Stanford gymnastics because she was going to be implicated in allegations of abusive behavior against the head coach. That’s concerning given the culture of abuse in elite gymnastics and the fact that she is supposed to be an athlete representative. But it’s also not substantiated by any real evidence that I know of beyond the unusual resignation timing.
      More importantly, ALL the board members are DOING A BAD JOB BY MAKING INAPPROPRIATE HIRES LIKE MARY BONO. That is what they should be held accountable for.

      1. The gymnastics gossip circles have gotten out of hand. Hong was a volunteer coach/grad asst for a year or so at Stanford. She had no real power and seems to be very good friends with many of her former teammates. But, yes, let’s drag her name and reputation through the mud because some anonymous gym board member wants to say a rumor with zero evidence backing it up.

  14. Miss me, sis, with your “now you don’t get the wonder that is me” exit letter, filled with lies, as Spencer rightly pointed out. As a military brat, find it sleazy to invoke a dead service member you never met, since he passed away 13 years before she married current husband number 4, back when Bono was still on husband number 2. Doesn’t make his loss less tragic, but definitely makes it far less personal than she tried to make it sound. Like, how it’s heartbreaking for my grandmother that 3 of her brothers died in WWII; less so for me, relatives or not, since it happened 50+ years before I was born.

    Of course, there’s also the inconvenient truth that neither the Nike ad, nor NFL kneeling, is even a tiny bit about “disrespecting the troops.”

    Bono’s only qualification to be a congresswoman was being the widow of a congressman, and her only qualification to be a lobbyist was being a congresswoman. Entire career is a circle based on marrying someone almost 30 years her senior when she was >2 years out of college. If her only resume highlight for USA Gymnastics was once being coached by someone who molested his athletes, in this case Doug Boger, that’s another pretty low bar. Also, as Scott Reid of the OC Register pointed out, back when they were trying to expose Boger in 2012, Bono wanted nothing to do with speaking out about her experience as his athlete.

    Only relevant when it’s convenient to her, I guess. That sounds about right for USAG.

    1. Is it fair to criticize Bono for not commenting on Doug Boger in 2011 or 12? If abuse survivors and educators want to promote the idea that no one should be forced to tell their story until they’re ready, and that many women don’t tell their stories for decades, many not until they’re in their 50s or 60s, is it a good idea to complain that Bono didn’t? Criticize her qualifications as a congresswoman or appropriateness for the USAG position, or her stand on Nike. That’s fair discussion. But it seems like the Boger stuff should be left alone. No one knows why she didn’t want to talk about it back then. We only know that many many former gymnasts, not just Bono, seem more willing to share their stories now, both with the #MeToo movement, as well as all the gymnasts knowing there is such a large sister survivor army to back them up. Bono didn’t talk about Boger back then, but she reportedly did support survivor legislation before it became headline news. I’m not sure the Boger stuff is right to judge or criticize.

  15. Mary Bono was the perfect hire for USA Gymnastics to maintain the status quo. They have shown us who they are, again and again, who they want to continue to be. Believe them, USOC. Decertify now.

  16. Ok, I don’t actually believe that this has bearing on her professionally, but is it cruel to laugh at the personal life section of her Wikipedia page? That’s a LOT of short marriages/engagements, and she made those decisions while already a middle aged mother.

    This lady is a mess. (And I would think the same thing if this were my friend or, like, Aliya Mustafina.)

  17. What would it mean and what would happen if USAG was decertified?

    If another national governing body were created in its place, would the new NGB be responsible for all the current lawsuits, or would they still be tied to USAG?


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