Certainly, the change over from the Lude era to the Hedges era was disastrous with regard to Husky football as it really ended a fifteen year climb to the top of mountain.
When we won the National Championship in 1992 following the 1991 season, I can remember how sad I was that Mike wasn't the one to accept the trophy on behalf of the Athletic Department. It was really a shame that he had been stripped of the title as AD only a year before we hit the peak. He had built the program together with Coach James and the two of them were an unbeatable combination.
Mike Lude still has the longest tenure of any Athletic Director in the history of the school. We were on the verge of adding women sports when he was ousted by then UW President so all his plans and efforts were automatically credited to Hedges as well.
To put it simply, Mike Lude got screwed by then UW President Bill Gerberding. I saw it happen to Marv Harshman then finally Don James. The three of them were my role models if ever I had any in the profession. All three were great coaches, good Christians, and wonderful human beings. They were the best at what they did and nationally recognized by their peers and the media. They are the icons of modern day Husky athletics.
When I went to see Mike, he was plugging his soon-to-be-released book, titled, Walking The Line, as in sideline. He was as pumped up about his literary project as he was about running the most financially successful athletic department in western America.
When Mike came into power for the Huskies, they were close to a half million dollars in debt. When Mike turned over the reigns to Barbara Hedges, there was close to a 20 million dollar surplus. He was tight. He was an autocrat. He was decisive and he was fair. He surrounded himself with people who wanted to be there. He sold you on being part of his team and he was convincing. He sold the public on being part of the team as well. And, he did it all without charging a surcharge just for the right to buy your seats.
Mike Lude always remained loyal to the program, even after being fired by Gerberding. He regularly showed up to our road games and he never seemed to age. In spite of a bout with prostate cancer, Mike Lude looks as good today as he did years ago. He was always in shape, as he was a Marine.
Lude will always be Washington's premier athletic director. He always put football first because it was the money maker and because he himself was a former football coach. Being a football guy myself, I loved the approach and still think football should be given special considerations with regard to Title Nine because it essentially pays for most of the other sports, all of the women's sports.
Lude's book is about football, and about his journey of life. I immediately ordered and read it because Mike was the one who hired me and placed great responsibility in my hands. Sure, Lude might not have like everything about me but he admired my honesty and truthfulness. Those were two things he insisted upon. There was never any shortage of those two virtues.
I held the compliance position at Washington before there was such a thing as "compliance." We were at the forefront of rules education and dissemination. There was more "institutional control" under Mike Lude than at any school in America, because he mandated it at all times. There was to be no cheating in recruiting and he was going to hold me personally responsible for that. He was a very direct man, which made him an outstanding director.
Looking back on the end of the James era, I can honestly say that none of our problems following the Billy Hobert scandal would have happened if Mike Lude had still been in power. When Bill Gerberding decided to expose all that could be uncovered, no matter how trivial, Mike Lude would have stepped in and confined the scandal to just the Billy Joe situation.
He wouldn't have asked current players to come into his office and admit to stuff that never happened, but that's another article.
We took great pride in knowing the rules and Mike was right there with us. He knew them as well but expected me to be an expert on them and to make sure I taught them well to all our players, coaches, and alums. It was an order I took seriously and out of respect to Mike, I worked diligently towards that end.
When the school's marvelous lawyers ended up confessing to a lack of institutional control in our "defense", I knew then that losing Mike Lude was like losing our rudder. He would have used his considerable clout to get us through those rough waters. With the crap he had to take from Gerberding for so many years, the NCAA would have been a piece of cake for him. He had connections, dignity, and a strong and forceful belief in God and himself. Mostly, he would've defended this because he believed in the integrity of his coach and he would have fought vigorously to defend Don.
When it was all over we lost a great, great coach simply because they refused to publicly defend him. Mike Lude would not only have defended him, he would have totally exonerated him.
It's all now the past, but it's very much a shame that it all went down the way it did. Lude's story is a great one, and can be ordered over the internet at email@example.com or at huskyfever.com. I would highly recommend it to any Husky fan because it is so much about being a Husky.
Lude is still married to his bride of 56 years, Rena, and is still one of the greatest Huskies of modern times. His is a story of a life in football. It is co written by legendary PI columnist, Bill Knight and will be a must read for Husky followers.
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