Three years ago, the University of Texas arranged to borrow, catalog and digitize a massive archive of materials concerning the Olympics. A Texas news release trumpeted that the 350-box collection would provide "a wealth of information" on the negotiation of television rights, efforts to stamp out doping and the inner functioning of the highly secretive Olympic movement.
Now, just weeks before the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the university has quietly returned the collection to its owner, Montreal's McGill University, which lacks the resources to process it for public and scholarly research. Texas officials aren't saying why they have given up on the project, but the decision comes amid litigation in Texas and California over the collection between the university and donors of more than $3 million.
The archive was given to McGill by Richard W. Pound, a former chancellor of that university who served on the International Olympic Committee for many years, including two stints as vice president. Pound is also a former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Pound said it's his understanding that Texas officials concluded that the archive contains an abundance of private or confidential material, including some records that he perhaps shouldn't have had in his possession.
"They see too many problems, which I find astonishing," he told the Austin American-Statesman. "It's not as if we were asking in the Olympic movement about atomic secrets."
A prolific collector through the decades, Pound amassed 400,000 pages of documents as well as Olympic pins, medals, torches, statuettes and coin sets.
The records cover many subjects, including the slaying of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Games, the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, negotiations for TV rights and marketing sponsorships, and Pound's investigation of the 2002 Salt Lake City bidding scandal, which led to closer monitoring of interactions between cities seeking to host games and members of the International Olympic Committee.
"It's a wonderful little treasure trove. I don't think there's an equal anywhere in the world," Pound said, adding that it includes copies of minutes from all International Olympic Committee meetings since the Swiss-based organization was established in 1894.
Texas officials declined to comment on Pound's remarks.
The archive became the subject of litigation after a once-warm relationship between the university and a longtime Pound associate turned cold, according to court documents, emails and other records. That person -- author, psychologist and former Texas gymnast Steven Ungerleider -- was instrumental in arranging for his alma mater to borrow the collection from McGill.
Under Texas' January 2011 agreement with McGill, the Austin campus was expected to catalog and digitize the Pound archive so that portions would be available for research. That process included legal analysis to determine which portions cannot be disclosed because they contain confidential, private or copyrighted material.
The collection "provides a wealth of information on the recent history of the Olympic movement, its public image, a private view of its inner functioning and the role of one of its major representatives," says an April 2011 Texas news release. "The collection also includes correspondence from all over the world, often with personal notes from friends, colleagues and unknown people."
The university acknowledged Ungerleider's pivotal role, naming him in 2011 as an unpaid research fellow in its Texas Program in Sports and Media, which he helped organize. Ungerleider is also a member of Texas' Development Board, a fundraising group, and the advisory council for the university's Ransom Center, an arts and humanities research library.
"Words can't express my gratitude for the full scope of your support for and engagement with TPSM," Michael Cramer, the program's director, wrote to Ungerleider in September 2011. "The only appreciation truly fitting is a couple of long-necked Lone Stars."
Less than two years after that, UT Communication Dean Roderick Hart told Ungerleider that he was being dismissed from his position as a fellow and from the advisory board of the Texas Program in Sports and Media.
"I realize that this will seem unjust and unfair to you, given how important you have been to the formation of TPSM," Hart wrote in an email to Ungerleider in February 2013. "But the tensions surrounding your participation in TPSM activities have now become so extreme (and the emails so vitriolic) that I can no longer stand by and watch our young program be further damaged." One month later, Ungerleider filed a petition in state District Court in Travis County seeking permission to take depositions, or sworn statements, from Hart and other university officials in preparation of a lawsuit. According to the petition, Ungerleider had been permitted to participate for a time in the review of the Pound collection but was "entirely excluded" after he disagreed with the extent to which materials would be withheld for copyright or confidentiality concerns.
Ungerleider's interest in the collection wasn't entirely altruistic. "Dr. Ungerleider has been offered a seven-figure contract for a seventh book, the contents of which were to be drawn from research into the materials in the Pound Collection," the petition said.
Ungerleider withdrew that petition in April, and the Foundation for Global Sports Development, of which he is a founding trustee, sued UT the following month in state Superior Court in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles-based nonprofit foundation, with $30.2 million in assets, provides grants to numerous sports organizations around the world, according to its filing with the Internal Revenue Service.
The suit contends that UT made false promises of access to the Pound collection to induce the foundation to donate more than $3 million to the university. The suit also claims that UT falsely promised that it would match the foundation's donations.
The foundation asked the court to order UT to grant access to the archive or, alternatively, to send the archive back to McGill and reimburse the foundation for its donations. Now that the archive is in Canada, the request for access appears moot.
UT says in a court filing that it never promised preferential access in exchange for donations and argues that the case belongs in a Texas court, not in California. UT's Moody College of Communication has a small campus in Los Angeles for students interested in television, film and other entertainment-related fields. The case is pending.
In November, Ungerleider filed suit in state District Court in Travis County against UT and two university officials, Patricia Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs, and Cramer, the director of the Program in Sports and Media. Ungerleider contends that the defendants urged employees and others to retaliate against him on account of the California lawsuit.
The nature of the alleged retaliation isn't specified, but the withdrawn request for depositions said that administrators had contacted officials at the Ransom Center regarding his unpaid position on its advisory council. The November lawsuit seeks documents and emails concerning Ungerleider, the foundation and the California litigation.
Philip Durst, Ungerleider's lawyer for the retaliation claim, declined to elaborate.
Paul Malingagio, a lawyer for the foundation in the California case, said of the archive's return to McGill in December, "We were surprised to hear this." Ungerleider declined to comment.
Carole Graveline, a spokeswoman for McGill, said the Pound collection would be placed in archival storage until the university has the resources to process it.
In a statement, UT said, "The university dealt with all matters regarding the Pound Collection in an appropriate way. Nothing was ever misrepresented.
"We will review and reply to the unfounded allegations in this latest lawsuit through the proper legal channels. The university has not retaliated against Dr. Ungerleider in any way."
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