DENVER (AP) — The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee hired USA Triathlon and onetime Arizona State athletics executive Rocky Harris on Tuesday to head its sports performance department.
As chief of sport and athlete services, Harris will have a sprawling network to oversee — responsible for Olympic sports performance, relationships with more than 50 national governing bodies (NGBs), the USOPC's connection with NCAA programs, and athlete services, which includes oversight of programs designed for their mental and physical well-being.
He comes to the USOPC after spending five years as CEO of USA Triathlon. Before that, he worked as chief operating officer for Arizona State's athletic department.
He replaces Rick Adams, whose sudden departure earlier this year caught many NGB leaders off guard and was a source of frustration inside the U.S. Olympic movement.
“NGBs play a vital role in both identifying, developing and supporting athletes and growing sport in the United States," Harris said in a statement released by the USOPC. “And the responsibility to take an active role in working across summer and winter NGBs, including our internal Paralympic NGBs, is not a charge I take lightly.”
The U.S. led the medal count at last year's Tokyo Olympics, but the 113 medals were eight fewer than in 2016 despite the addition of new events. Americans won 25 medals, good for fourth on the medals table, at the Beijing Winter Games earlier this year.
At meetings earlier this summer, USOPC leadership said staying at the top was a priority, especially in the wake of decreasing TV ratings, and with the Summer Games returning to Los Angeles in 2028.
Ultimately, Harris will be judged on how well he provides athletes and the NGBs with what they need to perform well at the Olympics.
"Throughout the search process, Rocky distinguished himself as a leader in the field of athlete support, NGB operations and collegiate partnerships and, through his experience, has proven that he is well positioned to help build the most comprehensive human performance program in our organization’s history,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a statement.
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