Gulati Needs to Choose

It's no secret that many American soccer fans have some reservations about USSF President Sunil Gulati.

Among other things, his aloof, imperial style, sometimes bordering on arrogance, just rubs people the wrong way. And frankly, his management of the hiring and firing of the various national team coaches, his most visibly public function, has been less than stellar.

From selecting Greg Ryan over Pia Sundhage four years ago to the three ring circus of groveling and humiliation that he went through with California Klinnsy before the last-minute, desperation "trial-basis" hiring of Bob Bradley, the guy has done little to evoke a sense of confidence.

Not so, however, at his primary job (USSF President being only a hobby) as an Economics professor at Columbia.

The denizens of Morningside Heights ARE LINING UP LIKE 13 YEAR OLD GIRLS vying for Jonas Brothers tickets for the chance to get into Gulati's "Sports Management" class.

Whether the reason is because his course is a real barnburner and Sunil is a scintillating lecturer or because he's a candyass grader who doesn't take attendance, I can't say.

(And in any case, the writer seems to feel his course is something of a sausagefest, which isn't terribly appealing. Everybody needs a little visual stimulation to stay awake in even the best of classes. Of course, this being Columbia, the women are likely in flannel and Doc Martens and came straight from the "Men are Filthy Oppressive Animals" seminar, so I guess you lose either way.)

The only thing I'd truly like to know is whether he does a lecture on "Conflicts of Interest" among sports executives. Now that is something I'd roll it out at 8AM to listen to, even if there isn't a Starbucks on the way.

For too long now Gulati's dual-role as head of the United State Soccer Federation and President of Kraft Soccer has stood as a blatant conflict which no one seems at all interested in pursuing, for reasons which elude me.

As the head of USSF, a 501(c)3 non-profit, it is his duty, above all else, to promote soccer in the US, expanding it's reach to as many areas as possible and providing as many paid professional roster positions for as many American players as he can.

As the President of Kraft Soccer, a profit-based corporate entity, it's his job to see that Major League Soccer, of which his employer is a founding member and integral part, does whatever is in it's best financial interest, and if that means opening up the league to Canada, Jamaica or Swaziland, to the detriment of American soccer, then that's what he's bound to do.

So when, as an example, in November of 2005, when THE USSF BOARD OF GOVERNORS is required to vote on whether to allow a foreign team into MLS - a league which USSF was financially integral in forming - where does Gulati's responsibilities lie? What is his primary loyalty?

Its well past time that Professor Gulati conduct some independent research on the topic of conflict of interest among sports executives. No doubt some eager beaver grad students angling for future employment and resume padding would be only too happy to participate.

If he did, he'd surely find what seems glaringly obvious to everyone else: Sunil Gulati needs to give up one of his moonlighting jobs and end any questions about which master he truly serves.