USA Track & Field

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USA Track & Field (USATF) is the United States national governing body for the sports of track and field, cross country running, road running and racewalking (known as the sport of athletics outside the US). The USATF was known for a number of years as The Athletics Congress (TAC) after its spin off from the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), which governed the sport in the US through most of the 20th century until the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 dissolved its responsibility.

Based in Indianapolis, USATF is a non-profit organization with a membership of nearly 100,000. The organization is led by an elected President Stephanie Hightower[1] and a full-time Executive Director/CEO. On April 23, 2012, USATF announced the CEO position, that had been vacant since July 2010 with the termination of the contract with Doug Logan, would be filled by former NASCAR executive Max Siegel.[2]

USA Track & Field is involved in many aspects of the sport at the local, national, and international level – providing the rules, officials, coaching education, sports science and athlete development, youth programs, masters (age 40+) competition, the National Track & Field Hall of Fame, and an annual meeting. It also organizes the annual USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Through its sanctioning program, the national body provides the insurance coverage necessary for members to rent facilities, thus allowing for competitive opportunities for all athletes to happen.


The organization operates the National Track & Field Hall of Fame in the former Fort Washington Avenue Armory in New York City[3]

On January 30, 1878, in the city of New York, rower and runner William B. Curtis founded what officially became, in 1887, the Amateur Athletic Union. The AAU governed the sport of track and field in the United States until 1979, when the first Amateur Sports Act of 1978 decreed that the AAU could no longer hold international franchises for more than one sport. The enactment of the Amateur Sports Act was prompted by lobbying by amateur athletes, particularly runners, who felt that the AAU imposed artificial rules preventing widespread participation in sports.

The Athletics Congress (TAC) emerged from the AAU in late 1979, when its first annual meeting was conducted in Las Vegas, in conjunction with the annual AAU Convention. A constitutional convention was subsequently held in Dallas–Fort Worth in 1980.

In 1992, TAC changed its name to USA Track & Field (USATF) to increase recognition for the organization and for the sport in the United States. However, USATF inherited from AAU the 57 regional associations which are responsible for promoting the sport in a particular state or locality. Many of these associations were viewed as unaccountable to their members and some were accused of operating in a racially discriminatory manner. In addition, in some areas, the AAU continues to organize track and field events, including youth running programs.

In response, the USATF restructured the Associations, and adopted Regulation 15, which set minimum standards for association performance and called for biannual accreditation of each association under those standards.

In May 2008, the United States Olympic Committee notified USATF that its governance was deficient and threatened to remove its national governing body status unless major reforms were made.[4][5] In response, at USATF's December 2008 Convention, the size of its Board of Directors was reduced from 31 members who had represented constituencies within the organization to 15, and none of the new directors could have an operating role in the organization. Most of the new board members represented sponsoring organizations. On February 18, 2009, the members of the new, reduced Board were announced.[6]


At the 2014 annual meeting, the member delegates voted 392-70 to re-nominate Robert Hersh as the USATF's nominee to the IAAF council. Hersh is the sitting senior vice-president of the IAAF council and by virtue of that position, a USATF board member. However, the reconstituted Board disregarded the vote of the member delegates and instead voted 11-1 to nominate president Stephanie Hightower as the nominee to the IAAF council. The Board's action caused such a controversy that USATF sent an email two days later to all of its members attempting to explain its action. The email wrote, "This is a different era and a different time. We think Stephanie Hightower provides us with the best chance to move forward as part of that change."[7] The vote and email was immediately criticized by USATF members and athletes[8] as it explicitly admitted that the Board acted in its own self interest in defiance of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.


USA Track & Field is the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) member federation in the United States. USATF is a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and selects teams for Olympic and Pan American Games competitions. To select the athletes for the Olympic Games, every Olympiad USATF conducts the Olympic Trials.

USATF also has membership in, or close affiliations with, the NCAA, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), Running USA, and many community-based and disabled sports organizations.

USA Track & Field is a Founding Sports Partner of the Sports Museum of America, joining more than 50 other single-sport Halls of Fame, National Governing Bodies, Museums and other organizations across North America to richly celebrate the history, grandeur and significance of sports in American culture. Set to open in New York City on May 7, 2008, the Sports Museum of America will showcase both USA Track & Field and the National Track & Field Hall of Fame in its Hall of Halls Gallery (along with providing an annual donation) in return for sharing some of the hall of fame's valuable artifacts and their support of the creation of the Nation's first all-sports museum experience.


Many of the nearly 100,000 Americans members of USATF participate in athletics competitions through one of the thousands of clubs established in all 50 states. While most of these members participate as athletes, coaches, officials and supporters of athletics at the grass roots level, elite athletes who represent the USA in international competition are also required to be members of USATF. USATF also has 57 Associations to promote the sport locally, and membership in USATF also constitutes membership in a local association, with the dues being divided between the national and local group.

During the 1980s and 1990s, USATF encouraged major marathons to require USATF membership as a prerequisite to entering those races. However, after all marathons dropped this requirement for non-elite runners. As a result, the adult membership in USATF dropped dramatically in the 2000s. In some USATF associations, the number of youth members far exceed the number of adult members.

Today, USATF competes for youth membership with a parallel effort from the AAU, and with road racer/adult recreational runner membership with the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) and its member clubs. In many cases, youth track clubs join both USATF and AAU so that they can compete in both sets of track meets, and adult running clubs join both RRCA and USATF. However, unlike USATF which requires each individual runner to also become a member of USATF in order to compete in events or gain other membership benefits, when a club joins RRCA, all of its members automatically become members of RRCA as well. As a result, RRCA has grown to 180,000 individual or family members compared with 100,000 USATF members, many of whom are children.

To the general public, the similarity in terminology used by the organizations' events can lead to confusion. For example, both USATF and AAU conduct a series of track meets called the Junior Olympics[9] and USATF, AAU and RRCA conduct separate National Championships and State Championships. Both AAU and USATF operate 57 state or local Associations, although the boundaries of their service areas are no longer exactly the same.

Regarding the funding of promising post-collegiate athletes, USATF competes with RRCA's Road Scholars program to select athletes for stipends.

Championship series[edit]

In 1999, the USATF established the Golden Spike Tour – now the Visa Championship Series (VCS) – to showcase track and field in America and to facilitate the broadcast of key events on national television networks. Using innovative meet formats, the VCS helps repackage the sport, draws new fans and new sponsors, and provides increased financial incentives for USATF athletes. The VCS fills indoor arenas and outdoor stadiums across the country. Athletes compete for prize money at each meet, and the top athletes share in a bonus pool of $100,000. The last meet of the season is the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships.


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