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USBC Policy Changes
by Bill Vint

In a surprising development in mid-October, the United States Bowling Congress announced to its staff and members of the bowling industry that it is going to adopt new policies dedicated to integrity.

Specifically, as of Jan. 1, 2016, USBC is forbidding its employees from participating in prize funds, brackets and awards programs at its national tournaments including the USBC Open and Women’s Championships, Masters and Queens, U.S. Opens, PWBA Tour events and Team USA Trials.

In addition, employees can no longer be employed on the side by a manufacturer (or any other USBC vendor), or accept money or products from such companies.

The policy applies to USBC, IBC Youth and International Training and Research Center employees. BPAA hasn’t confirmed whether the policy applies to its employees or not.

Regardless, it’s not only a good decision, but long overdue.

USBC isn’t admitting any wrongdoing, cheating, undue influence, etc., by any of its employees – past or present – nor should anyone suggest those things have happened. But the reality is, the perception of unfair advantage, favoritism and insider influence has existed within Bowling Headquarters for years. And it only got worse when USBC hired several active Team USA members as well as ignoring the fact that several employees signed on as ball company staffers.

The most critical issue is, USBC is the national governing body for the sport of American tenpins. It needs to be held to the highest standards. There should never even be a question about an employee being in a position to compromise the sport’s integrity.

The Catch 22 is that all of us want knowledgeable bowling people making decisions at USBC, but employees should never have unfair advantage – or the perception of unfair advantage – over the general membership.

Cases in point:

  • The former head of lane maintenance at the ABC Championships Tournament won a pair of “eagles” in the team event (1994 and 1998). It’s virtually impossible to believe he wouldn’t have shared his knowledge of lane conditions, and lane play, with his teammates.
  • A former ABC/USBC executive would enter every bracket on his squad at the Open Championships, and invariably make a boatload of bracket money. He was/is a talented player, but taking money from the members you are pledged to serve just smacks of bad judgment.
  • Several employees who also were active Team USA members had immediate access to practice in the ITRC over lunch hour or whenever, to the disadvantage of every other Team USA member. And by also signing “ball contracts,” they had access to the newest equipment at no cost, as well as access to the expertise of manufacturer’s representatives.
  • Whether or not high-level competitors employed by USBC got special work privileges to bowl in tournaments or travel with USBC is a good question. I don’t know if those employees bowled on unpaid leave, and paid their own expenses, or not. What I’m pretty sure about, however, is that a policy of time off wasn’t applied equally to employees who aren’t skilled bowlers. And even if employees took non-paid time off to go bowling, that meant a non-bowling employee most likely had to assume that person’s workload during his/her absence.

It may not be such a major issue today because most of the USBC employees who were on Team USA have left for other career options, but some people who oppose the new policy fear USBC will no longer be able to hire skilled, experienced employees.

If that’s the end result, shame on us. Employees can still bowl in USBC’s national tournaments, but they can’t accept money or products. They can still bowl in local or state tournaments. They can still do their best to make bowling a better sport, and to the best of my knowledge, they are being paid a fair wage to do just that.

If any USBC employee decides he/she can no longer work for the organization without a ball contract, it’s time to leave.

On this matter, USBC got it right.

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