AAU cancels USACA U-17 tournament
In another blow to USACA's organisational abilities, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) has cancelled the Under-17 cricket tournament that was scheduled for July 22-28 as part of the AAU Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa. The decision was made earlier this week after no players or teams were registered by the June 23 deadline, 30 days ahead of the start of the event.
The decision comes just two months after the city of Indianapolis terminated their hosting agreement for the USACA National Championships due to a breakdown in communication following the resignation of Darren Beazley as USACA's chief executive.
Casey Todt, AAU's sport manager for cricket and lacrosse, told ESPNcricinfo that although the U-17 tournament at the Junior Olympics would be played under the AAU banner, it was an event that was supposed to be handled by USACA. Beazley had served as the cricket co-tournament director for the Junior Olympics and Todt said Beazley's resignation resulted in a communication gap of "one or two months" with USACA that also hampered plans for the originally scheduled eight-team competition.
This would have been the second cricket tournament held at the AAU Junior Olympics, the largest multi-sport event for youth in the USA. It is held every year at rotating locations since 1967 and hosts 23 sports with more than 16,000 athletes and coaches. Last year at the AAU Junior Olympics in Detroit, a cricket tournament was facilitated by the Michigan Cricket Association with four teams in the U-19 division and two in the U-15 division.
The MCA is affiliated with the rival American Cricket Federation and according to multiples sources, ACF representatives were in the planning stages late in 2013 to organise the AAU Junior Olympics cricket event for 2014. However, Beazley was able to convince the AAU that USACA should be handling the event as the ICC's officially recognised governing body and as a result Beazley took over the planning of the operation for USACA.
Documents distributed by USACA as recently as January showed a plan that states both an U-15 and an U-17 event were in line to be held this year. At some stage, the U-15 event was removed and a USACA U-15 National Tournament was held in San Francisco and hosted by Hemant Buch's California Cricket Academy. After the gap in communication following Beazley's departure, Todt says Buch eventually got in touch and tried to have the AAU Junior Olympics U-17 tournament moved to San Francisco as well.
"He didn't know that it had to be in Des Moines," Todt said. "He was talking about moving it to another location and that's not possible. The Junior Olympic Games are the Junior Olympic Games and they all happen in one place."
Buch, USACA's head of youth tournaments, denied trying to take the U-17 event to San Francisco and claimed the USACA U-15 national tournament had been planned for San Francisco since last year, despite Beazley's notices indicating otherwise. He said the AAU tournament's cancellation was down to a lack of available grounds in Iowa. The AAU entry forms state that three grounds would be used for the event, but Buch claims only two were actually available and one of those two would be taken over after the first day by Iowa State to be used for the Iowa Games, another multi-sport event happening concurrently with the AAU Junior Olympics.
"Des Moines is not a main cricket center," Buch told ESPNcricinfo. "Initially they said two grounds were available but then they said only one ground was available. So eight teams playing on one ground, even with T20 would have meant at least four teams would sit out every day. We let teams know if they still wanted to go and USACA was ready to send umpires but I guess nobody registered."
However, a member of the local organising committee says that three grounds could have been made available had proper notice been given, but the lack of confirmation for registered teams affected the availability of grounds. Emails also obtained by ESPNcricinfo show that Buch messaged the local organising committee on July 9, more than two weeks after the AAU's registration deadline and just 13 days from the scheduled start date of the tournament, to seek information about hotel availability for four teams who might be interested in coming to play.
Both Buch and the AAU though claim that cricket is still in the mix for next year's AAU Junior Olympics, which are scheduled to be held at Hampton Roads, Virginia, from July 29 to August 8.
"AAU was pretty understanding so we are continuing next year and planning has already started," Buch said. "It is going to be in Virginia. There are a lot more grounds and local support and we are very confident we will pull off a proper tournament in whatever age group."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna