New CSAC Leader Focusing on Officials Training, Staffing Shortages

By J.R. Riddell Feb 23, 2010
After more than a year without a permanent full-time leader, last week the California State Athletic Commission welcomed its newly appointed executive officer, George Dodd. Ninety-six hours into his tenure, CSAC’s new leader sat down with to discuss his initial thoughts regarding mixed martial arts in California.

Dodd, a 40-year-old native from Washington state, arrived on scene at CSAC headquarters last Monday in the state’s capital to oversee the operation of the California agency charged with regulating and licensing professional mixed martial arts, boxing, kickboxing and muay Thai. Dodd takes over as CSAC’s first permanent executive officer since Armando Garcia’s abrupt resignation from the post 14 months ago. For the past nine months, the CSAC has been under the interim leadership of Dave Thornton, a former state regulator who was coaxed out of retirement to temporarily fill the important, yet vacant post.

Dodd brings to the job two years of regulatory experience in mixed martial arts and boxing, which he acquired while serving as program manager for Washington State Department of Licensing’s Professional Athletics Division. Before making the career move into the regulation of combat sports, Dodd served as a computer tech in the Navy and retired as a Senior Chief Petty Officer.

The new CSAC chief also lays claim to some 31 years devoted to the sport of wrestling as a competitor, official (17 years) and coach.

While Dodd has only been on the job a matter of days, he was resolute regarding his top priority under his administration.

“Safety of fighters is the number one priority,” he said.

When asked about his agenda for mixed martial arts, Dodd said that he is not necessarily looking to make changes to the 10-point-must scoring system, but that he would like to take an objective look at it to evaluate whether there are better alternatives. He envisions that process would be facilitated in large part through roundtable discussions including fighters, promoters, referees and judges.

Another item on the agenda for Dodd is training of officials. According to him, ensuring referees and judges are familiar with the myriad different techniques utilized by today’s well-rounded fighters will promote both safety and fair results. Dodd would also like to streamline the regulatory process in a way that helps smaller promoters navigate through the steps necessary to put on MMA events.

Dodd says all of these objectives require a full and open dialogue between CSAC, fighters, promoters, referees and judges, and said he has wasted no time reaching out to these constituents.

While optimistic, CSAC’s new chief already finds himself in the middle of a challenge to ensure all the agency’s administrative functions are performed. According to Dodd, the State of California has authorized a staff of 10 full-time employees, but as of today only five of those positions are filled. Being new to the job, Dodd did not appear to be in a position to fully evaluate how the staffing issues were affecting the administrative functions of CSAC. He was, however, quick to praise his staff for taking on the added workload attributable to the staff shortages. Dodd was also swift to point out that fighter safety and event oversight have not been impacted by the staffing shortages at CSAC’s Sacramento headquarters.

According to his predecessor Thornton, last year the state oversaw 210 professional combat events, approximately 91 of which were MMA. Last years’ events, says Thornton, were overseen by approximately 55 permanent and intermittent inspectors stationed throughout the state. Recognizing the burden on his staff, Dodd is anxious to fill the vacant positions.

“J.R.” Riddell is an attorney and practicing member of the California State Bar. This article does not provide legal advice, and any opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of his law firm, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. Riddell can be reached at [email protected]
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