I get your points, Mark. Is it possible we are de facto encouraging inaccurate XC courses by our tacit approval or disregard for short courses? Taken to the extreme, is some good purpose served by having a "5K" that is, say, 2.7 miles long? By this reasoning, wouldn't this aberration then become one of the most popular XC courses? Why stop here? 2.5 miles would be even "faster".
If XC organizers tend to repel any initiative by USATF to standardize the 5K XC distance, I think this would just slow down the change. Perhaps we could start by requiring XC events that seek USATF sanctioning to use our "provisional" - or whatever you might want to call it - certification. So, this would initially be in play for major events, then maybe over the years "performance comparability" and "truth in advertising" would become as much an expectation for many high school and college races as it is for major 5K road events.
"Dreaming is my pre-occupation" 😄