Mike Alden sets end date as Mizzou AD, what legacy will he leave?

 

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The tenure of Mike Alden as the Athletic Director of the University of Missouri is coming to an end. Alden announced via press release on Thursday afternoon that he will be leaving the post on August 31 of 2015 as the second longest tenured AD (behind Don Faurot, 1946-66) in university history.

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Alden came to Mizzou in 1998 from Southwest Texas (now Texas State), where he was hired as the Athletic Director in 1996. He began his career in administration at Arizona State in 1985. He was hired by Mizzou on July 16, 1998, succeeding Joe Caastiglione in the position.

Today, in a presser, he said, “Our family has been so blessed by this institution. If you think about the things that are going on in our community and the amazing opportunities that are out there in front of our University and our athletic programs, if you truly want to try to be selfless, if you truly want to be a servant leader, if you truly want to let other people be the drum major, and you really believe that in your core, then you want to take that baton and you want to hand it to somebody else. That’s what we want to do. That was our choice. This is the perfect time.”

AP Photo/L.G. Patterson An emotional Mike Alden at this morning's press conference.

AP Photo/L.G. Patterson
An emotional Mike Alden at this morning’s press conference.

“My heart sank a little bit because we’ve never been doing better,” Chancellor Bowen Loftin said today. “You can’t replace Mike Alden.”

Yesterday in a release, he said: “Over seventeen years of service to the University of Missouri, Mike has transformed our athletics program into one of the nation’s best, with world-class student-athletes, coaches, staff, facilities, affiliations and financial resources.  He led our institution’s move to the Southeastern Conference and has been at the helm as our teams won multiple championships over the years. Though I am saddened that Mike will no longer be a member of our leadership team and leading our Department of Athletics, I am truly happy for him and Rockie as he embarks on a new challenge here at Mizzou. Mike will always be a part of our family.”

“Mike has been a transformative leader for Missouri Athletics since 1998 and he has commanded national respect across the college athletics landscape for his service on numerous NCAA committees,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in a statement. “Mike played a critical role in the transition of Missouri into the Southeastern Conference and I will always remember his calm demeanor, his authoritative presence and his infectious enthusiasm as he introduced the Mizzou tradition to the SEC.”

Alden leaves behind a legacy dotted with controversies. Much of the tenure of Quinn Snyder was something to be forgotten. The Ricky Clemons saga put a stain on much of the Athletic Department for a time. There was the alleged rape and suicide of Sasha Menu Courey which prompted an ESPN Outside the Lines investigation. ESPN Outside the Lines investigation.

And most recently, the departure of Frank Haith, which was a hire widely panned by national media and Mizzou fans alike. The long term ramifications for the harm Haith has done to the program have yet to be seen, but in the short term it is quite obvious the basketball program has reached a low point many Mizzou fans are not accustomed.

Which leads us to the current basketball coach. Alden’s decision to bring true son Kim Anderson back to his roots, becoming the men’s basketball coach despite never having a head coaching job higher than Central Missouri University, was a controversial one that seemed to split the fan base. We said it was a bad hire then (http://kcsportsnation.com/2014/04/official-missouri-longer-cares-basketball-hires-d2-true-son-kim-anderson-ec/) and, although we may have been a little harsh, we’re sticking to our take, but we also realize none of this is his fault…yet.

As with any person of leadership over something so volatile as a college athletics department, there will be controversies. To last for 17 years speaks volumes to Alden’s abilities to deal with those controversies and find ways to still make Mizzou athletics a leading school in collegiate sports.

“Have we made some mistakes along the way? Absolutely we have,” Alden said. “When I came in 1998 people said, national championships, what are you talking about? We just gotta win some games.”

After turmoil began surfacing in the Big 12, Alden led Missouri to the SEC Conference – the premier conference in college football. With record television and media deals, this move alone has helped secure the financial future of Missouri for years to come. (http://missouribusinessalert.com/industry/10129/2012/09/10/study-shows-mu-athletics-economic-impact-past-present-and-sec/).

Under Alden, Missouri’s annual athletics budget has grown from $13.7 million to $85 million and has benefited from $265 million in private donations that have helped fund $233.2 million in facilities upgrades.

He oversaw the hire of Gary Pinkel, who is taken Missouri football from the doormat of conference play to one that has seen five division titles since 2007 and its winningest 10-season (2005-2014) stretch in the program’s history and 10 bowl games in 12 seasons since 2003. Bar none, this is one that Mike Alden got right. Pinkel has taken over as the all-time winningest coach at MU, and is showing no signs of slowing down. In the world of college athletics, the success of Athletic Directors is, fairly or not, most closely tied to the success of the football program, and for that reason alone Alden has been seen as a success despite some of the bumps and bruises suffered from the basketball program. Without Gary Pinkel, Alden may not have been able to usher Mizzou into a new era with the move to the SEC.

Often, fans forget that the Athletic Director has to oversee more than just basketball and football. Alden has done well to aide the rise of these facets of MU athletics as well. The Mizzou volleyball team captured the first SEC Championship in any sport since the conference move, finishing with a perfect regular season record during the 2013 Season. The baseball team won the 2012 conference championship in the final year in Big 12 play. Softball has seen a string of success during the Alden era, with three College World Series appearances. The Mizzou wrestling program under the direction of Brian Smith has prospered. Smith won the Dan Gable Coach of the Year award in 2007 and Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2012.

Many of these are accomplishments that the majority of sports fans don’t see or know about, but ones that Mike Alden presided over daily. Each and every sport, by and large, has grown and prospered in the last two decades. With updated facilities and an ever-improving national presence, Alden has elevated Missouri to a place that has become desirable for recruits and coaches alike.

“I would have never come to the University of Missouri, ever, without Mike Alden,” Pinkel said. “I love Mizzou, I always want to be here. I’ve come out publicly and said that. As long as we’re always trying to get better. We’re not ever sitting back. Every single year we’re trying to improve, for me, our football program and certainly our athletic department.

“I believe Bowen Loftin is very, very good at what he does.”

Unfortunately, Alden was never able to capture a national title in basketball or football, but with the groundwork he has laid it has become closer to reality than we ever thought possible when he took the job 17 years ago.

“As far as the legacy, other people will determine what that will be,” Alden added. “As for now, I’m still the Director of Athletics. Nothing’s different right now. We still do everything the same way. We’re full steam ahead, a hundred miles an hour, which we always do and we’ll keep doing that until they get the next person in place.”

Who’s will that next person be?

Easy targets would be some of Alden’s former assistants: Whit Babcock, currently the Athletic Director at Virginia Tech, Ross Bjork, the Athletic Director at Ole Miss and Mario Moccia, who recently took the Athletic Director job at New Mexico State.

However, Loftin, who will head the process to find Alden’s replacement, said he has no predetermined successor in mind.

“It will be a careful, deliberate process, but it will not be terribly lengthy,” he said. “Last time we did this, it took about six weeks. I’m confident we will find a tremendous leader to carry us forward.”

I think it is possible that Kim Anderson’ leash becomes a lot shorter with a new AD in place. I think he would have had AT LEAST four years to build the program his way. Now, maybe not, since new AD’s are never as attached to a coach that wasn’t their hire.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity he’s given me,” Anderson added. I didn’t know it was coming, but I don’t want to let him down. So I’m going to keep fighting. Mike’s been so good to me in my short time here.”

“I know Chancellor Loftin will do a great job in selecting the new athletic director and look forward to working with whoever that is. I’m a Mizzou guy. I came here to hopefully do a good job of building this program and Mike Alden was one of the reasons I came, I’m not going to lie to you. I’m happy to be here, I just look forward to working with (Alden’s replacement).”

Question is, will he be looking forward to it as much as you, Kim?

 

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