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Wisconsin Reflections with Pat Richter

Celebrate the Legacy - Pat Richter

Pat Richter Tribute - Letter Retired

Pat Richter Comments

Media Q&A with Richter

John Wiley Comments

Barry Alvarez Comments

Media Final Q&A

Richter Era Photos

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Statement by Donna E. Shalala

Statement by Barry Alvarez

Statement by Jane Albright

Statement by Bob Bowlsly

Statement by Joel Maturi

Statement by James E. Delany

Media Q&A with Richter


Why are you retiring now?

I have talked about it, it's no secret that it was sometime after 62 - I will be 62 in September. This decision was made long before Camp Randall was delayed or restarted. It was a personal timetable. The original contract that we signed said June, 2003 was the earliest. We are pretty close to that. There is an evolution here, and I think at this point in time obviously there are a lot of challenges to be faced, we have not completed a lot of things and yet I think we are in good shape. There is never a good time; there is never a right time. For me this is the right time. I feel great. Health-wise I feel terrific. There a lot of other things to do. I mentioned to someone about Mark McGwire - at some point you just want to step out of the limelight and go play golf with the guys and do what you want to do. That's hard to do.

What do you think your crowning achievement here would be?

I'll leave that to you. There have been so many things. We were talking today about if you could pick out several highlights and things like that. First of all, we came in here without any preconceived ideas - we didn't really know what an athletic department should do or what it was all about. We knew we had to get stronger financially. We knew we had to get back on track and get the faith of the people back. We worked hard at that. Early on when the deficit kicked up because of a surprise, it threw us back a little bit. The first stage I really thought when it was just euphoric was over in Japan when we beat Michigan State to qualify for the Rose Bowl. That was one mark. We never have told any coach that we need to win this or we need to win that or we need to go to Rose Bowl. I would like to, but there was never any kind of an edict or a particular thing in mind. It has just happened. We just try to get better week by week, day by day and let things take care of themselves and they have. We have been blessed with having a lot of good people around us.

How have your accomplishments as Athletic Director compared to other accomplishments in your life?

I have never even thought of it that way. You just take it day by day and be the person you are and try to be the best you can. It just kind of flows like that. I have never really looked at it like that - 'well, we've finished this job, let's move on to the next one.' Each day is a challenge. Certainly in this position that is just the way it is. You cannot be surprised. You have to assume that something negative is going to happen somewhere along the line. You are naìve if you are surprised. Like I said I have been really blessed with a lot of good fortune and a lot of good people and good friends that were friends back when I was 'Rick Casares' on the playground. It was my nick name when I was ten years old playing tackle football. Those are some of the same friends I have today.

How long have you been thinking about retiring?

When you hit 60, you start thinking about 62. When you are 59 you don't even think it is going to come, but it does. It was probably right about that time when you start thinking about a personal number and where we were at and what things had been done. I know I don't expect just to disappear because I've been around for so long. Yet, I'd like to have a little bit of that space. It's been a lot of fun. One of the most rewarding things that has happened, regardless of where you might be - you might be in northern Wisconsin, it could be an alumni function in California, or it could be a bowl game, someone will come up to you and say 'thank you.' That is all they will say. And I know what they mean. I was out in the stands in the late 80s myself, and I know what they mean. If they feel that pride we certainly feel good about that.

What is the hardest part about doing the job?

I went back and listened to the tape from when I took the job. One of the things we talked about as a family was giving up a lot of our privacy. That is probably the biggest single thing. You are very public, you are dependant on a lot of moving parts that can go sideways. I think it is stimulating, it is challenging, there is decision-making all the time. It is a chance to run your own business and that was the reason I came here. You could market, you could hire people, you could do financial things, and you could promote and build something. That was the fun part of it certainly. And we have been very successful with the success of the coaches. It has been more than we could have imagined. We didn't really sit down and say 'In five years we'd like to do this...' We never did that. But looking back on it and then trying to compare that to other schools, you have to think that the coaches did a good a damn good job and we are really very proud of them. If you have good people, it doesn't matter what organization it is, it is really predicated on the type of people you have. That is very important.

Do you remember a moment when the magnitude of the job hit you?

The disappointing thing was when we thought we were $1.4 million in debt. Then we had done a little work with the legislature and had shown them what we were trying to do, then someone came back and said that it was really $2.1 million, so it was up 50% higher than we thought it was going to be. We had started some strategic planning, and quite frankly some of the things we established that day are still solid today. But then strategic planning all of a sudden became 'what is going to happen this afternoon?' There were times when we had talked about saying 'Things are really skinny, things were really tough and we need to get back on track. We were talking about maybe taking a month sabbatical, things like that.' We are serious, we had talked about it. I think we all believed that the things we had to do were going to make us stronger even though they were tough decisions and unpleasant perhaps. We would be stronger, going forward. You have to understand that when you look at it this way you are representing the whole organization. There are hundreds of people's jobs that depend on what you do. You have to be sure that you take that into consideration and do it in a way that is delicate, but also make decisions that are not popular in some cases. There is a lot more at stake that you have to put into that equation.

Have there been any specific changes in college athletics since you have been here?

I think it is just a question of more priorities. Early on, football was the major issue and hiring Barry (Alvarez) was the first step. We knew that had to happen. We studied that before it occurred. It was a pretty nice program, everything was going well. We talked to a lot up people and financially we could not survive that way, so football had to get healthy. Once football got healthy, then the rest of the programs were able to maintain that health. Today everybody has to be running on all their cylinders. We've got three revenue generators in football, (men's) basketball, and men's hockey. We need to make sure those are very healthy. You are kind of dependent upon the national marketplaces as far as television, because that is a very important component. Looking forward even though during the days we have looked at how to diversify revenue sources to make sure that we stabilize the department, it is becoming an even more significant area. It maybe falls more towards the private sector because of some of the constraints you have with regard to the state and the budget. We are basically totally self sufficient now. I think those will be constant challenges as long as the state has budget issues. Looking at the rest of the country and intercollegiate athletics, I think everybody is worrying about the same things.

What is the hardest decision you have made at Wisconsin?

Everybody would probably say cutting of sports. That was a hard decision. I love baseball. It was very difficult to sit with teammates while cutting that sport. Looking at it asking how we were going to survive, you knew it had to be some sports. Once you do that, it is kind of like 'what's the difference?' There were a certain number of student-athletes that would be affected. You change their lives dramatically. That was probably the most difficult part. My son Barry was here at the time and he had a lot of friends in school. To see how their lives changed, when they came here with that commitment and suddenly because of things out of their control they no longer had that opportunity. It was difficult in terms of process getting to that point. We had to go through three different meetings because we had to have quorums. We had to go through all of the emotions and build-up before it eventually happened. It was very difficult because people had some expectations that were likely not going to happen. I think probably that was the most difficult time.

Are you burned out now? Is this a burn out job?

I hope not. I feel great. It can be a burn out job. In the release I think it says I am the longest tenured. It has been that way for eight years. I have been the longest serving Athletic Director in the Big Ten since Jim Jones left Ohio State - it has probably been seven or eight years. It can be a burn out job. I think my personality was very level. I don't get too high or low. This job really can grind on you. I mentioned that phone call at home where someone has done something. That is why I make sure that all the athletes have their coaches' phone numbers. It happened to me once in my first year - an athlete called me and when I asked why he didn't call his coach, he said it was because he didn't have his number. I thought 'Okay, you will.' The job is far more rewarding than it is a burnout. I wouldn't stay around long if it was that much of a grinder.

Do you remember how many times you said no to Donna Shalala? What made you finally say yes?

I never really got face-to-face with her much. It was all through my boss at Oscar Mayer. I was approached when Elroy (Hirsch) left and I was just coming back. I said no. Quite frankly, when I took the job, I was trying to get Bob Johnson (former Badger hockey coach) to consider the job. I met with him a couple times. Things had changed at Oscar Mayer and pretty soon it looked like a lot of the functions were going to Chicago, and ultimately my position as head of human resources was going to go to Chicago. At that point I decided that there was a chance to run my own operation, to literally be like a COO or CEO and have the opportunity to do something great and stay in town, with people I enjoy at the University. At that point it was a little easier. It was still difficult giving my privacy up and becoming so public, because that's kind of the way we are. But then the family realized that there as an opportunity here to run a business, so to speak. None of us really knew what it was going to look like or what it would be like, but it was doing something you really enjoyed being involved with. It was weeks or maybe a couple months before things changed. Fortunately a decision hadn't been made, so I could go back and say 'Now the circumstances are right. I feel more comfortable about it.' Oscar Mayer was very good about it - they were very supportive and have always been very supportive. They felt like they owned a piece of it.

What are the immediate challenges for your successor?

I think we are in good shape in the sense that if you look at our reserve, if you look at the people, the place, the coaches and things of that nature. If you compare us to other schools there are certainly some challenging and big decisions that need to be made. We are in the middle of Camp Randall renovations; we've got a lot of debt service that we are going to have to assume. We have to sell the club seats and suites. We all know how we feel in today's environment with what is going on in the world; that will not be an easy task. With the state budget and how that trickled down to the university and the athletic department, it really makes sit up and take notice that things have to continue to do well. You have to be competitive. I think people realize that we are at a point in time now that we will be competitive. We won't sit back and wait if we have revenue generating some problems we are going to attack and get after it real fast. I think in general, the environment and getting that mind set of keeping the public interested, entertained, and coming to the games at a reasonable price - that will be a constant challenge. There is a lot of demand for that entertainment dollar. Some people would come to our games, some people would rather go spend it at the Nitty Gritty. Why, I am not sure...Hi Marsh (Shapiro - owner of the Nitty Gritty restaurant).

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