The Richter Era
The University of Wisconsin's Pat Richter, the longest-tenured director of athletics in the Big Ten Conference, announced today (Feb. 14) that he will retire from his position on April 1, 2004 after 14-plus years.
In addition, Head Football Coach Barry Alvarez will assume dual roles as head football coach and athletic director upon Richter's retirement, according to UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley.
"Pat's commitment and service to the University of Wisconsin, through three administrations, is beyond compare," said Wiley. "Through his leadership and ability to assemble a strong departmental team, UW Athletics is more fiscally sound, more highly competitive and more visible worldwide than ever before."
Richter, the former National Football League receiver and nine-time Wisconsin letterwinner, was pursued by then-Chancellor Donna E. Shalala, to run the Athletic Department's every day operations in 1989. He inherited a program with a $2.1 million deficit, decaying facilities, several struggling teams and eroding fan support. Much has changed, however, during Richter's reign.
"The challenges have been many, but we've attacked them with a sense of purpose and integrity," said Richter, whose department was ranked as the nation's 10th-best in a 2001 survey by The Sporting News. "So many individuals, both internal and external to the department, have been instrumental in our success. I'm focused on continued growth, especially in the area of revenue generation during these difficult economic times."
Under Richter's direction, the Athletic Department has eliminated its financial deficit and built an operating reserve, became compliant with the Office for Civil Rights and received NCAA certification twice, most recently in 2001. Numerous first-class facilities have been built, including the Kohl Center and the Fetzer Academic Learning Center. The Badgers have won three national championships and 49 Big Ten team titles, went to eight football bowl games, appeared in the NCAA basketball tournament (six times each for the men's and women's teams -- earning a men's Final Four berth in 2000) and produced more academic All-Big Ten honorees than any other school in the conference.
One of Richter's first moves as director was the 1990 hiring of Alvarez from national champion Notre Dame to coach football. The success of Alvarez' teams certainly renewed interest in Badger Athletics, improved the program's financial support and helped reclaim a very important statewide fan base.
Beyond his contributions to the university as an administrator, Richter is also one of the program's most-storied student-athletes. He lettered three times each in football, basketball and baseball - thus becoming the last nine-time letterwinner in school history - and earned All-America distinction twice as a tight end and All-Big Ten honors as a first baseman. Richter led the NCAA in receiving as a junior and set a Rose Bowl record with 11 catches for 163 yards in the 1963 game vs. No. 1-rated USC.
Richter was also an accomplished student and earned academic All-America honors in 1962. He was Wisconsin's Big Ten Medal of Honor winner (for academic and athletic excellence) in 1963 and was inducted into the Verizon/CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 1995.
Richter was given an NCAA Silver Anniversary Award in 1988 for post-collegiate accomplishment and was named to the National Football Foundation's College Hall of Fame in 1997.
The 61-year-old Richter leaves his athletic director post with great satisfaction.
"I simply did the best I could in directing a very complex organization in an ever-changing world," Richter said. "As a Madison native, I'm especially proud of the job my administration has done because my family could enjoy it too. Hopefully, we made things better for those who compete in or cheer for Badger athletics."
Richter enthusiastically supported the choice of Alvarez as his successor.
"Barry has demonstrated over the years that he has the skills to be very successful," Richter said. "His understanding of coaches and their needs is an important first step. Barry has willed success into some of his football teams and he'll have the same impact on the other sports and support staff in this department."
Alvarez will be entering his 14th season on the UW football sidelines this fall and is the longest-tenured head football coach in the Big Ten. He will be taking the reins of a program drastically improved from the department he joined as football coach in January 1990. But Alvarez realizes that doesn't guarantee continued success.
"The challenges of running an Athletic Department today are certainly very real," Alvarez said. "I am, however, extremely excited and committed to building upon the foundation that Pat will leave behind. The timing of this announcement is beneficial as I will have a season to work with Pat as we transition into the future."
With the Camp Randall Stadium renovation project just beginning and a struggling economy present, the department's financial challenges will be one of Alvarez' focus points.
"It's very clear that a sound fiscal plan is critical to our continued prosperity," Alvarez said. "Fundraising, filling the seats at our events and devising a prudent business plan will be important initiatives for our future. Chancellor Wiley feels that I'm the right person to keep the momentum going in our fundraising and ticket selling areas when Pat steps aside."
Wiley said Alvarez is the right choice for the University of Wisconsin at precisely the right time. "Over the past decade-plus we have carefully built a solid foundation for our department," said Wiley. "Barry's leadership will undoubtedly take us to the next level." Alvarez has long kept the possibility of working in sports administration in his sights, especially after watching his college coach, Bob Devaney, assume the A.D. duties at Nebraska after coaching.
"The chance to run a large organization has always intrigued me," Alvarez, who was named an associate athletic director at Wisconsin in 2000, said. "That is the reason I wanted the involvement with our management team several years ago. It's helped me get a sense of the intricate workings of this 23-sport program."
Alvarez, who will be the 10th athletic director in Wisconsin history, will become the first dual role athletic director/head football coach at the university since Harry Stuhldreher was A.D. and football coach from 1936-48. Ivy Williamson served in both roles for the UW but not at the same time.
Alvarez becomes the first person to hold both roles in the Big Ten since Michigan State's George Perles (1990-92) and Illinois' John Mackovic (1988-91). Former Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler (1988-89) and Penn State's Joe Paterno (1980-82) handled both jobs for two and three years, respectively. Alvarez said he discussed the challenges of running the department and the football team concurrently with several colleagues, including Mackovic (now at Arizona as coach) and UNLV's John Robinson (the Rebels' coach and A.D.). "They (Mackovic and Robinson) confirmed that leading an athletic division is much like coaching a team," Alvarez said. "Establish a solid plan, hire good people to execute it and make adjustments as necessary."
Noting that football contributes 40 percent to the department's revenue, Alvarez indicated that continued success of the football team is vital. Also top on his list is graduating student-athletes and maximizing their potential on and off the field.
Alvarez will use the next year to assess the division's condition, establish goals for his department and get a transition plan in place. He will receive no additional ompensation for his new responsibilities.