University of Wisconsin athletic director and former Badger football star Pat Richter will step down from his post today after over 14 years of service.
Richter, who stood as the Big Ten Conference’s longest-tenured director of athletics, will be replaced by Wisconsin head football coach Barry Alvarez.
“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.”
Under Richter’s watch, the state of UW athletics has made a drastic turnaround.
When he inherited the athletic director position in 1989, the program was $2.1 million in debt, several teams were struggling and fan support was dwindling.
The athletic department has since eliminated its financial deficit and built an operating reserve. Additionally, a number of first-class facilities have been built, including the Kohl Center and the Fetzer Academic Learning Center.
“The challenges have been many, but we’ve attacked them with a sense of purpose and integrity,” Richter said. “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.”
During Richter’s reign, the Badgers won three national championships and 49 Big Ten team titles. Wisconsin also made nine football bowl appearances and produced more academic All-Big Ten honorees than any other school in the conference.
“[Richter] has done some amazing things,” UW head volleyball coach Pete Waite said. “As a person growing up in the area, I watched the program when the football team was not doing well and the crowds weren’t coming. I left for college and work, and during that time things changed dramatically. So, when I came back, it was awesome to see the football team doing great things. The basketball team cranked it up and was going to Final Fours and winning Big Ten championships, and the women’s volleyball team is doing great things. He has just been solid and really great in his decision-making by getting great coaches and letting them do their jobs.”
One of the most notable decisions Richter made during his tenure as athletic director is his 1990 hiring of Barry Alvarez from national champion Notre Dame to coach football.
In his 14 seasons at the helm, Alvarez has led Wisconsin to three Big Ten titles, three Rose Bowl victories and a 7-2 record in nine bowl-game appearances.
With Richter’s retirement today, Alvarez will now assume the dual role of being head football coach and athletic director.
“Barry (Alvarez) 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.”
Coach Alvarez realizes the great challenges that await him as UW’s athletic director, but is excited to fill the position and looks forward to building upon the program’s 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.”
Due to Alvarez’s successful coaching resumé and experience dealing with coaches, Coach Waite feels his colleague suits the position well.
“Obviously, a lot of the coaches are in place, and there isn’t a lot of turnover in areas. So, it’s a nice, smooth transition,” Coach Waite said. “Barry has been in charge of a large group of coaches in the past just within his staff, so I think he’s pretty accustomed to running a big show. He’s excited about it; I think everyone is excited to have him in the position, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Alvarez will succeed one of the University of Wisconsin’s most prized figures.
As well as being a successful athletic director, Pat Richter is also one of the program’s most celebrated athletes.
He lettered three times each in football, basketball and baseball — thus becoming the last nine-time letter-winner in school history — and earned All-American honors 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 versus No. 1-rated USC.
Due to his storied baseball career and general love for the game, cutting America’s Pastime from Badger athletics was one of the most difficult choices he had to make during his tenure as athletic director.
“(Cutting baseball) was a hard decision. I love baseball. It was very difficult to sit with teammates while cutting that sport,” Richter said. “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.”
Although baseball was phased out during his tenure, Pat Richter ultimately had a profound and positive impact on UW athletics as they exist today.
And the memory of his accomplishments will not soon be forgotten.
“I think he’s been a great stability to the program,” Coach Waite said. “He’s been someone to rely on always being there, has been great with the public and a great administrator with the athletic department.”