THE TICKER: USA Swimming confirms dates for 2021 Olympic Trials, but T&F faces a possible conflict with the NCAAs in Eugene

The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:

U.S. Olympic Trials ● The highest-profile U.S. Olympic Trials events had been lined for a two-week show this June, but with the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games for a year, the question of the Trials dates also has to be resolved.

The first to declare its dates is USA Swimming, which today announced new dates of 13-20 June, 2021, once again at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

Said USA Swimming Chief Operating Officer Mike Unger:

“We are incredibly thankful to the USOPC, NBC, the Omaha Sports Commission, the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority and every other partner involved in successfully moving an event of this magnitude to new dates that will best prepare our team to succeed in Tokyo in 2021.

“Fans can expect to witness the same incredible level of competition and entertainment throughout this highly-anticipated event.”

It’s worthwhile to note the mention of NBC in the statement, as the network had two weeks of Trials events lined up for this summer in advance of the Games. As scheduled for 2020:

● 14-21 June 2020: USA Diving Olympic Trials in Indianapolis
● 19-28 June 2020: USA Track & Field Olympic Trials in Eugene
● 21-28 June 2020: USA Swimming Olympic Trials in Omaha
● 25-28 June 2020: USA Gymnastics Artistic Olympic Trials in St. Louis

With the dates of the Tokyo Games essentially in the same place on the calendar in 2021 as in 2020, the question is whether the American Trials events will be lined up again as was the plan – especially for NBC – for this year.

For diving and gymnastics, there is no reason to change, as there are no impediments to the competition schedule, but the use of the Enterprise Center in St. Louis could be in question.

For track & field, the situation is more complex. For 2020, the NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships were scheduled for 10-13 June in Austin, Texas, with the Olympic Trials to follow the week after.

But for 2021, the NCAAs are scheduled for Eugene’s Hayward Field for 9-12 June – Wednesday through Saturday – meaning that the Trials could not be held there concurrent with the swimming trials in Omaha.

Further, there would be significant pressure on the T&F Trials organizers to be able to arrange their installations – just five days – in time to start the following Friday for an 18-27 June Trials schedule … in the same stadium.

If the 18-27 June dates could work, that could also work well for NBC, giving the network the same two-week spread it had planned for this year. The diving trials could likely be moved as needed, but the gymnastics event is still subject to venue availability in St. Louis.

But the Trials really need to end by 27 June, as the qualifying deadline for the Tokyo Games is on 29 June 2021.

Will the NCAAs be moved to allow more time for Trials set-up? Can the television cabling, sponsor signage, media seating and mixed zone infrastructure and hospitality arrangements all be made in time? Will the Trials build-out be half-completed around the Pre Classic and NCAAs, and then finished during the following week?

NBC, among many others, would like to know. Then again …

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● Confirming once again that he is the chief executive of an organizing committee and not a fortune teller, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told a media teleconference today (English via an interpreter):

“I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not. We’re certainly are not in a position to give you a clear answer.”

COVID-19 infections have been on the rise in Japan, with a significant escalation over the past week, but how long this will extend is anyone’s guess.

Gymnastics ● The legal tug-of-war at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana has picked up again in the USA Gymnastics case.

Because of the COVID-19 situation, hearings have been put off, but a 13 April date had been set for the filing of objections to the USA Gymnastics reorganization proposal, which includes an election by survivors on a $217.5 settlement offer.

On Thursday afternoon, seven of the insurers in the case asked for an extension to 30 April to file their objections to the USA Gymnastics proposal. The filing included some aggressive language from the insurers, including:

“[T]he undersigned Insurers desire that the Proposed Plan include a settlement option. However, the Proposed Plan does not reflect necessary material terms, injects different terms than proposed when offers were made, and further, is deficient as to other fundamental terms, including scope of injunctive protection, scope of buy back of insurance, releases (including from USOPC and other Protected Parties) and other affirmative obligations.”

and

“More fundamentally, the changes necessary to effect a settlement with the insurers will require not only changes to the disclosure statement, but changes in the Proposed Plan. Releases from additional insureds and USOPC in favor of the insurers are lacking, as are Proposed Plan definitions, the Channeling Injunction, the Settling Insurer Injunction, terms of insurer buy back agreements (which are not included in the Plan). All of these provisions must be expanded to encompass all Abuse Claims and other claims being barred and all coverages and policies being released.”

In other words, the insurers are asking that a complete plan – including all of the promised injunctions and releases mentioned in it – be included. This will lengthen the preparation process, but allow the insurers to have all of the claims against them settled at once … if the settlement option is approved.

The Survivors Committee followed up six hours later with a filing in agreement with the insurers, accusing USA Gymnastics of wasting its time in preparing a detailed objection to the proposal plan.

USA Gymnastics’ attorneys were ready with a response by 10:21 a.m. Friday morning, lambasting both filings:

“The Insurers’ Motion and the Response [of the Survivors Committee] filed just hours later give this Court a glimpse into the gamesmanship that is impeding the Debtor’s ability to reorganize.

“The Insurers’ apparent strategy is to create leverage by dragging out the case and adding additional and unnecessary administrative expense (all the while failing to reimburse the Debtor’s legal fees that they are obligated to pay). The Committee’s apparent strategy is to create leverage by resorting to media campaigns against the Debtor instead of engaging in good faith negotiations over the Committee’s issues with the Disclosure Statement and the Plan. The Court should not condone this behavior.”

The USA Gymnastics filing goes on to note that the very purpose of the objections deadline is to get everyone’s comments together so that a final reorganization plan can be created and then voted on by the claimants.

Further, the USAG filing slapped back at both parties. The insurer filing stated that USAG had not responded to its comments on the original proposal, but the USAG response noted that

“[T]he Insurers’ suggestion that the Debtor failed to engage with them over their comments to the Disclosure Statement and Plan is simply not true. The Debtor has participated in a series of telephone conferences and e-mail exchanges with the Insurers, including a lengthy conference on March 19, 2020, and the Debtor intends to continue this dialogue. The Debtor’s counsel provided the Insurers … (along with the [Survivors] Committee …) with an amended plan and disclosure statement on April 10, 2020, that incorporated comments from the Insurers, Twistars, and the United States Trustee (the only parties who provided preliminary comments to the Disclosure Statement). The Debtor is continuing to work through the comments it received from the Insurers and other parties and expects to file an amended disclosure statement with its response to any objections on April 16, 2020. Notably, the [Survivors] Committee has not provided the Debtor with any comments as of the date of this Objection.”

Now it’s up to the Bankruptcy Court to decide whether to grant the extension.

Wrestling ● Looking to the future, one of the goals of USA Wrestling is to help the development of women’s wrestling at the collegiate level. To that end, USA Wrestling posted a story announcing a plan to create a community college national women’s wrestling championships event in 2021.

A conference call with community-college coaches and administrators, and USA Wrestling staff took place in February, with the first community-college nationals in Freestyle wrestling slated for February 2021. According to the statement:

“Those teams invited will include community college programs affiliated with the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC), the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA), the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) and others, as well as wrestling-related college organizations including the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA).”

Women’s wrestling is not a championship sport within the NCAA, but this is another step to build the foundation which can support its eventual inclusion.

That is, if wrestling – and many other limited-revenue sports – can survive.

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