Pat Richter, a three-sport letterwinner and former athletic director, is considered one of the greatest figures in Wisconsin sports history. On Saturday, he will be honored when his number 88 is officially retired and unveiled amongst fellow Badger legends on the west side of the stadium facade.
Pat Richters legend began right here in Madison where he was a three-sport star at Madison East High School. While there, he helped the Purgolders win the 1958 WIAA State Basketball Championship as well as earning all-city honors in both football and basketball the next year.
In September of 1959, Richter arrived on campus with a basketball scholarship and officially became a Badger. He went out for the freshman football team and wound up as a co-captain.
Richter made the varsity team as a sophomore. He earned a starting role in head coach Milt Bruhns double tight end system as a receiving tight end. In his first game as a Badger, a season-opening 24-7 victory at Stanford, Richter set a school record with seven pass receptions for 75 yards. A few weeks later, in Wisconsins Big Ten opener, Richter matched his record-setting performance as he caught another seven passes for 110 yards in a 24-12 victory over seventh-ranked Purdue.
As the Badgers entered their homecoming game against Michigan on Oct. 29, Richters 24 pass receptions for 326 yards left him just one catch shy of tying Jerry Witts school-record for pass receptions in a season and just 60 yards short of Dave Schreiners record for most receiving yards in a season.
On the third play of the game Richter caught a 36-yard pass, tying Witts record. However, as Richter went back to the huddle after being tackled by Michigan defender Benn McRae, he realized that he had broken his collarbone.
Richter didnt let his shoulder injury hamper the rest of his sophomore year. After rejoining the basketball team in December, Richter appeared in 13 games, scored 37 points and managed 55 rebounds en route to earning his first basketball letter.
Richters legend grew as he moved from one sport to another. Once basketball season was over, it was time to concentrate on baseball. Richter had four hits in his first collegiate game. He split time between outfield and first base that season. Richter earned All-Big Ten honors as he led the team in games played (29), runs scored (28), hits (43), doubles (13), triples (4), home runs (7), RBIs (23) and batting average (.398).
When the 1961 football season rolled around, there was much hype surrounding Richter, the preseason All-American. During that 6-3 season for the Badgers, Richter led the nation with eight touchdown receptions and 817 receiving yards. He went on to earn All-Big Ten and first-team All-American honors. That year, Richter continued to play basketball and baseball. His 10 straight games with two or more hits and 10 consecutive games with scoring at least one run were school records, and helped him to earn second-team All-Big Ten honors.
As a senior co-captain on the 1962 football team, Richter continued making a name for himself. Playing through a painful hip pointer in the home opener against Indiana, Richter caught five passes for 72 yards and one touchdown. After a big win against Notre Dame, the Iowa Hawkeyes came into Camp Randall Stadium. During that game Richter suffered a broken ring finger, but that didnt stop him from catching six passes for 56 yards and one touchdown. The following week the Badgers were ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll.
The last game of that season was a battle for the Big Ten title versus Minnesota. In what turned out to be a wild game in front of a sold-out crowd at Camp Randall Stadium, Richter had six catches for 82 yards, but it was his punting that saved the day for the Badgers. At the end of the game UW failed to run out the clock forcing Richter to punt from his own goal line. His 51-yard boot ended the Gophers hopes and earned Wisconsin a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth. Richter concluded that season by not only leading the Big Ten in passes caught with 32, but he also led in punting with a 39.5 yard average.
Despite losing the 1963 Rose Bowl, a game in which Richter set records with 11 passes caught and 163 receiving yards, Richter earned national recognition. He was named first-team All-Big Ten and All-American by many national publications. After appearing in eight games for the basketball team, Richter finished his Wisconsin athletic career on the baseball diamond. He tied for the team lead in home runs (6) and hits (38) that season. Richter ended his baseball career with 20 home runs, 74 RBIs while hitting an impressive .339 in 82 career games. Richter was awarded his third W letter in baseball in 1963, making him Wisconsins first nine-time letterwinner since 1927. Since then, nobody has been able to accomplish this feat.
After much thought about what sport he wanted to pursue professionally, Richter finally chose football by signing a contract with the NFLs Washington Redskins.
In 1989, Richter came back to the Wisconsin athletic scene when he was named the ninth director of intercollegiate athletics in school history. Richter inherited a program that was $2.1 million in debt, had decaying facilities, several struggling teams and eroding fan support. In what may have been Richters greatest accomplishment as a Badger, he eliminated the athletic departments debt and turned it into a surplus, hired future athletic director Barry Alvarez, oversaw the building of the Kohl Center, the Camp Randall Renovation project and the Fetzer Academic Center, all while instilling his competitive edge into Badger athletics and preserving the integrity of the department.
On Saturday, we recognize these achievements of one of the greatest Badgers ever as Pat Richters name and number will forever live on where it should, among the greatest in Camp Randall Stadium.