Sounders Insider

Change at the top for Sounders' next opponent

Some major off-the-pitch news today from the Columbus Crew, who will visit the Sounders at 7 p.m. Saturday:

The Columbus Crew announced today that it has parted ways with club President Mark McCullers. A longtime club executive with 15 years of experience with the Black & Gold, McCullers is resigning his role as President of the Columbus Crew, Crew Stadium and the Crew Soccer Foundation. His final day with the club is April 30, 2014, as he assists with this organizational transition.

“Mark and I had the chance to speak this past weekend, and based upon that conversation, I told him that we would not be extending his contract with the Crew,” said Crew Chairman and Investor-Operator Anthony Precourt. “When we purchased the Crew, we said that we would evaluate the club in a thoughtful and thorough manner. After nearly eight months at the helm of the club, Mark and I both agreed that it would make sense for the organization to go in a different direction, so he offered me his resignation, which I accepted.”

McCullers provided 15 years of service to the Black & Gold, a tenure that began in December of 1998. McCullers came to Columbus to oversee the development of Crew Stadium, the first topflight stadium built specifically for soccer in the U.S. He was promoted to Executive Vice President of the club in January of 2001 before becoming the Crew’s third General Manager in club history, a position he served in for nine seasons, beginning on an interim basis on July 9, 2004 before earning the position outright on January 19, 2005. McCullers added the title of President in 2007, and during his tenure the club earned three MLS Supporters’ Shields and the 2008 MLS Cup.

In addition to his duties as President, he oversaw the efforts of the club’s charitable arm, the Crew Soccer Foundation, as President of its Board of Directors. Prior to joining the Crew, McCullers served nine years at the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, first as Event Manager for RFK Stadium and the D.C. Armory and then as Assistant Stadium Manager at RFK. During his career at RFK, he helped produce some of the most significant soccer events held in the U.S., including the 1994 FIFA World Cup, 1996 Olympic Soccer and MLS Cup 1997.

“I want to thank Anthony and Precourt Sports Ventures for giving me the opportunity to continue to run this team after the purchase from Hunt Sports Group,” said McCullers. “I am proud of the legacy moments in club history that I have been part of over the past 15 years. I most cherish the personal and professional relationships that I have developed in this community and it has been my honor to represent this club. I wish Anthony, our front office and the team nothing but success as they work to bring another MLS Cup back to Columbus.”

Precourt Sports Ventures acquired the Crew on July 29, 2013, and in short order, the organization has strived to upgrade its operations, including: the hiring of Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter; the installation of new audio and video systems at Crew Stadium – encompassing a new videoboard, sound system and LED ribbon panels on the main scoreboard and the east and west fascias; enhanced chairback seating in Premier East; added vomitories; widened concourses; a remodeled Crew Stadium locker room; a renovated Obetz Training Facility; and an anticipated club rebranding effort for the 2015 season.

“Our commitment to Major League Soccer, this community, the institution of the Crew, its supporters and fans everywhere, and to winning both on and off the pitch, is of paramount importance to Precourt Sports Ventures,” added Precourt. “We have stated previously that we would continue to thoroughly analyze all facets of the organization to position this club for growth and success. After our candid discussion, Mark and I decided it would be in the best interest of the club moving forward to have new leadership. We thank him for his long-term contributions and wish him the best moving forward.”

In the interim, Precourt is assuming the club’s day-to-day operations as acting club President as a national search unfolds for a new lead executive.

“Just like the process that led us to hire Gregg Berhalter, we will conduct a thoughtful and thorough search for a new leader of the club,” said Precourt. “We have no timetable to find a replacement, and while I have tried to be open and engaged with our fans, partners, and staff, this transition gives me an even greater opportunity to be hands-on in the evolution and management of the Crew. We have a talented and committed executive team, so I look forward to working more directly with them during this transitional period, which will afford PSV a chance to find a new day-to-day lead executive.”

Following back-to-back wins under new Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter to begin the 2014 MLS campaign, the Crew returns to action on Saturday, March 29 in Seattle, when the Black & Gold take on Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field