Saying he wanted to get the unpleasantries out of the way so that the rest of the weekend could be spent on the athletes who are the reason for the U.S. Olympic trials in the Salt Palace, U.S. Gymnastics Federation Executive Director Mike Jacki held a 1 1/2-hour news conference at Little America Hotel Thursday.
He spent much of the time defending the USGF's position with regard to news stories of the past few weeks.Some highlights of Jacki's oral parries:
- The U.S. Justice Department has told the USGF in a phone call it is not actually being investigated, although "documents" have been received in the Justice Department's mail that accuse the USGF of not properly reporting $1.7 million in income over the past two years.
Jacki said the money is not income revenue, that it stays at state and club level and comes from such things as sales of hot dogs and soft drinks at many of the 6,000 USGF-sanctioned meets that are held each year.
- Jacki denied a recent Los Angeles Times report that said the USGF, now a multi-million-dollar organization since Jacki took over in 1983, gave its athletes only $6,000 in direct cash assistance for training and living expenses. Jacki said the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) rules make giving cash payments to athletes much more difficult than in some other sports, such as track and field, which has its own, more liberal international rules. The NCAA prohibits any current or potential college-scholarship athlete from taking even $1, so most of the women gymnasts are unable to accept assistance from the USGF. However, said Jacki, more than $9,000 was given to American gymnasts at the Pan American Games, and eight male gymnasts and two female gymnasts and 16 coaches received $1,500 each in cash training benefits from a June 6 exhibition meet in Las Vegas.
- The USGF director, accused by the LA Times of favoring former business associates and his former company by using their equipment for USGF meets, said American Athletic (a former division of AMF) is "the oldest sponsor of the USGF" and has had several long-term contracts with the USGF that date to before he was executive director.
- Jacki said he doesn't think University of Utah Coach Greg Marsden was behind the IRS/Justice Department-crony favoritism story, although USGF President Mike Donahue told an Indianapolis newspaper last week that Marsden was the leak. Marsden has denied it.
- Jacki reiterated statements made a couple of weeks ago to the Deseret News that the coaching staff for the Olympic Games is set and won't be changed unless Don Peters resigns as head coach. "He will not resign, and I wouldn't ask him to," Jacki said. He again said he favors a coach-selecting process based on performance rather than popular vote of a committee but said the process won't be changed until after the Olympics, if at all.
- He again said he will try to get Bela Karolyi to travel to Seoul with the Olympic team, and he said he doesn't think Karolyi or other coaches influence judging at American meets because gymnasts score about the same in international meets as they do in this country.