Bill Martin is the last one to leave the
office at Weidenbach Hall on State Street. He roams the hallways
making sure all the lights are flicked off. He still has two
outdated file cabinets taking up space in a corner that he’ll
have to sort through eventually. And when there’s a mess,
Martin is the one people call to clean it up.
Take a quick look down his resumè. Have you figured out
exactly what Bill Martin does?
“When there’s a problem, people say, ‘Martin,
come and bring your broom and clean it up,” Martin said.
“Everybody nicknames me at times The Janitor. When
organizations get in trouble, I come in and clean them
Entire organizations might seem like a lot for an ordinary
janitor to clean up, but Martin isn’t your ordinary
On top of his responsibilities as Michigan’s Athletic
Director, Martin just closed out an 18-month run as acting
president of the United States Olympic Committee.
If there was ever an organization that needed cleaning up, it
was the USOC. In May of 2002, President Sandy Baldwin resigned amid
rumors of reportedly using inaccurate academic credentials.
Baldwin’s replacement, Marty Mankamyer only threw the USOC
further into disarray. After months of infighting, Mankamyer and
CEO Lloyd Ward were both eventually ousted from their
Martin had only recently been elected Vice President/Secretariat
in December of 2002, a few months before Mankamyer’s
“Literally, the very first meeting I attended in that room
of the Executive Committee our president had to resign,”
Martin said. “When that happened, unbeknownst to me because I
never looked at them, our bylaws say that the Vice
President/Secretariat automatically becomes president. So all of
the sudden I went from being one of a 125-person board to being
Martin had been thrust into a spotlight he didn’t ask for.
He was the interim president of an organization rocked by scandal,
plagued by budget problem and in danger of losing millions from
sponsors that were ready to pull the plug.
Conveniently, Martin had been in that position before. In 2000,
then-Michigan President Lee Bollinger came running to Martin to
help bail out an athletic department mired in budget problems of
its own and a basketball scandal in its early stages.
The budget ship is balanced once again at Michigan, and the
basketball team is free of its sanctions from the Ed Martin ordeal.
No wonder Martin — Bill, not Ed — came with such high
recommendations. And, as his track record shows, he didn’t
disappoint the USOC either.
“Along with some other people, we put together a good team
that knew how to straighten the organization up,” Martin
said. “And all of us had no evils. None of us had any
objective to move on.”
That team-first attitude completely changed the USOC. Martin
— a banker and real estate man by trade — cut all the
fat out of the committee. He trimmed down the excess budget and
replaced the senior leadership from the start. An organization that
had suffered from internal feuding was working together and making
some real changes. The most notable change was an entire reform of
the USOC structure. Martin and his team downsized the Board of
Directors down from 125 to 11 and eliminating his own position,
appointing a Chairman to head the operations.
After Martin got the organization to stop worrying about itself,
it was able to turn its attention to two monstrous issues facing
the coming Olympic Games.
A lot has changed since the Sydney Games in 2000. The
country’s war on terror and its effect on this year’s
games in Athens, Greece is substantial. Fear of another attack at
the Olympics is on everyone’s mind, and it was priority No. 1
“I can’t tell you how many hours over the last year
I’ve spent dealing with security,” Martin said.
“Everything from briefings we’ve had with our own
internal security people to briefings we’ve had with our U.S.
Ambassador Tom Miller, to state department staff.”
If there’s one place for any sort of terrorist
organization to send a statement to the world, the Olympics are
that target. It already happened in 1972 in Munich, when members of
the Palestinian group Black September took 11 Israeli athletes
hostage in the Olympic Village, eventually killing them all.
“We’ll all be holding our breath during the
Games,” Martin said. “But having said that, is there
any place in the world that’s really secure? I don’t
Martin experienced the tightened security firsthand when he
visited Athens. Shortly after he arrived, a Greek man clad in a
black suit and tie woke Martin from his bed to introduce himself as
Martin’s personal chief of security.
“They never told me about this,” Martin said.
“There were seven guys that guarded me the entire week. They
wouldn’t let me go any place without them. A little bit of an
organizational challenge right there. I was considered a high-risk
It’s no secret that this year’s host city has given
all sorts of reason for the international community to be
concerned. It seems as though Athens will barely finish its
facilities on time, and questions have been floating on how
seriously Greece has taken security threats. The U.S. and its
international allies decided to take matters into their own hands.
NATO will now be present at the Games, and 125 of the U.S.’s
own state department security people will protect athletes and
“With NATO coming in, and everybody else, it’s been
stepped up immensely,” Martin said. “I feel confident
that the American team will be secure. I’m not worried about
When Martin isn’t worrying about how to protect his
team’s athletes, he’s usually trying to figure out how
to keep them clean.
This year’s hot topic seems to be doping, and everybody
has an opinion on it. Martin’s opinion is clear — keep
“We’ve talked about winning a hundred medals,”
Martin said. “We changed that here a few months ago. We
don’t care if we win a hundred medals or 50 medals, as long
as they’re all clean medals.”
It’s anyone’s guess whether the doping has been
blown out of proportion, but it will stay on the front pages until
the start of the Games, thanks to the very public cases of Tim
Montgomery and Marion Jones, who face allegations of drug use and
the possibility of severe consequences from the United States
“That is entirely in the hands of USADA,” Martin
said. “And they are seeking a lifetime ban for Tim
Montgomery. The Marion Jones case is yet to be heard. It may be she
made the team in the long jump and it’s yet to be seen
what’s going to happen on that.”
Montgomery and Jones both failed to qualify in their strongest
event this year — the 100-meter dash — saving the USOC
from the trouble of deciding whether or not to bar two of its
strongest athletes from the ultimate world stage. According to
Martin, though, if there was any evidence against them, they were
likely to see consequences from it.
“I liken track and field (and) our Olympic sports like I
had 45 kids and one of them you had to take out back to the
woodshed,” Martin said. “That’s what I did with
track and field.”
The Jones and Montgomery cases are only the most public of
cases. If anything positive can come from them, it allows the USOC
to make an example out of even the highest profile athletes. The
problem is still out there, but people are at least talking about
“I believe we need to have a national discussion on should
we or should we not have a consistent drug policy across all
sports,” Martin said. “I’m talking from
kindergarten through professional sports, Olympic sports,
collegiate sports. One standard.”
Martin has righted the ship at the USOC, and for him,
that’s good enough. He would have been more than welcome in
Athens during the Games, but instead, he’s decided to
vacation on the shores of Lake Superior.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to go and be
there when the new leadership is there,” Martin said.
“It’s their day, not my day. My day has passed. I
don’t want to be any sort of side act to them because I know
all the press and any issue that would come up the press would come
up and ask me.”
It’s hard to imagine Martin stealing the spotlight away
from new chairman Peter Ueberroth, a former commissioner of Major
League Baseball. But through all of this, Martin made quite a name
for himself. He led a team composed of all-stars like Hollywood
producer Frank Marshall (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”) and
Bill Stapelton — Lance Armstrong’s friend and
“Everybody just check your ego at the door and sit down
and figure out what’s right for the American Olympic
movement,” Martin said. “You’ve got to have the
right people who have the organization’s interests ahead of
Given the people Martin has been directing, keeping a sensible
head may seem harder than you’d think. He speaks with
Ueberroth on a consistent basis, and even keeps in touch with
former President and Michigan alumni Gerald Ford, who played a
large part in forming the USOC in the 1970s when he was Vice
Through all of this, Martin has managed to keep from being
star-struck and even remains humble. That can probably be
attributed to his role here at Michigan. He’s been through
the ups and downs of a national organization, but when’s
it’s all said and done, he’s still the athletic
director at his school. His reputation precedes him, and people
often come calling to have him clean up their own athletic
departments and organizations, but Ann Arbor is the place to
“I’m a Michigan guy,” Martin said. “This
is my home. I’m very honored every time I get those calls,
but I’m not leaving here. Would I look at something else? I
don’t know. My objective is I put Michigan on the right track
So now it’s time for a much-needed vacation. Martin can
put away his broom and worry about something a little less
stressful, like whom to root for if an American athlete matches up
against a foreign-born Wolverine, like New Zealander Nick
“I’m rooting for both of them,” Martin said.
“I’m saying may the best man win. I’m just proud
of both of them, and I’m happy that they’re