…and Now I’m Getting Out

by | January 9, 2013, 6:39am 0

I waded into this whole mess because I was frustrated by the lack of coverage and conversation.  A huge decision for the future of ultimate was happening entirely behind closed doors.  Hopefully the rest of the way Skyd and Ultiworld will continue to provide strong coverage.  I also waded in because I had something to say on the issue, so as I get out, I’d like to reiterate the things I feel strongly.  Here’s what I am hoping for:

USA Ultimate

CEO Tom Crawford delivers a big check at the US Open (Brandon Wu - UltiPhotos.com)

Like a lot of people, I would like to see USA Ultimate partner with NexGen to produce the championship season.  NexGen’s League provides the regular season and championship event of the Triple Crown – in many ways it is a seamless fit.  Look at the issue from perspective of a service provider.  With the TCT (and all their programs), USA Ultimate is attempting to provide a service.  They want to provide a service to the elite players by running a championship event and to the community at large by using it to promote the sport.  USA Ultimate plans to spend a lot of money to do this.  NexGen is willing to provide this service for free.  Provided NexGen is willing to adjust its plan in ways that make it palatable to USA Ultimate, financially this is a no-brainer.

This will be very, very difficult for USA Ultimate to pull off, even if they are willing to do so.  Changing plans at this point requires a major tactical shift.  Right now, USAU is trying to achieve its strategic goals laid out in their excellent strategic plan without partnerships.  What I’d like to see, both with regard to NexGen and other organizations, is USA Ultimate using its strength not to dominate and control all of ultimate, but to help guide other organizations to work in parallel with their goals.  A thought: what kind of changes could USA Ultimate extract from the AUDL or MLU with the promise of partnership?  With the offer of a bid to World Clubs for the league champion?

Ultimate is moving beyond the ability of a single organization to control.  Rather than using their strength to grasp at a last chance to hold all the cards, USA Ultimate should switch from a control tactic to an influence tactic, with partnership and imprimatur as its weapons.


The lack of transparency is what brought me into this discussion and I continue to be troubled by how little is being shared by USA Ultimate and the elite teams.  USA Ultimate has an ethical obligation to share information related to the future of the sport with its members.  Until recently, the elite teams have not had that ethical obligation.  In fact, they’ve had an ethical obligation to their own prime directive of winning to maintain secrecy at all costs.  They are also understandably very risk averse in this situation; they have much to lose.  However, whether they transition to the TCT or NGL, they will become the public face of ultimate.  This public status and their obvious place of pride in the current discussion obligates them to be more open with their process and decision making.  I understand that there are good reasons for secrecy with regard to negotiations, but both groups could share a lot of information without damaging their positions.

The Elite Teams

Elite Team spokesman, Doublewide's Kurt Gibson, smiles in a huddle at the Club Championships. (Jeff Bell - UltiPhotos.com)

I hope the elite teams joyfully rise to the challenge and step up.  They have already crossed the biggest hurdle by starting negotiations with USA Ultimate, but regardless of the outcome, changes are coming.  These teams are transitioning from private organizations to public ones.  As they move toward functioning as standard bearers for our sport, they are (as has always been the case to a small degree) responsible not just to themselves and their teams, but to the sport as a whole.  Some of that responsibility will be met through increased public presence, but the biggest change will be in the front office.  I’m not sure any team actually has a front office, but teams like Revolver and Ironside who already have dedicated coaching staffs will be in a much better position to take advantage of the transition than the teams that don’t.  My suggestion: use your alumni.


The footage NexGen has provided in the last two years has been invaluable in advancing the production quality and volume of ultimate video.  Yes, they are primarily reaching Frisbee fanatics, but remember a lot of those fanatics are 15 and 16 years old and represent the future of our sport and have lots of friends.  More exposure and more content is a good, good thing.  I hope that the result of the discussions allow whatever league is created to maintain the two most important pieces of NexGen’s proposal.  First, that viewership is prioritized through scheduling and logistics.  Secondly, the teams themselves have significant ownership and decision making power in the organization.

Women’s and Mixed

We are in the situation we are in because the elite men’s teams have advocated for change.  Despite USAU’s centralization of power, we still are and still should be a player run organization.  It is important that changes made to either division are the ones that best suit them, both today and down the road.  Hopefully, this winter’s activity around elite mens ultimate will kick-start discussion in the other divisions.

Bad Blood

Whatever happens in the next month, there is a great chance for bad blood between the various parties involved.  In all my conversations, it is clear that the great majority of the people involved are doing what they think is best for ultimate in general, not just best for themselves.  Hopefully, everyone will remember this and not allow vindictiveness and retribution to guide their decisions down the road.

Feature photo by Jeff Bell – Ultiphotos.com — Full Club Championships 2012 Gallery

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