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Not afraid to speak her mind: Ex-BCAW ED Yvonne Bennett on bullying by Arlington, Bowlero’s impact, Wisconsin bowling, the future of the sport, and more

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Friday, December 16, 2022 8:00 am
Not afraid to speak her mind: Ex-BCAW ED Yvonne Bennett on bullying by Arlington, Bowlero’s impact, Wisconsin bowling, the future of the sport, and more
Left to right, BCAW President Steve Cieslewicz, BCAW Executive Director Yvonne Bennett, and BPAA President Nancy Schenk at the 2015 BCAW Annual Meeting when BCAW achieved a big membership milestone. Contributed photo.

When Yvonne Bennett took over as the executive director of the Bowling Centers Association of Wisconsin in 2014, I had never met or talked to her.

With her new position as head of my state’s proprietors group, which operates Wisconsin High School Bowling, I had reason to talk to her many times over the ensuing years for 11thFrame.com.

And though we still have never met in person, we established a solid relationship based on our professional contacts, mutual love of rescue dogs and bowling, and shared values of transparency, honesty and proper conduct.

I admire Bennett for how she grew BCAW and with it helped Wisconsin’s legendary bowling culture, but mostly for her courage in being willing to speak out on social media against the type of egregious conduct I detailed in my April 2018 Bullygate story. It even prompted a highly respected entrepreneur, proprietor, former PBA Tour player, and industry veteran to speak up.

Amid the ball hardness kerfuffle earlier this year, Bennett in late April commented publicly on Facebook:
“My God . . . the lack of transparency taints just about ANYthing USBC does. When will they (as an organization) learn this lesson? USBC Board of Directors . . . WAKE UP!”

“I get that is largely the perception, and very well may be likely/probable. BUT as individuals with their own reputations and credibility as stake, not to mention their fiduciary responsibility to USBC and its membership, they MUST stand up and take a position on this ongoing donnybrook!
It's not like we woke up this week and said "Oh My God, what's going on at USBC?" This sorta of nonsense has been going on and is documented from both inside and outside of the IBC for at least four years now!
Where is the leadership that is supposed to exist within the governing board? Who is willing to challenge their executive director when the $hit is hitting the fan?
I commented about the lack of board leadership back in 2018 and what "best practices" are in non/not-for-profit organizations and got called on the carpet by BPAA leadership. It wasn't that I was wrong . . . it was that it was feeling personal because of who was on the board at that time.
Well here we are in 2022 . . . and while disgruntled employees and "bullygate" were bad enough . . . this is at the core of what our National Governing Body is supposed to be trusted and respected for . . . and right now it feels like an epic fail.
And if I (and others) are wrong . . . then USBC needs to be transparent to let us all know the full story with open, honest and transparent communication including data.”

And in this Facebook post:
“Sadly both of the top two men at the helm of the IBC organizations use bully tactics in trying to silence and control those who question or bring to light opinions or positions contrary to their personal agendas.
Chad's past ties to BPAA's Frank DeSocio creates direct linkage to the bully tactics he's engaged in.
I had Frank more than once try to squelch my personal right to express opinions or facts not consistent with his point of view or agenda.
He has personally called me in an attempt to quiet me. He called my board president to ask him to silence me . . . he cornered me with a then sitting BPAA President in an attempt to not discuss topics with Jeff Richgels because "he's not a real journalist" . . . and at the beginning of COVID, he found it appropriate to call me at work to berate me verbally over my email with questions regarding the summer's Bowl Expo scheduled in Denver that year.
It was a long 2 years (2018-2020) of enduring his bull$hit, resulting in my writing a letter to his board. While I never received an apology, from that point forward he was instructed by his board to not have any further contact with me without my president or his, as a party to the interaction.
I share all of this to tell others that how Chad is operating is a systemic character flaw that seemingly comes out of Wichita from men who are patheticly weak and full of brash ego.
Until relationships can be forged based on mutual respect, shared accountability built on trust, honesty, professionalism and transparency . . . bowling is doomed with these people "leading" our NGB and the trade association representing the owners of our playing fields.”

“I'm willing to give some cab fare to USBC that in many cases they are clueless in best practices in many facets of business. But the fact that you have a clueless guy at the top, it's easy to think "they don't know what they don't know."
But there should be people there who are knowledgeable and experienced in such. If there aren't then that is the fault of the executive director for not having qualified people around him to be the subject matter experts in all facets of their operation.
AND THERE IS THE PROBLEM! Chad seemingly has to be the viewed as the expert on all things, and unwilling to share the stage with others who could (and should) be leading such efforts.
The guy doesn't even have a college degree in anything, much less in areas of expertise necessary to run a multi-million dollar business.”

Chuck Lande, who had recently left a job with IBC Youth, replied to Bennett on that April 22 thread:
“Yvonne Tison Bennett thank you for having the courage to speak the truth. During my 3+ years working at IBC Youth I witnessed first hand precisely what you outline above.
It’s no coincidence how they’ve managed to assemble a team of unqualified, but loyal, managers in key positions who won’t stand up and speak the truth about what goes on at the campus for fear of losing their jobs or they pledge their loyalty to Chad and get promoted into positions that help protect him.
I’ve never seen such terrible leadership or a poorer run organization in all my years in business.
The bowling industry deserves so much better. There are many qualified people who would love the opportunity to serve the bowling community and get things turned around. And there are even some great employees like Mike Larsen, David Prange, Jason Milligan, and others who could be very instrumental in getting things turned around under the right leadership.
It’s such a shame because there are so many talented, passionate employees and volunteers who genuinely want to serve the sport and it’s members. But unfortunately far too many have been forced out at the campus, left due to the toxicity or denied the opportunity to serve.
Then once you’re gone they silence you with a non-disparagement agreement that they masquerade as a “severance package”, when in reality it’s just “hush money” IMO.”

Bennett refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement when she retired from BCAW at the end of 2021 that she believes was pushed by Arlington, as she detailed in a wide-ranging 90-minute interview a few weeks ago. The story is just publishing now because it took me weeks to find enough time to transcribe and prepare it.

She talked about her early days as a solid bowler, and her wide-ranging career in retail management and then non-profit management, both in and out of bowling, that included a stint at Bowling Inc. and concluded at BCAW. She discussed Wisconsin’s bowling culture, the future of the sport and the industry, and the impact of Bowlero on it.

And she offered her views on those in Arlington she has clashed with, and what could be done to improve things based on her experience as a professional executive director of non-profits. 

BCAW this year honored Bennett with one of its Awards of Excellence, as the organization detailed on Facebook. The BCAW Awards of Excellence annually recognize bowling center owners, proprietors, managers and others who have made significant contributions over time to bowling in Wisconsin.

Here is what BCAW said of Bennett:
“Yvonne Bennett has been named recipient of a BCAW Special Award thanks to her outstanding service for the organization. As executive director of the BCAW from 2014 through 2021, Bennett’s keen decision-making skills and tireless work ethic immensely improved the organization from financial and membership standpoints.
Mostly through her state travel with the Bowlapalooza program, Bennett increased BCAW membership from about 170 bowling centers to more than 220. That impressive recruitment of new members earned accolades from the BPAA.
Through her social media efforts and program development including increased scholarships, Bennett also helped increase participation in Pepsi USBC Tournament, and the High School and Middle School programs. Bennett gained national recognition for Wisconsin through her programs such as the Vintage Alley Tour and general membership growth. Bennett’s work resulted in the BCAW receiving the BPAA Special Projects Award at Bowl Expo.
Bennett led a redesign of the BCAW website that increased communication to members and non-members alike.
In the area of finance, Bennett transformed the BCAW from a year-to-year operation to an association with enough reserves to waive an entire year of member dues. During a year with a projected loss of about $150,000, Bennett’s efforts to help secure PPP loans and forgiveness led to a balance sheet with revenue of more than $50,000. Coupled with operational restrictions, Bennett reduced the year-end loss by more than $100,000.
Beyond those financial and membership accomplishments, Bennett also led the organization to improve areas such as strategic planning, technology upgrades, governance revision including organization bylaws and transparency. Bennett also was instrumental in winding down the Grand Prix program and moving administration of scholarship tracking to the USBC SMART program.”

Bennett and husband David Bennett’s Bennett Consulting Group LLC still contracts for limited programs and services to BCAW: David Bennett is on an IT contract and retainer, and Yvonne does as-needed consulting on an hourly rate with BCAW.

The bold-faced type is my questions, with Bennett's answers following, and the interview was edited for clarity and brevity, though it's still very long. But hopefully it’s also entertaining and informative.

Let's start with what you've been doing in retirement. You had a fascinating extended summer, didn't you?

It's been an amazing summer. I retired from BCAW. My last day on their payroll was May 20. And I got in the car on May 22 and arrived in Gardiner, Montana on May 24, and started a summer seasonal job with Yellowstone Park Service Stations on May 25. For the summer from May 25 until Oct. 6, I was an accounting clerk and a dispatch office clerical employee working inside Yellowstone National Park. And as I told my friends and people in the bowling industry, I've never been so excited about a $15 an hour job in all my life. It was an amazing experience. We had the epic floods on Monday, June 13. My days off through the summer were Sundays and Mondays. And so I was actually off that Sunday and the Monday of the floods. And that changed everything for anybody affiliated with the park or planning to visit the park the summer. As bad as it was for everybody. I was able to do some things that were out of my comfort zone and that I might not have done otherwise. So for me, it just was an amazing experience. After the floods, I had no access into the park for about three, almost four weeks. Gardiner was completely shut off from the park. It's at the north entrance to Yellowstone. We ended up getting some access Fourth of July weekend. So I had better access, but it was still very limited. It was limited to employees with employee passes, and with a convoy on scheduled times in and out. So while I wasn't able to really make the park accessible for what I wanted to do, I went and explored a lot of Montana, a lot of history. I keep using the word amazing, but there really is some wonderful history in the western part of the United States and Montana is filled with little ghost towns that were gold mining towns in the late 1800s and early 1900s. And I got to see and do a lot of that stuff. I have some bowling friends from Northern Virginia and a vintage alley owner in Rawlins, Wyoming that I got to go see. I was able to come up with creative ways to kind of get around the convoy system and I camped inside the park several weekends so that I could stay late in the evening and be up early at the crack of dawn without the convoys. I think the wildlife enjoyed the lower tourism in Yellowstone. Animals were closer to the road and more accessible. So that made it really nice as well.

Is this something you're going to do again next summer and for other summers, or was this just a 1-time thing?

Funny that you asked that, because my employer actually asked me that in one of the interview questions. I originally was going to take a 3-month sabbatical from BCAW in 2020 and my intent was to take three months off in the summer and go live and work in Yellowstone that year. And then of course, COVID happened and that opportunity wasn't there. And then in 2021, I would have liked to have done it, but at that point, I was in the process of transitioning our staff model into something a little bit different. And that was before I had decided to retire in 2022. But I just couldn't see my way clear to take three months as a sabbatical in 2021. My intent was to go into it with an open mind. And if I enjoyed it, and it worked out for my husband and my family here in Wisconsin, I would like to do it multiple years. Right now my plan is barring any unforeseen financial or health issues to do it again next summer. Beyond that, I think it's an open question. By 2024, David and I are hoping to have moved to wherever it is we're planning to retire to. And my sister Pam and I have planned an Alaska RV trip in late May that may trickle into early June, so I don't see 2024 on the horizon for this. But I would like to do it at least one more year for sure.

Well, let's go back to your bowling history. You actually were a fairly high level bowler at one time?

I was a scratch level bowler in the Washington DC metro area — Nation's Capital Area Bowling Association. If I were to be given a kind of claim to fame, I think I was one of the first women in the mid-70s to join the ranks of men’s scratch leagues, because my boyfriends at the time were all in these leagues. And I found women’s scratch leagues to not be a lot of fun to be honest with you — it was a lot of Peyton Place in the women’s scratch leagues. So 76-77 I think was the first season where the men’s leagues were really having trouble filling — it was double shift and 5-player teams and some of the leagues started opening up to women just to fill them. And I held my own against the guys. I enjoyed bowling pot games against the guys in the '70s. And I think largely that’s why I was inducted into my home association's Hall of Fame back in 2019 (Nation's Capital Area Bowling Association). I tell people that I averaged 180 like right out of high school in 1975 when that actually meant something, I don't have any 300s to my credit, and I don't have any 700s either, but I was a good bowler and one of the best in my home association for many years, with several local titles

You have lots of non-bowling experience in work, including in soccer. And I'm wondering what you got out of that that you applied to your bowling jobs and whether your life would have been less of a hassle and if you ever wish you'd have never gotten involved in bowling, or whether you wish you'd always been in bowling perhaps.

My career path coming through college was in retail management where I spent 20 years. right out of college. I started working for Kmart Corp., which at the time was the No. 1 retailer in the world. And then I left Kmart after six or seven years and went and worked about 13 years for Southland Corp. 7-Eleven food stores. So my background really was retail management and my first husband was a regional PBA bowler on the East Coast, both the Eastern and Southern regions. He was featured in an ABC Bowling Magazine article for ambidextrous 300s and in that edition of the magazine there was a display ad for a couple of positions at Young American Bowling Alliance (YABA). I was like, 'Wow, this is like the job I do for Southland but it's in bowling.' I didn't even know there were jobs in bowling to be honest with you. And so I applied and  interviewed for the job. They flew Ken and I out here to Milwaukee, offered me a different job and that was really not the job I was hoping to get. And I was in the middle of doing my MBA. So I said, 'I'll tell you what. I'm going to finish my MBA. And if something opens up at the end of this, give me a call.' And so YABA did call about four months later, and I was hired and moved just as I was completing my master's degree. That's how I came into the bowling profession as an employee or as a career path. Not-for-profit or association management was never on my radar until I worked for YABA and then with my master's degree focused on organizational change, I was at the right place at the right time in the bowling industry in Greendale when the talk of the formation of a single delivery system was the vernacular at the time and people like Sandra Shirk, Darold Dobs and Joe Wilson saw something in me and my background and I was seated into the first Bowling Inc. executive team. Sandra Shirk was our president and CEO and Jeff Henry was also on the team.

When I left bowling, I managed a large soccer club and we also had an indoor-outdoor facility here in the Milwaukee area. To me that was kind of validating my career path as an association executive. I then went to work for the National Funeral Directors Association, the American Agricultural Economics Association, and back to state youth soccer (Wisconsin Youth Soccer Association), and then the position with BCAW that I most recently retired from. All of those positions afforded me the opportunity to really learn and grow as an association executive. And some associations feel very strongly that they need to have people that are one of their own — an insider, if you will, to manage their associations. And some are a little more out of the box in thinking that a good association executive can learn what the members do and can apply best practices from other industries. In soccer, I contributed at the local, state and national level for more than a decade with no background or prior interest in the sport.  Working for NFDA I think prepared me largely for my position with BCAW and as the chief operating officer for NFDA I was working to create programs and services to serve small family businesses. And at Southland Corp. my last position with them for the last three or four years was as a field consultant working with franchisees in the 7-Eleven system. Again, small family businesses. So there's that common theme of small family business, even going back to my retail management days. So being at BCAW, I was really able to apply those things. And working with and talking with bowling center proprietors, the board that interviewed and hired me back in 2013-14, I think they were impressed with my association background. But it didn't hurt that I was also a bowler and I understood bowling. It put me in a good position to really help this association move forward and to leave it a little better off than it was when I when I got there, which as an association exec, that's always your goal — to leave it a little better than it was when you got it.

Bowling Inc. was sort of the template or forerunner of first part for what would be the merger that created USBC wasn't it?

Correct. Bowling Inc. was the merger of the back offices of support services in Greendale, Wisconsin. It was not the governance. The governance was the thing that the boards had to approve that had to go before the delegates, and I think it went before the delegates two or three times before they finally passed it. The area of Bowling Inc. that I was responsible for was Integrity and Sport — the rules department, equipment specifications, lane certification, tournaments sanctions, bonding, field services and member services. All of those departments of ABC, WIBC and YABA were all brought together. And then my job was to create one rules department out of the ABC, WIBC and YABA rules department. And part of that challenge was that Jeff Henry was the rules department manager for ABC, so he was promoted at the same time as me. So we lost the ABC rules manager. The WIBC rules manager had been Roseanne Kuhn, but she had just accepted a position as the WIBC executive director. And YABA had a part-timer. So I had these three departments and I had to figure out of about 20 employees who was the best individual to kind of groom and train to be the team leader for this now merged department and Chris Cooper was the one that I was most impressed with and we built a team around Chris and his skills. And then the process part of it was every one of those organizations had different procedures and different timelines. Our service timeline when Bowling Inc. was formed in the rules area was 30 days. If we responded to correspondence or an incoming call or inquiry 30 days was the goal. And we got that down to five days. We wanted to be more responsive, more timely to our membership and to our local association volunteer structure that we supported. During that time, we also brought tournament sanctions and bonding into this newly created operational unit, because their work was so closely related to the rules of the game. So I'm really proud of what we accomplished in the rules department.  But the work didn’t stop there.  Another example would be what is today’s Equipment & Specifications department. The equipment specifications and the lane certification functions were separate departments. I created one team and brought them all together at the equipment testing center that was behind the main bowling headquarters in Greendale. And ultimately irony would play out 20 years later, as Neil Stremmel was the last guy I hired for that position. Literally, he started and I said, 'This has been great. By the way, my last day is in two weeks. I'm going to hand you over to Jack Mordini and Roger Dalkin.' (Stremmel succeeded Bennett as BCAW executive director, and then was succeeded by Dalkin.)

From the perspective you have in and out of bowling, do we in bowling have more or less or roughly the same sorts of problems in how our organizations function as soccer and some of the businesses you've been in?

I think as an industry, we've gone through some tough growing pains. In the 90s, what I was brought in to be part of was a significant transition in the industry from being an industry administered by bowling people. There was a realization that we probably should be bringing in outside expertise in certain key skill set areas to run these big mega million dollar associations. And WIBC to their credit was the first one when they hired Sandra Shirk to be their first non-bowling executive secretary in the early '90s. That was really kind of the dawn of a new era in bowling. The next, right around that time, would have been when YABA hired Joe Wilson as their executive director, also an outsider, but very involved in youth sports and other organizations and other communities. And Joe Wilson brought in new people, and I was part of the Joe Wilson era of new people being brought in, although I did have a bowling background that kind of helped me to acclimate pretty quickly. And as Bowling Inc. was being formed, part of the conundrum, frankly, was ABC and their leadership was still sort of stuck in the good old boys era. And there were people like Darold Dobs and Roger Dalkin who were very strong in support of the counsel they were getting from outside consultants that certain things needed to change in the bowling industry. And they were at the leading edge of making Bowling Inc. happen and then ultimately the merger to form USBC. But the culture was still one of good old boys. I would say the '90s and into the 2000s a lot of headway was made in improving culture, improving skill sets and bringing more best practices from an association management and business perspective.

When it was announced that Roger had “retired” as USBC CEO, that to me was a sign of a step backwards, and has continued to be de-evolution. (Kevin) Dornberger when he came in, all of a sudden there were a lot of collegiate and professional athletes coming into the staff at bowling headquarters here in Greendale. And then it looks like that's continued exponentially while they've been now down in Arlington. So it's sad to see that because some tough trailblazers like Joyce Deitch and Darold Dobs that were really the leaders of WIBC and ABC who really did a lot to move us forward, and now here we sit in almost 2023 and it feels like it's back to the good old boys and that saddens me. A lot of good work took place in those 10 or 15 years and a lot of institutional knowledge and remembrance of how we got to where we were, has been lost and, and maybe even ignored.

I've heard the argument made, and a lot is pointed at Stu Upson and his tenure, that bowling people need to run bowling because outsiders just don't understand. And it sounds like you believe we'd be better off if professionals in these sorts of things ran bowling organizations. Am I reading too much into what you're saying there, or am I getting it right?

I think that's a good read. And that is what I'm saying. And what I would advocate for what I would say, specific to Stu Upson is just because it may have been a bad hire, or a bad tenure or a bad experience for USBC doesn't mean the model is bad. I could use the same most recent example for BCAW. On paper, Neil Stremmel should have been a great Executive Director for BCAW and for a number of reasons that fit might not have been as clean or as good as it should have been. And now they're where they're at, and they've got Roger Dalkin as their executive director. So I think it's on a case-by-case basis. Stu Upson coming from the racing background and the racing entertainment background probably should have done some good, but if he didn't have the right people around him, and advising him, or the governance structure wasn't right to support his skill sets, that could have led to what ultimately became divisive enough for the board of USBC to want Stu gone. I also think that the timing of Stu being jettisoned out and then Steve Johnson being jettisoned out from BPAA at relatively the exact same time I don't think was a coincidence, either. We can dig into that a little bit more at some point with my view from the peanut gallery.

We'll get to that. But before we get to all that stuff, you didn't leave Bowling Inc. because of any of these issues, though, did you?

No. Bowling Inc., again, was formed as a transitional group to merge the back office and prepare for the future. My last day was March 31 of 2000. My initial work was done for Bowling Inc. in 1998. I had merged all of these departments that I mentioned earlier, into single-delivery departments; teams with processes for all integers, whether it was ABC, WIBC or YABA under one staff, one team. And my work was done there. And in 1998, I was ready to leave Bowling Inc. then. In fact, I went to David Patrick, our CEO at the time, who I'd also worked with at YABA and had an excellent working relationship with my entire tenure, and said, 'Hey, I'm engaged to this guy that lives out in Brown Lake, and I'm kind of done with my work here and I'm ready to move on to a different phase in my life.' If you're into organizational redevelopment, you take an organization, you do what you can to redesign, redevelop, reorganize and restructure them and then you generally move on. So my career path has been a lot of fixing and moving on. And so I was ready to move on in '98 and David Patrick said, 'Well, no, actually we've got this mess with the tournament and events area.' We had had two Bowling Inc. executives over it since the formation of Bowling Inc. in '96. And David Patrick pulled the trigger and let Bonnie Thielecke go. She was a longtime WIBC executive, a very successful WIBC executive. Unfortunately, not all of the business partners were happy with her leadership of the tournament and events area. David said, 'We need to have somebody get in there and clean up that mess. So David Patrick gave me basically a year, year and a half to reorganize the entire tournament and events area and restructure it from a staff and a process point of view as they prepared to hire a new executive in '99. And so I did that. I lived on site at the ABC tournament in Syracuse in '99 for 30 days and did a full inside-out review of the ABC Tournament, did a report to Mordini and Dalkin on it. We needed new skill sets, new blood, new people. And once that was done, I was once again ready to kind of go off into the sunset. At that point, they were talking about moving bowling headquarters down to Orlando. There was the effort to build the world bowling village in Orlando. And I told David Patrick, 'I believe in that project, but I don't want any part of living in Orlando, Florida. I will be with you until you need me to turn out the lights in Greendale or I'm ready to go whenever you're ready to jettison me out of here.' We started doing some tiered membership research in '99 and that work was completed, we were into January of 2000. We had beefed up the executive team by like three positions and eventually we had to make cuts and I stayed through the end of March. I rented a house in Cape Coral, Florida and lived in Florida and didn't think about a job until I got back in July. And then I learned of the executive director opportunity with the Milwaukee Kicker Soccer Club and interviewed for that and started with them Labor Day (2000).

Along with PR, is there anything about the tournament that is how it is now versus what it was before you did your work that I'd go, "Hey, yeah, Yvonne and her group are responsible for that.'

Bowler services and the (ball) shipping. I was working with (former ABC Field Rep) Butch Whitman. That would be one of the other things that happened. I think the concessionaires on site at the tournament was another area.

So with BCAW, start with how you ended up becoming executive director and what you saw as your challenges.

With Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act, I found that I needed to no longer be just an independent contractor or a consultant — my husband and I do have a small consulting LLC — I needed to have real employment with real insurance. So in the summer of 2013, I started figuring out where I wanted to think about going to work and just on dumb luck in October of '13, I went to monster.com and there I saw the BCAW executive director position. I literally saw it a week after the posting closed, but I still responded and asked them to at least consider me given my background and my interest. And it just accelerated from there. So I interviewed with them. And my final set of interviews was the week between Christmas and New Year's and right after the first of the year, they offered me the position. I started in February of '14. And going into the job, I had done my homework. I looked at their 990s, their nonprofit tax returns. And I noticed that they had two entities, the Bowling Centers Association of Wisconsin, and the Bowling Proprietors Association of Wisconsin Foundation. They were two separate corporate entities. One was a C6 trade association. The other was a C4 philanthropic and scholarship organization. So I knew their governance was old modeled. But I also knew of the association, I knew Gary Hartel, who was my predecessor and I knew he had been in the job for a long time. From an operational point of view, once I got in, I realized how archaic our systems were. Our phone system we had one phone line in that everybody shared. Our email was the same way. So as the new executive director I had no way to get confidential email in through my professional office. I had to have it sent to my AOL account for probably six months. So we were operating with technology and infrastructure that looked like the 1990s, and I had staff that was firmly implanted in the 1990s, early 2000s. And so my staffing needed to be upgraded. Again, my Bowling Inc. experience made me well suited to do that. ...

I had told the search committee that at this stage in my life and my career, if we did a good five to seven years together, that'll be the sweet spot, because that would get me into my 60s and close to retirement. And that's as it turned out exactly what happened. Moving the organization forward into the 21st century using technology — I knew our website was horrible. BCAW really used the website as a repository for forms and documents and history retention. So when anybody would call the office for my first six months, the answer was, 'It's on our website.' Well, that doesn't feel very customer friendly, or guest service friendly. Yes, we still used it for a repository. But it also needed to be a way to disseminate and communicate information and programming and changes and improvements and services that we offer. We also supplemented the website with a strong Facebook presence; promoting BCAW, our programs and bowling.  So the technology piece of it was one of the early strategic initiatives that we identified in 2014 and the board was very generous and very gracious and very trusting of the tens of thousands of dollars they allowed me to spend when we also had some pretty significant financial issues that, unfortunately, the board wasn't even aware of. And I probably should not get into that. But it was not. They were not in the financial health that they thought they were in or that they had led been led to believe until I got in there. And I said, 'Yeah, it's not that good. And we need to make some hard decisions moving forward.' And they trusted me and we got through it. And financially, they were much stronger. In fact, we were in a position where we could waive dues in 2021 as the industry started to recover from the pandemic. That was a $115,000 hit of revenue that we didn't get that we normally would get to run the operation. And that was relatively a 20% or 25% hit on our finances in '21.

How do you look at Wisconsin proprietors and Wisconsin bowling culture. We puff our chests out a lot, but maybe how much of that is really deserved?

It's 100% deserved, I think. Wisconsin's bowling culture and what it is that proprietors and USBC volunteers together do for the bowling community in the state of Wisconsin is unmatched. I feel pretty comfortable in saying that confidently because my YABA experience and then my Bowling Inc. experience working in the field services and doing work with local and state associations throughout the U.S. Our proprietors here work together. I have never heard a proprietor in any forum, including at the bar over beers and burgers, say, 'I can't do this, or I can't share that because he's my competitor down the road.' It just doesn't happen. There may be small pockets of people that may feel that way. And every now and then you'll hear of bigger versus smaller and that things may be large center centric. But they'll share because it's for the betterment of bowling.

That leads right into one of the other things I wanted to talk about. Bowlero has had two centers in the Milwaukee area (Bowlero Wauwatosa and AMF West) and now they have three more (Super Bowl in Appleton, Sabre Lanes in Menasha and JB's on 41 in Milwaukee) and more than 200 lanes. Do you see this shaking out for Wisconsin bowling as a plus or a minus?

I think for competitive bowling, and for those of us that wear that hat, it will be new and different. And with their new PBA League Certification program that's rolling out currently, I think the jury's still out on what would that look like for the league bowlers and tournament bowlers in our state. For the casual recreational bowler, I think people that want that bowling experience are going to probably enjoy the Bowlero experience. It'll be really interesting to see what happens up in the Fox Cities area. I think a bigger picture for the state of Wisconsin and BCAW is already experiencing this. First of all, there's the requirement for membership to host BCAW events. Fortunately, all of these centers at least currently are in membership. So I'm glad that that's been rectified, because that wasn't the case five months ago. But what happens in the future for tournament operators ... some of these big events that require at least 40 or 48 lanes, to have potentially some of them taken out of play for us, that's going to be a challenge. And it was already becoming a challenge because I think for some pockets within the state that could host state events, shutting down your regular business model for a 3-day weekend for the Wisconsin State High School Bowling Tournament or 10 weekends for the USBC State Tournament is a financial consideration that not all proprietors are maybe willing to do. I know that we were told by Bowlero after they hosted our High School State there in 2017 that it was a great event and they enjoyed having Pete Weber, but they actually didn't make as much money on our event for three days as they would have if they'd had their normal business model with open play, etc.

This is something I've banged the drum about for years — that bowlers like myself need to acknowledge and at least say thank you for the sacrifices that are made by the people who give us the playgrounds to compete upon.

I think there is a level of tone deafness to the cost of operating. There's more education that we as an industry could certainly do. And I think that's every state affiliate that needs to try to help educate and be vocal and be a cheerleader for that. If we're being honest, and we're being candid and are pure in our motives, then, I don't see a problem with being transparent and open and honest with people, but it's a comfort zone that not everybody has.

With Wisconsin having the most small, family-run centers in the country, we're perhaps a little insulated from Bowlero compared to some of the other places around the country who have a lot more bigger centers and maybe are going to see maybe more Bowlero acquisitions. Am I seeing that correctly? And that can really hit the proprietors associations as well in a state, can't it?

Yes in general. In Illinois, Bowlero has been kind of gobbling up bowling centers. And Illinois (BPA) immediately took a hit because there were a bunch of Brunswick centers that had been in membership for probably decades. And now Bowlero had them, and they didn't have to put them into the state membership because of the BPAA 750 rule. So Illinois (BPA) took a significant financial hit. One of my goals when I came in was to get those AMF (now Bowlero) centers in BCAW membership. And we eventually got them. But most recently, the BPAA advised the states that Bowlero Corp. for 2022 is not going to put all centers in the membership again. And for Wisconsin that 120 lanes times $36 a lane was a budget hit of $4,320 (for BCAW). And with three more centers, that's potentially a $9,000 hit. That's huge and that's something that Roger and his board and organization have to justify now to Bowlero every year to keep them in membership.

And they can be BPAA members but not pay the state dues because of the 750 rule? Explain that.

So the BPAA 750 rule is in their bylaws. It's part of the BPAA national governance, which by definition means the states have to adhere to them. Most bowling centers if you're going to join your state association, or BPAA national, you have to join both. So if I want to have the benefit of BPAA and the Pepsi and Sysco programs, I've also got to join the state association and pay those dues. But the BPAA bylaws and governance says if you're a chain operator of 750 or more lanes, you only have to put 750 into state membership. You don't have to put 100% into state membership. So they put all their lanes into BPAA membership and it's about $30 (per lane) to join BPAA on national basis. And if you join BCAW then it's an extra $36 (per lane). And in some states because the states don't provide a lot of programs and services it becomes a pretty expendable (fee). Why should I join if they don't do any programs or services that I can benefit from. BCAW at $36 is on the higher end of state dues compared to other states. And that's largely because we have a paid professional staff. A lot of the states don't have a paid professional staff — they're managed out of BPAA, or they have a part-timer that's just setting up their meetings and putting out a newsletter, and maybe scheduling an educational seminar or two. They have far less in the way of programs and services than a state like Wisconsin.

What would you say to the people who say Bowlero is going to be a monopoly? I don't see that really being quite possible. Maybe in some markets, but not nationally. (Bowlero owns roughly 10% of U.S. centers, and a somewhat higher percentage of lanebeds as it has no small centers.)

I would agree with that. I think in some markets like my home base of the Baltimore/Washington DC market they're approaching a monopoly. And they have been closing centers to sell the real estate. And that affects people because I was bowling 10 minutes from home and now I have to drive 30 minutes from home to bowl. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the Fox Valley. There's still some really quality large centers that still provide competitive opportunities for those bowlers that are looking for that, but you have to drive some. That's not the target market of Bowlero. David (my husband) and I have a nephew whose family thinks nothing about going out and dropping $100, $150 on bowling and pizza and sodas with the kids and their friends. We never did that when I was growing up.

Do you think the sport of bowling is doomed in a sense, because of the demographic and social trends that we see. Is the continuation of the decline inevitable in your mind? This goes beyond Bowlero.

I don't think so. I believe that the sport of bowling is like anything else that we call a sport — people are going to choose to recreate at a higher level that's competitive, and what that experience is and what that bowler or athlete is looking for may be changing and if we aren't changing with that, then we may be doomed. I think that's what Bowlero is trying to do to be honest with you. And I think they're trying to do that through the way they're marketing the PBA. There are things going on with the PBA that purists — I would consider myself a purist — would be cringing at. I mean how do you create bowling competition that takes place over the internet. I'm bowling here in Milwaukee and I'm competing against people all around the world, literally, because the internet makes that possible. ... And I think we have to be more open to it.

There is almost a near consensus among the experts that we're headed for a recession in 2023. How much fear do you have of a recession and what it might do to bowling and how we might weather that. Could it really be carnage for proprietors and the industry?

Well, I think to the extent that interest rates continue to climb, that is going to affect many centers’ ability to invest in capital improvements, whether it's a parking lot or a roof . . . or to their interior facilities. So I think we may see a slowdown of improvements. I see that is a problem or a challenge down the road. And if real estate tanks, it's going to be one less option for proprietors as they face retirement. And so that's going to be sad for proprietors. And then to the extent that discretionary income gets affected, or because someone loses their job, they aren't going to have the money to go out and drop $150 on a family night out bowling and having pizza and sodas.

The thing that makes Wisconsin so strong is family-owned businesses. But our threat and the other side of being family owned businesses is who's going to be the next generation to either own and operate that business, or who's going to have the money and wherewithal to step up and buy that business. And that's been a concern of mine from almost in the door working for BCAW in 2014, because I was seeing bowling centers where folks were dying, and they didn't have a succession plan, or they didn't have a strategy to keep that business going. And they were either selling or closing or just boarding them up. And BCAW tried to bring in some resources, both in 2014 and again in 2021 to help people navigate that conversation and prepare for that. And I think that's going to exponentially grow as we continue to age as a society.

You've had a lot of dealings with the folks in Arlington (USBC and BPAA) because of your position with BCAW, and unlike many, many, many people you have never been afraid to state your views. You've made Facebook posts and said things in interviews that a lot of people only say privately to me. Why do you have courage that so many others in bowling don't have to call a spade a spade, or however you want to put it?

Because I was never afraid of losing my job. It makes it very liberating and very freeing when you feel strong in your moral convictions and your ethics. The (BCAW) Board when they interviewed me and hired me, I talked a lot about transparency. And they asked for some examples. They asked for how that might play out to put me at odds with them as my employer. And I said, 'All I can tell you is there's going to be a time when I'm going to say something publicly, either in front of you or in print. And somebody's gonna say, "Man, I wish you hadn't said that." Or, "Gee, you know, we weren't really ready to go out with that, even though we were already implementing something." ' So for me, knowing that I was doing a good job with BCAW, knowing that the board and the membership loved the results we were getting, I felt confident knowing that I knew the board was going to deal with it in a way that they weren't going to lose my services because Frank (DeSocio) or Chad (Murphy) were angry with me. When Bullygate came out, I felt very strongly from an association executive best practices and governance perspective that what was going on was wrong. And I felt compelled to write about it. And, no surprise, my (BCAW) president got a phone call. And he called me and said, 'Man, you shouldn't have said that. BPAA is upset. I got Frank (DeSocio) and the (BPAA) Board president calling me. You've got to have it retracted.' I said, 'There's no retracting — it's out there. And that would make it look like we're running and hiding. I said it. I meant it.' And he said, 'Well they're not going to be happy that I can't reel it in.' It just is sort of crazy to feel threatened. And I get it, there are people out there that have these jobs, whether it's in bowling or not in bowling, that they go along to get along. I've always said I've lost better jobs than the job I was at risk of getting fired from with BCAW. I just felt like at this stage of my life and my career, I really had nothing to hide or no reason not to be myself and not to be an honest broker on things that I felt passionate and at times angry about.

And is my understanding correct that your quibble and problem with Arlington and Frank and Chad is more how they operate than any specific things or policies that they've implemented. That it's more the transparency issues and the bullying and that that it's more how they're doing things than what they're doing?

What they're doing is the egregious part, and that's sort of the public part. I'll separate Chad and Frank here for this part of the conversation. I think Chad, at least at face value, seems to be doing better in the last few years and trying to bring people around him to be part of discussions that didn't lead to decisions or programs, or services or changes or things like that. Chad, four years ago, would have never called Yvonne about anything. And he got to where he started calling me and other state volunteers and executive directors and other people to get ideas. He started bringing task forces into Arlington, under a non-disclosure agreement. But he would bring people in and start having conversations to say, 'Hey, we're thinking about this, what do you think?' Or, 'Here's the problem. Let's brainstorm. No stupid ideas. Let's brainstorm resolutions or things that we could do to mitigate these issues.' Now how does that play out? Or what does that look like when it comes out? I'll give you an example that is real life. They started thinking about doing some changes to the SMART program probably three or four years ago. And Laurie Smetek, who was the SMART program manager for USBC, had reached out to me because I knew her from 20 years ago at Bowling Inc. And we started talking about what SMART looks like and what would make it better for you as an operator? And if we were doing this at USBC how would that affect BCAW? So that was a conversation that might not have happened in Chad's early years, or maybe before Bullygate. That (SMART) program as it came through committee was put out for public comment, and changes were made to it. So I think that's all healthy. And that shows some growth in USBC and Chad. I'm happy to be able to say that, and I said that openly about the SMART conversation when there were people completely throwing USBC and their programs under the bus relative to SMART. I defended them and said, 'No, this makes sense. And here's why.'

On the other side of the coin, there continues to be some things coming out of BPAA that independent state associations just don't understand and won't participate in because they don't agree with them. And I believe that is largely because the think tank that's BPAA and their source of information is myopic and centric to large center operations and states that have large centers, or, frankly states that they're operating. They operate the state (proprietors) associations for somewhere between 15 and 18 states. I've got friends that are running centers in some of those states, and it's just unfortunate that BPAA thinks they know everything. They've got a committee structure, but if the committee is proprietors who don't know anything other than what they know, which is their backyard or their center or their state, or what BPAA is telling them, the product coming out of there isn't going to be any good. And so they come out with a membership program that puts a state association at financial risk and liability and makes no sense and then they don't get retention from this program a year or two later, and they scratch their heads because it was a bad program that you had poor or no input on. Because there's no shortcuts to membership. And BPAA wants to throw money at it: Let's pay for this and let's get them in for free and hopefully we'll get to keep them. Well, if you haven't done the legwork, which is based on relationships ... that's why Bowlapalooza in Wisconsin was so successful, and we grew (BCAW) membership from 170 to 225 in seven years. It was successful because we had boots on the ground, we were out, we were making relationships. We had a center that was a non-member for six of my seven years as (BCAW) executive director. But on the seventh year, he contacted me after my 2021 Bowlapalooza visit and said, 'You know what? It's time for me to join.' That was an investment in going and seeing him every year even though he was not a member. And we make sure that our members know and appreciate the membership and the investment that they made with us, and that we still care about them. It's not just about collecting their dues.

So over time I lost respect for BPAA and Frank and the staff down there. They would throw money at the executive directors to get them off their ass, frankly, to go out and sell membership. And I was just doing my job and no surprise, I was the largest financial recipient of their money. And quite honestly, I was just doing my job. I was just doing what BCAW was paying me to do, which was to have a professional relationship and mentoring and bringing centers into the fold. I got a bonus of I think $1,500 one year from BPAA. And because that was going to be a taxable event to me, I said, 'Please don't issue the check to me. I'm going to run it through the payroll.' And I kept half of it and the other half I divvied up between the rest of my staff. Because I felt like while I was out on Bowlapalooza, they were holding down the office. And they were also part of member services. And that's the way I think that stuff is supposed to happen. Some of the other programs that they've come up with they sort of jam it down the state associations. Again, it's easy for them to jam it down 15 or 18 of them because they're running those states. But for those of us that have independent boards with independent financial decisions, sometimes the programs didn't make sense or they weren't affordable for us. And we had to take a pass on it. If I was younger, I probably would try to take Bennett Consulting Group and my LLC  into the bowling association management business and try to go manage some of these state associations. When the announcement was made a year ago in the summer that I was retiring in January, there were two states on the East Coast that did approach me and asked if I would manage their associations under my LLC and we started some conversations. I decided I needed to take a break from bowling and walk away from it all together, so that didn’t go anywhere

If you could talk to the boards of USBC and BPAA and give them advice from your professional perspective and career experience, what would you tell them?

I would encourage them to seek out the professional counsel and advice from organizations like the American Society of Association Executives, ASAE. They do leadership, development and training for not for profits and associations and professional societies around the country. I think both of these boards BPAA and USBC would benefit from having that kind of commitment to best practices and then seeking out and obtaining that kind of training. And back in the day, Sandra Shirk encouraged me and Jeff Henry and others to pursue professional accreditation and credentialing through ASAE. So today these boards only know what they know — they know whatever it is Chad and his assistants and his staff provide them and what they get from legal counsel. And so that's the other kind of arm in both of these organizations that I think creates fear by the board and handcuffs or hand-ties the executives, the paid staff from doing sometimes what's necessary or what's right, because you got a legal counsel in your ear giving you advice. And that's all it is ... advice. The legal firm that they use is very cautious and is known to be very conservative. And advises in a manner that has them (USBC) not doing things that on the outside looking in it's like, 'Why aren't they doing that?'

I've got some personal experience because that firm has been their legal counsel back to the Greendale days. So I know that firm and I know the players pretty well. That legal counsel, to tell you how involved they get, they were involved in my departure from BCAW, as the executive director going into a part-time, 20-hour-a-week job and they had a 7-page retention and separation agreement with full release and non-disclosure clauses that they wanted me to sign if I was going to keep my employment with BCAW after January 1st of this year. And I’m certain that was strictly coming from BPAA and that law firm. The BCAW board member working with the law firm was not happy when I told him I wouldn’t meet him and the attorney at the attorney’s office. I responded directly to the full BCAW board in writing the following week in person at our end of the year board meeting.

As I told the board on December 15th or 16th (2021), whatever the day was that we finally had the last board meeting after this had drug on for literally two months, ‘I’m not signing it. I didn’t have an employment agreement, when you hired me or for the last seven years as your executive director. Why are we doing an agreement of this onerous nature for me to stay here for five months part-time?’ Well, I believe BPAA wanted to have me sign a non-disclosure that was going to not allow me to have this conversation with you, as an example. And I reiterated to them ‘I'm prepared to be unemployed, January 1. You need to understand that. But I'm not signing anything. And I guess you need an executive session to decide if you're going to keep me to help onboard your new executive director.' I was then excused from the board meeting.

In early 2022 as we were working through closing the books on 2021, which was my last year as the executive director, I had to ask as we're accruing expenses that happened in 2021 that we're going to pay in 2022, what were the legal fees incurred with the BPAA law firm, Michael Best Friedrich here in Milwaukee so that I can accrue for it on the 2021 financials. I was told we did not incur any financial expense for the legal assistance from that law firm. Well I know that the law firm didn't do it for free. So who the hell paid for it? I'm pretty sure I know who paid for it. Because I know who wanted to keep my mouth shut. Ultimately, I signed nothing and BCAW retained me through May 20 on a part-time basis to help Neil as the new executive director.

Regarding my Bullygate story, I think it's fair to say that if you are in bowling you know about that story. And it's not behind my paywall so anyone can read it. So there's no plausible deniability. And I've had people tell me not for publication since that story of more instances where Chad called them and threatened to keep them from being employed in bowling if they didn't do what he wanted and support USBC positions. What if one of those people has the courage to get a lawyer and sue Chad and USBC? Could the USBC board members be brought into that? Because they can't say, 'Well, we had no idea that he could have ever acted that way,' when any lawyer for the person suing could produce my story and say, 'This has been out there since 2018 and is very well known in bowling. Are you going to say under oath that you aren't aware of it?' Is there a situation where these board members are risking their own status in such a lawsuit?

So my understanding professionally as an association executive, is that board members are generally afforded protection and USBC and BPAA both have director and officers liability insurance. So D&O insurance protects volunteers, and staff for harm that may come through no intention, or deliberate action of spite or illegal activity. But if there is a reason that somebody should know, or they do take deliberate or intent against somebody D&O insurance has a caveat or a clause that the exempts that, and people then end up on the merits of whatever their involvement is. And usually this comes into the financial operation of an association. Because as fiduciaries, these board members and committee members of certain committees carry legal responsibility to the membership and to the organization. And if they fail those legal fiduciary responsibilities, they can then be personally culpable and held accountable for those types of activities that may result in litigation. I've been in meetings where Jeff Boje, when he was the treasurer of BPAA, gave counsel to every state BPA president in the room, that if you're not looking at the financials, and making sure your executive director or your state office is doing the financials right, you need to make sure you're doing it because if you're not, you're putting your fiduciary responsibility on the backburner, and you could be held financially personally liable for anything that may come that you should have known about. So there is a best practice and there is a school of thought that says that board members under their legal and fiduciary responsibility, need to make sure that the organization is operating professionally, honestly, ethically and legally. And whether it's the executive director or just a staff member within this organization acts in a manner that isn't professional, ethical, or legal, is that something that a jury would find a volunteer culpable for or accountable for? I think that's open for interpretation. I would be ever so cautious about that. I've been appointed to boards and then resigned pretty quickly because either there was no D&O insurance to provide me cover operationally for things I may or may not know. And then two, there were things that I was exposed to as a board member that I felt under my fiduciary responsibility if I couldn't get it changed or fixed, I needed to resign from the board. So I consider it serious enough that I won't serve on a board where I feel like I'm exposed on either front.

As much as I'm willing to give him kudos and compliments, I know Chad engaged in that (bullying) behavior with somebody who I respect and trust beyond reproach — he had one of those conversations with somebody earlier this year. When the story was shared with me, I'm like, 'Are you effing kidding me?' And he's like, 'Yeah, I couldn't believe he pulled me aside into like a side room and literally did what you and I and others know he's capable of and has done to others.' And I was shocked that in this day and age, four years later, all of the incidents later, he still was engaging with somebody with impeccable reputation and credibility in the industry. It just was shocking.

I've heard so many such stories from before 2018 and since then that it no longer ever shocks me. But it does sadden me. And it just tells me the extent of the control he has of USBC and of the board. I'm sure that he's going to get another contract, and I'm sure things are going to continue the way they are. I've become very pessimistic about the potential for any kind of meaningful change. I don't see anything happening short of one of the people he has bullied having the courage to step forward to get an attorney, file a lawsuit, go to the U.S. Olympic Committee, and go public with it.

Back when COVID happened in April of 2020 Frank bullied me and was so obnoxious and so threatening to me, I had to hang up the phone on him and not allow him to continue. And then a couple of days later, I wrote a letter to his board president and copied my president and went on record with his boss that this happened and I was never going to be treated this way again by him or anybody down at BPAA. And I said to this other person (who was bullied by Chad), if you were as outraged as you say you were, consider writing a letter to his president, letting them know how their employee treated you as a colleague, because that's not right. Now, again, it kind of goes back to Yvonne is willing to do it publicly. I don't know if this person had the strength to say, 'Yep, I'm going to write a letter to the president of the USBC board and make them deal with Chad on an employee basis.' I certainly did that with Frank, and I'll tell you that the BS with Frank ended immediately. In fact, Frank and I were not allowed to have communication with each other without one of the presidents included and I made a habit of never having contact with Frank if not in a public forum, without (BCAW president) Erik (Gialdella) there. I just was not going to expose myself to it again. That ended it. Did he continue that kind of nastiness with a couple of my colleagues that I know he had treated that way? I don't know. I don't want to liken it to sexual harassment and the #metoo movement. But women have to stand up for themselves. If they've been sexually harassed, they've got to say something, they've got to confront the person or they have to confront the entity that they represent. You can't just suck it up and suck it in. You have to have some personal responsibility and accountability for yourself, and be willing to do that, and somewhat trust the system is not going to get you fired. But I also understand that not everybody can be as cavalier as I've been about those kinds of decisions. And I wasn't always that cavalier. I had in 20 years of retail management, you can only imagine the kinds of things I endured as a young female professional coming up through the ranks. And as a single female, I didn't have a husband that could support me financially or emotionally. But I've become stronger and less willing to tolerate the bullshit that happens.

And for the people since 2018 that have shared stuff with me, I kind of don't blame them for not speaking publicly. Everybody could see from my story that, quote, unquote, the emperor has no clothes, and yet nothing happened. Chad remained in his position and got a new contract, which is stunning in what it says about the majority of that board. So they probably are thinking, 'Why would I risk all of the grief that I'm going to get and perhaps the loss of employment in bowling because of his power?' by speaking up.

And in the peanut gallery again, I take a step kind of to the side and just say, 'Where's the power base, because he's not that special.' Chad Murphy is not that special. And Frank DeSocio is so in over his skis professionally, and incompetent. We didn't even talk about Frank's incompetence as a trade association executive director, or some of the other things personally that I would throw at Frank's doorstep. And I don't need to do that. But these are two not particularly special people, other than I'll go back to where I started earlier, with the Good Old Boys circle of people. And there's Good Old Girls in the Good Old Boys circle. And if there's a downfall to our industry, we need to get our heads out from under ourselves. And we need to see what we're doing. We're destroying ourselves from the inside out. Because we've got people that aren't particularly special, or adding any real value to the industry other than BPAA and USBC have the best relationships ever, probably in their histories, because of the personal relationships between these two men and their families. But is that really what's best for bowling? Are we any stronger as an industry eight years later because of the leadership demonstrated by these two gentlemen since they were hired in 2014? I don't think we are. There's some wins we've had along the way, but I don't see the industry stronger today.

And demonstrably in many areas it's worse — membership, tournament entries, governance of the sport, and now they have this giant company (Bowlero) competing directly with them in their main areas of revenue. And the only argument they can really make is that those things would have happened anyway, or would be worse without them. But would all that have happened if they were really on the ball and governing properly and handling relationships properly? I don't think so. Their whole reign has been a nightmare and a tragedy for the sport and the industry.

I don't know where this ties in, but working in Bowling Inc. and the work that we did to bring the industry together in the late '90s I have always felt that the governance and the regulation of the sport of bowling resides with the national governing body and that's USBC. And the recreational, casual, social bowler and bowling experience resides with the proprietors and BPAA because they own the playing fields. So I feel very strongly that at some point between the late '90s and where we're at today, that that should have happened.

I really appreciate your transparency and openness. It's unfortunate we live in a sport with few people who are that way, and fewer journalists to report on it.

I don't want to come across as bitter or retaliatory or snippy. I don't want to give anybody the reason to say, 'Well yeah, no wonder she's no longer working there. I wouldn't have her working for me either.' I have always tried to take a high road and I've always been of the mindset not to burn a bridge.

Note: I will publish any response Murphy/USBC and/or Desocio/BPAA wish to make to Bennett's statements. I sent a note making that offer.

Then BCAW Executive Director Yvonne Bennett at Ley's Bark River Lanes in Sullivan during the first Wisconsin Vintage Alleys Tour in October 2017. Contributed photo.
Then BCAW Executive Director Yvonne Bennett at Ley's Bark River Lanes in Sullivan during the first Wisconsin Vintage Alleys Tour in October 2017. Contributed photo.