In an attempt to put an end to the coaching controversy and the political infighting that have marked the U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics program, Don Peters resigned Monday as coach of the team.
Bela Karolyi, whose Houston gym provided three of the six Olympic gymnasts and two alternates, has been critical of Peters' selection as coach, but Peters, in a press conference at his club in Huntington Beach, did not blame Karolyi for his decision to resign. Instead, he cited a lack of support from Mike Jacki, executive director of the United States Gymnastics Federation.
"Mike Jacki's idea of support is, 'No, I'm not going to ask Don Peters to resign, but I do not approve of the way he was selected,' " Peters said at his SCATS Gymnastics Academy.
"Well, I don't call that support. Instead, I think Mike invited the controversy to continue.
"Mike Jacki has to realize he has to take a stand in controversial issues. They (USGF officials) cannot continue to sit on the fence. As far as I'm concerned, he could have taken a stand for Bela, but he should have done it long ago and not the night before the Olympic Games."
John Arends, a USGF spokesman, said Monday that Karolyi was not interested in the job and would not accept it if it were offered.
"Bela insisted no one be named and he is not seeking the job," Arends said.
"The personal coaches of the gymnasts on the team will work as a unit until some point in the future. There will be no head coach named at this time."
Jacki told the Washington Post that three coaches would be given coaching credentials for the Games. Jacki said, "We're going to ask all of them to work together."
The three Olympic gymnasts trained by Karolyi and his wife, Martha, are Phoebe Mills, Brandy Johnson and Chelle Stack. The two alternates, Rhonda Faehn and Kristie Phillips, also train with the Karolyis.
Kelly Garrison-Steves is coached by Becky Buwick at the University of Oklahoma; Hope Spivey by Bill and Donna Strauss of the Parkettes of Allentown, Pa., and Missy Marlowe by Mark Lee in Salt Lake City.
Karolyi told United Press International that Jacki asked him if he wanted the coaching job after Peters' resignation.
Karolyi said he would never accept such a position, saying: "There will be no head coach. Positions and titles have stirred up so much emotion and so much adversity among the gymnastics community."
The issue of who should be coach and how the coach should be chosen came to a head over the weekend at the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials at Salt Lake City when Peters failed to place a gymnast on the team, at least partly because of injuries.
Karolyi, who runs a gym in Houston, placed five of his gymnasts on the team-three on the six-woman team and two alternates.
Peters was elected women's national team coach in January by a USGF committee. Since then, Karolyi and Jacki have said that the Olympic coach should be the personal coach who places the most gymnasts on the Olympic team. Karolyi has also been saying that he will not go to Seoul unless he can coach his athletes from the competition floor.
Only the team coach and one assistant coach are allowed on the floor. Peters' chose Karolyi's wife, Martha(CQ), as his assistant in January.
Karolyi did not relent on his feelings during or after the trials. Two of his students, top-ranked Mills and second-alternate Phillips, also told reporters that he should be the coach. Peters, who said before the trials that he would not back down, said that when the athletes became involved, it was time to quit.
"I didn't think it would get this bad, and I didn't think it would go this far," Peters said. "But it became apparent in Salt Lake it was not going to work.
" . . . Both the coaches and athletes have been forced to take sides in what has become a media side show that currently threatens our team's chances in Seoul. . . . It is my hope by stepping down that all the controversy will end."
Arends said that if there appears to be a lack of support, it is because Jacki and the USGF's role is to look at the national program as a whole.
"The program and everything we do has to serve the athletes," Arends said from the USGF headquarters at Indianapolis. "If Don interpreted it as a lack of support, it was instead a concern and willingness to listen to the athletes and the coaches."
Arends said that the USGF is looking into moving the pre-Olympic training from SCATS to either Karolyi's gym at Houston or to the University of Oklahoma, where Olympic team member Garrison-Steve trains.
Peters faced a similar situation with Karolyi before the 1984 Olympics, but then, the situation was reversed. Peters had five gymnasts on the Olympic team, Karolyi two. Karolyi, however, wanted to be on the floor coaching and was vocal about it. But Peters said Monday he felt because he had so many gymnasts on the team, the controversy then was not as big.
"The fact that I don't have a gymnast on this Olympic team makes me a little more vulnerable to attack than I was in 1984." he said.
Peters was elected coach after Greg Marsden had resigned in January, also citing problems with USGF officials. In an emergency meeting, Peters was elected to put an end to the controversy caused by Marsden's resignation.
Peters also served as national team coach from 1981-85.