The change in scheduling for USA Fencing’s national calendar caught not only members, but elected officers by surprise as well.
Upon winning the bid for the Pan American Zonal Championships, Greg Dilworth, the Executive Director for USA Fencing changed the US national schedule so that the Pan American Zonal Championships will be held in conjunction with the USA Fencing National Championships in Reno, Nevada. The decision was also made to move the Division I National Championships from Summer Nationals to the Portland North American Cup (NAC) to be held April 15-18, 2010.
The elimination of one of three Division I events from the national calendar did not sit well with many members of USA fencing and the process by which the change was made is now being called into question.
Members of the Executive Committee, Tournament Committee and Athletic Committees were not consulted on the move.
According to the newly adopted USA Fencing bylaws; “The Board of Directors is vested with the full powers and responsibility for the management and policies of the USFA, subject to these Bylaws.” There is no direct mention of the responsibilities or authority of the Executive Director regarding changes to the national schedule. [link to USA Fencing Bylaws]
“The National schedule was voted on by the Board of Directors and changing it without at least the vote of the [Executive Committee] is a violation of the [Board of Director’s] Action” stated Mark Stasinos, Vice President of USA Fencing.
At the July 2010 meeting of the Board of Directors statements were made that alluded to the dismissal of Kurt Aichele being due in part to taking actions that went contrary to prior votes of the Board of Directors.
Alex Wood, head of the Athlete’s Council (AC), confirmed that the change was made without review or comment by the Athlete’s Council. This group of athletes is normally charged with reviewing any changes to team selection criteria.
According to a statement from Mr. Wood, the AC weapon representatives are requesting feedback on the schedule change from the top 32 ranked athletes in each gender and weapon, which will be provided to the Executive Director and the new Board of Directors.
Mr. Wood expressed his displeasure at the process by which the schedule change was made: “Although I do not entirely disagree with the decision [as in the decision to have Zonals in the U.S. during Summer Nationals], as Athlete Council Chair, I was disappointed that our body was not consulted before this decision was made, whether or not Mr. Dilworth had the authority to do so.”
According to multiple sources, the actual scheduling for the Pan American Zonal Championships held in conjunction with the Summer Nationals were discussed, but the issue of moving the Division I National Championships to April and eliminating the April Division I NAC was not.
The Division I NACs are a source for national points for senior, junior, and cadet fencers. The removal of one of the Division I NACs impacts the number of domestic events available for competition for those athletes.
According to the Operations Manual for USA Fencing published on the official web site, the Tournament Committee is tasked with determining the date and location of the National Championships and with dividing the Division I championships from the rest of the Summer Nationals competition:
“The TC, based on recommendations from the High Performance Committee
(HPC) and the Director of High Performance (HPD), determines the date and
place of the National Championships and the possibility of separating Division I
National Championships from Summer National Championships as necessary in
relation to the timing of selection of one or more international teams.”
(Page I-5 of the Operations Manual of USA Fencing, version 2006-1.)
One of the negative effects of the move is that the national tournament schedule loses one of the Division I North American Cup events. The number of Div I events moves from 3 to 2, with participation in the April Division I Nationals limited to those US fencers who have earned qualifying national or international points by the entry deadline.
The issue of the 2010 – 2011 National Schedule will be on the agenda for the September Board of Director’s meeting. Kalle Weeks, president of USA Fencing confirmed: “The Division I scheduling topic is on our September Annual Meeting agenda, in the context of the association’s processes for decision-making. I’m looking forward to a lively and productive discussion of this and related matters.”