In announcing his resignation from the Athletic Director position at the University of Wisconsin, Pat Richter gave the program one last gift.
Fourteen months notice.
The 61-year old former All-American and NFL veteran was expected to relinquish his position at the age of 62, and that is precisely what he will do. But the timing of his announcement gives the university until April 1, 2004 to prepare for his departure.
Chancellor John Wiley said the period of transition is essential to the continued health of the athletic department.
"We're very fortunate to have a good solid year to arrange a smooth transition," Wiley said. "That's invaluable for our planning. We'll put a very solid transition together."
Richter held a press conference in the Kohl Center media room Friday afternoon to announce what had been widely speculated over the last couple of years. He wanted to make the announcement public and begin the transition process.
After inheriting a $2.1 million budget deficit in 1989, Richter led a miraculous turnaround for the UW. The program has won three national championships, 49 Big Ten championships and appeared in the men's basketball Final Four in his tenure. The school has also built several state-of-the-art facilities, including the Kohl Center and the University Ridge Golf Courts, under his direction.
The catalyst for the resurrection was the resurgence of the once dormant UW football program. The hiring of Alvarez in 1990 has led to eight bowl appearances, including three Rose Bowl victories.
Alvarez will look to build on that legacy, taking on the immense responsibility of a dual role as AD and head football coach. The move is something Alvarez has pondered since his days as a linebacker at Nebraska, where his coach, Bob Devaney, assumed both roles.
"I've really tried to pattern (myself) after a lot of things he's done and followed his footsteps. That's always been in the back of my mind," Alvarez said. "I mentioned that to Pat, probably in our first discussion."
In preparation for the role, Alvarez asked Richter to become a part of the management team three years ago. Alvarez has served as an Associate Athletic Director, which has given him an opportunity to experience the administrative side of the business.
Richter tried to talk Alvarez out of taking on a dual role, but was unsuccessful.
"I kept telling him for the last couple of years when we talked about this, `There's no way you want to do this. Are you sure you want to do this? Why would you want to do this?'" Richter said. "I tried to give him a flavor of exactly what he's going to face.
"If somebody keeps coming back saying, `I'm still in it,' that's important, because it's not something you can go into casually. He's capable."
Prior to accepting the job, Alvarez consulted with several peers in the business that have taken on dual roles, including Arizona's John Mackovic and UNLV's John Robinson. Alvarez is the first person to tackle the challenge in the Big Ten since Michigan State's George Perles (1990-92) and Illinois' Mackovic (1988-91).
While Alvarez is looking forward to handling more responsibility, Richter is excited to finally get a chance to relax, play more golf with his friends and enjoy life.
"There's never a right time. But for me, this is fine. I feel great. Health wise, I feel terrific," Richter said. "There are a lot of other things to do. I mentioned to someone about Mark McGwire. At some point you just want to kind of step out of the limelight."
At the age of 56, Alvarez feels he has many good years ahead. He made it a point to address the inevitable concern that he will soon retire from his duties as a football coach.
Alvarez said he is not looking cease coaching in the near future, and his No. 1 emphasis will remain the football program.
"I want to make it perfectly clear, to eliminate any negative recruiting, that I plan on continuing to be the football coach, and I'm very excited about the future of our football program," Alvarez said.
Until the day arrives that Alvarez steps down and names his successor, he will rely on top associates to handle many of the day-to-day responsibilities that come with the AD position.
"I would not have considered this job had there not been good people in place," Alvarez said. "People that I can count on, people that I can trust, people that are bright in their areas. I will have a deputy on the administrative side. But I feel as though I can communicate between the two, and with good leadership and support beneath me, be able to handle it."
Pat Richter Steps Down; Alvarez New AD
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