Athletics director Pat McDonough leaves USA Cycling; Jim Miller appointed interim director
By Neal Rogers
Director of athletics Pat McDonough left his position with USA Cycling on Monday, the national governing body confirmed.
Jim Miller, the organization’s endurance program manager, had been appointed interim director of athletics effective immediately.
USAC spokesman Andy Lee confirmed on Wednesday that McDonough was no longer with the federation, but would not elaborate on the terms of his departure.
“I can verify that is the case, beyond that I’m not going to comment,” Lee said. “It’s company policy not to comment on personnel issues.”
After starting with USA Cycling as director of track programs following the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, McDonough, a silver medalist in the team pursuit at the 1984 Olympic Games, was named director of athletics in June 2006.
McDonough could not be immediately reached for comment.
Prior to his position as national track programs director, McDonough was the director of the Lehigh Valley Velodrome in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania, for 15 years.
For an athletics director at a national governing body funded largely by the US Olympic Committee, job performance is weighed heavily on Olympic accomplishments as well as World Cup and world championship medals — particularly those in Olympic events.
During the 2008 season, American riders took gold medals on the track (Mike Friedman, World Cup scratch race; Taylor Phinney, World Cup pursuit; Jenny Reed, world keirin championship), Four Cross (Melissa Buhl) and on the road (Kristin Armstrong, Olympic time trial; Amber Neben, world time trial championship).
Other medals included Sarah Hammer’s silver medal at the world pursuit championship, Reed’s bronze medal in the world sprint championship; Levi Leipheimer’s bronze medal at the Olympic time trial; Dave Zabriskie’s bronze medal in the world time trial championship; three medals in the Olympic BMX events and Katie Compton’s recent bronze medal at the world cyclocross championship.
However, Colby Pearce, an American track racer who also worked under McDonough as track endurance coach at USA Cycling from November 2005 through May 2007, wasn’t surprised to hear McDonough’s tenure at UCA Cycling had come to an end.
Reached in Europe, where he and six-day partner Daniel Holloway are preparing for the February 13-14 Copenhagen track World Cup, Pearce said he could “see this coming.”
“Pat is an incredibly hard worker, maybe to a point of it being a fault,” Pearce said. “He takes too much on his plate, and he doesn’t know when to delegate and when to say no. You see that with a lot people who are passionate about cycling. He cared so much, which was good, but it was also bad because he had too much on his plate and couldn’t take care of it all. At some point, something has to give.”
Pearce pointed to a pair of “screw-ups” by USA Cycling, both relating to the 2008 Olympic Games — the blame for which, he said, ultimately landed on McDonough’s shoulders.
“The first, and I am not at all objective on this matter, was USA Cycling’s selection procedure for the Olympic points race,” Pearce said. Pearce, who won a World Cup points race in 2004 and has four other World Cup points race medals to his name, has been vocal in his displeasure of USA Cycling’s qualification process.
Bobby Lea qualified as the fastest endurance rider to meet a pair of time standards in a 3000-meter mass start test at USA Cycling’s selection camp in June. Lea’s marks at the 500-meter mark and at the finish translated into an automatic nomination to contest both the points race and Madison in Beijing, where he performed poorly in both events.
“There is no way that should have happened,” Pearce said. “Given his experience level and palmares for the points race, (Lea) was way, way under qualified.”
The other instance, Pearce, said, was the fiasco surrounding American Olympians, including Hammer, Reed, Lea and Friedman, who wore masks upon their arrival to Beijing to protect themselves from the city’s infamous smog. The incident caused a brief international flare-up, with USOC officials demanding the riders issue an apology.
“That was a catastrophe and I was so disappointed USA Cycling and Pat did not stick up for athletes,” Pearce said. “The only person to defend them was Pat McDonough, and he didn’t do it.”