Founded in 2009 by Coach Larry Libow
BY THIS MAN:
This is The True Story of
How The Springfield Mayor's Cup Meet
was Created by Coach Larry Libow
and Then Stolen by Mike Martin
This is The True Story of
By design, it was a large, championship meet with no qualifying standards so all high school track & field athletes in Springfield could be part of a big meet in front of family and friends. Like a championship meet, it would have officials, fully-automatic timing, an announcer, meet records, medals, ribbons and trophies.
But I had a vision of the meet becoming more than just an ordinary meet. I had plans to have school alumni relays, police vs. fire department relays, a race to determine the fastest elementary school kids in the city. I wanted music, an announcer who could explain the event while it was going. I envisioned booths of vendors, and hundreds of spectators drawn to a true community event.
So I went to Mayor Dominic Sarno in early 2009 and presented my idea. All I asked for was his blessing, and willingness to award trophies to the winning boys and girls teams at the end of the meet. I asked for nothing more - no money, no special consideration - nothing! I would find sponsors and advertisers and run it.
During the first three years (2009, 2010, 2011) the meet never was a city-run event. It used no city money and the use of the track and field facility at Central HS was paid for from money I raised from selling program book advertising. Major sponsors included the Springfield Newspapers, American International College, Spirit of Springfield and Springfield School Volunteers.
Initially the mayor thought it was a great idea and backed the concept. Mayor Sarno was quoted (5/11/2010) in the Springfield Republican "'It's a great event and Larry Libow has done a yeoman’s job on it to get our young people involved," Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said. 'It's just great to highlight the talent we have and you can’t lose with that combination, excelling on and off the track. That can only lead to positive things. Youth development is near and dear to my heart and this really promotes the many young people we have here in the city of Springfield,' Sarno said."
He wrote letters of support to prospective program advertisers, came to the meet to award the "Mayor's Cup" trophies and even donated $100 of his own money to see it get started. Mike Martin, the Springfield Public School's Athletric Director, was asked by Mayor Sarno to provide me with assistance in getting the meet up and running.
Mike Martin on the other hand did nothing to help. He certainly didn't donate any money. In fact, he treated the Mayor's Cup meet as though it were a city-run event and attempted to take control of the bank account that was set up with the Springfield School Volunteers (a non-profit organization that is not part of the Springfield Public Schools). It was during the meet's second year, when presenting sponsor American International College (AIC) was unilaterally changing the terms and conditions of their sponsorship, that Martin became a real obstruction.
I was doing my best to negotiate with AIC to stop them from charging the Mayors Cup for printing the program and posters and to get them to supply portable toilets near their new track (because the restroom facilities at Butuva Gym were too far away). Without getting consent from me, Martin agreed to have the Mayor's Cup cover the cost of portable toilets. The relationship between AIC, Martin and myself was near the breaking point.
From an e-mail Martin sent me on May 25, 2010 it's clear where he stood. In part he wrote "It seems the relationship with AIC is becoming somewhat strained, and it definitely needs to be straightened out because we deal with AIC in other sports and have developed a 'great' relationship with them over the years and would not want to jeopardize that in any way."
Basically, he threw me "under the bus" with AIC in order to maintain his 'great' relationship with AIC in order to have the Springfield Public Schools use AIC athletic fields and facilities. Although I was busting my butt to get local businesses to donate money or place ads in the program book, Martin was making unilateral decisions on how to spend money he had no rights to. When that became clear to me, all further money I raised I withheld from the Springfield School Volunteers Mayor's Cup account until I could stop Martin from raiding it.
Martin's response was "My other concern is the 'other account' you have opened with some of the advertising money that you have collected on behalf of the Mayor's cup. That is totally unacceptable and cannot be tolerated."
By February 14, 2011 Martin sent an e-mail that said "Please understand that I need clarity as to what happened to all of the money you have solicited for the 'Mayor's Cup' and what are your plans for this year to cover expenses? Also I cannot allow you to be involved with the Commerce Track program or the 'Mayor's Cup' until these issues are resolved."
For the first time it's clear that Martin believes that he has control over the Mayor's Cup, threatening not not allow me to "be involved" with my own meet. At a meeting in the Mayor's office on March 11, 2011, a meeting to discuss the proper resurfacing of the track at Central HS (after Martin authorized the track be covered with road-grade asphalt during the summer break of 2010), Martin attempts to use the meeting to bring up the issue of Mayor's Cup financial matters. The Mayor is not interested and suggests that it be handled by the School Department.
Martin asks me to come to a School Department Financial Meeting on April 5, 2011. I attend. Martin starts discussing the Mayor's Cup financial situation but is inturrupted by legal council for the School Department. He asks both Martin and myself if the Mayor's Cup is a School Department event, has ever used School Department funds or City funds, or was ever even publicized as a City or School Department event. Both Martin and I answered "no" to all these questions. Council then says that Martin has no authority regarding the Mayor's Cup, cannot spend Mayor's Cup money and his only option is not to allow Springfield Public School athletes from participating in the event.
Martin is obviously not happy at this turn of events. Both of us go back to his office where he assures me that I shouldn't take it personally that he questioned my use the funds. I told him I wouldn't if he doesn't take it personally that I now request, via the "Freedom of Information Act," all information on Athletic Department budgets and expenses for the past three years. Specifically, I want to know what happened to the money in the "transportation budget" that caused him to stop sending a bus to take the High School of Commerce (boys and girls) Track Team to Central for practice two out of the five days per week. Martin had asserted that there was not enough money in his transportation budget to send Commerce to Central for practice on the only track (and field) facility in the city.
Martin apparently did take it personally - he got very angry and threw me out of his office. It took many months of negotiations back and forth between myself and the City's Law Department and the payment of hundreds of dollars out of my own pocket to finally obtain the one page (amongst hundreds of pages of copied documents) that answered the question about the Transportation Budget. At the end of Fiscal Year 2011, Mike Martin had $34,373.50 LEFT OVER in his Transportation Budget!
The only conclusion I can come to is that Martin was purposely reducing the amount of practice given to the Commerce Track Team as retribution against me (as a volunteer coach for the Commerce Boys Team) - and that he knew that he had plently of money in his budget. That makes Mike Martin a liar and a bully.
But Mike Martin, who knows nothing about track & field and cares nothing about it, was determined to prove that he could take the meet away from the person who envisioned it, created it and ran it for three years - simply because I refused to let him spend Mayor's Cup money he had no right to and that I caught him in a bald-face lie.
As I prepared for the 4th annual Howard Drew Springfield Mayor's Cup, I kept getting the run-around from the School Department Failities Manager about renting the track at Central HS. Finally the answer came in the form an an e-mail from Mike Martin:
"It has been decided that it would be in the best interests of all involved if the Mayor's Cup was run thought the Athletic Department. This way we can budget for the event each year and not have to rely on donations from businesses in the area. I want to thank you for all of the time and effort that you have put in to initiate this event and get it off the ground. However your services as tournament director will no longer be needed.
I just feel that it would be in everyone's best interest if the meet director was not involved with any of the teams participating in the event. If you would still like to honor Mr. Drew I would be happy to allow you some time during the event for that purpose."
In an end-run, Martin went to the Mayor and convinced him that it would be better for the City if the meet were run by his Athletic Department. His claim that it would be "in everyone's best interest if the meet director was not involved with any of the teams participating" holds no water. Almost every meet locally that HS kids participate in has a meet director from a participating school. It's the same way on the collegiate level. And now, instead of the city generating income from the meet that paid a rental fee for the use of the track facility, the city is spending money that previously had come from business ads placed in a program book.
I tried to meet with the Mayor but his only response, through his Communications Director was:
"The Mayor did not have an immediate objection to the School Department taking over the event but expressed that you had done all of the work getting this started and wanted to ensure you still had an opportunity to participate in a volunteer fashion. The Mayor also told Mike that he wanted an opportunity at this year's meet to publicly thank you and present you with an official Mayoral Proclamation for your efforts. Mike did express a desire to have you continue volunteering with the event especially with the Howard P. Drew component."
When I pushed for a direct meeting the response was:
This matter has been discussed and a decision has been rendered. It is incumbent that we all move forward working together to keep this great event going. Many thanks to Coach Libow and Mike Martin.
The Mayor has allowed Mr. Martin to block my use of the track at Central HS and in doing so, has prevented me from running my Mayor's Cup meet.
He might have blocked me from running my meet but whatever he creates, it is not the Howard Drew Springfield Mayor's Cup and will not have my name attached to it. The manner in which this decision was made was without any input from me thus I had no opportunity to respond to any falsehoods or mis-information. Mayor Sarno refuses to discuss the matter with me.
POST SCRIPT - As a result of posting on this website that Mike Martin (with help from Mayor Sarno) had stolen my meet, he saw to it that I was banned from being a volunteer coach for the second half of the 2012 track season. Although I didn't work directly for him, my volunteer service was at the pleasure of the Principal. Principal Grandson, I'm sure, was bullied by Martin into banning me. I was treated as though I had committed a crime against my athletes.
Despite the initial assurance by the Mayor that there would be a Howard Drew component, there was none. Nor was there any Mayoral Proclamation - nor did I want want one under such circumstances. I used some of the remaining funds in the Mayor's Cup account to purchase the 2012 Howard Drew Award and awarded it to Commerce Senior, Max Sullivan, at the Track Team Banquet.
I then wrote this letter to the Mayor via his Communications Director, Tom Walsh:
"I have attached a copy of an article that was just published in the July
issue of the Af-Am Point of View Community Newspaper. There was no Howard
Drew Springfield Mayor's Cup track meet, and I was given no opportunity to make
any presentation at Mr. Martin's version of the All-City Championships.
Therefore I awarded the 2012 Howard Drew Trophy to Max Sullivan at his team
banquet but he should have received the award in front of all his city's track
& field peers.
It would be much appreciated if Mayor Sarno would send Max Sullivan a note congratulating him on receiving the award for "Athletic Excellence, Pursuit of Scholarship and Perseverance in the Face of Injury." Details on why Max received the award are in the attached article.
I am still greatly disappointed with the both the process by which I lost my track meet and the resulting version of it. Nothing was gained as a result.
Instead of a meet, that for three years was financed entirely by local businesses such as the Springfield Newspapers, Spirit of Springfield, Springfield School Volunteers, and a host of others, the meet expenses are now coming out of the Springfield School Department budget. Instead of the city generating income from the rental of the Central HS facility, it now loses income. Is this something the mayor wants to go on record supporting?
Instead of a tie-in with this city's most celebrated athlete, especially during the 100th anniversary of Drew as a Springfield schoolboy Olympian, there was nothing. Instead of a Museum of Springfield History tie-in, there was nothing. Instead of a proclamation of "Howard Drew Day," there was nothing. Howard Drew is a great role model for today's youth. He should not be forgotten by time. We had the perfect opportunity and it was squandered.
Instead of a track meet that was to become a city-wide, community event, the resulting meet was simply another track meet. I had the Springfield Police and Firefighters willing and ready to compete in a special relay. I had plans for high school alumni to compete in special events. I had plans for the inclusion of disabled vets to compete. I had a vision of something far more than just another meet. Now we have a plain vanilla meet with the cheapest medals and a cheap trophy - all at the taxpayers expense.
Track & field is my life. I have volunteered for 10 years in this city at a cost of over $100,000 of lost income and personal contributions. After taking my meet away from me, Mr. Martin has seen to it that I am banned from coaching because I was "disrespectful" to him by complaining about the way I was excluded from the process. Mr. Martin doesn't care about track & field and his "All-City" meet will likely disappear as soon as he retires.
Please convey to the Mayor that I am still ready, willing and able to form or join with an organization to run the Howard Drew Springfield Mayor's Cup All-City Track & Field Championships in a way that it will become a true community event that the entire city will look forward to, won't cost the city a dime and which celebrates the life and accomplishments of Howard Drew - Springfield's schoolboy Olympian and the Original 'World's Fastest Human.'
Coach Larry Libow
USA Track & Field Level 2 Coach"