The Throwback Thursday series will highlight historic individuals who were a part of the Wisconsin Football or Wisconsin Basketball programs. The first article will be on Pat Richter.
Pat Richter is one of the most important figures in not just the history of the Wisconsin football program, but Wisconsin athletics in general. This is why I thought he should be the first subject of the Badger of Honor Throwback Thursday series.
Richter attended Wisconsin as an extremely successful athlete, but he went on to do even more important work for the University’s athletic department as the athletic director.
Growing up in Madison, Richter was a star in multiple sports and wanted to continue to play multiple sports at the next level. He played football, basketball, and baseball. Wisconsin would be a natural choice for him, but they are lucky they got him in the first place.
He was originally committed to the University of Kansas to play basketball. He took a visit to Lawrence, Kansas and committed without even seeing the legendary Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
He was excited about the possibility of playing baseball there too, but a close friend Gene Calhoun convinced him that the baseball program at Kansas was not a very good baseball school. Shortly after, he decided to go to Wisconsin.
As an athlete at Wisconsin, he earned nine letters in football, basketball, and baseball; three in each.
As a part of the Wisconsin football program, Richter played the tight end position. He had a very successful career in football, totaling over 1,800 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in his career. He was an All-American in 1961 and 1962.
In his final Wisconsin football game, the Badgers played #1 USC in the Rose Bowl in 1963. Richter set a Rose Bowl record with 11 catches and 163 yards, where the Badgers went on to lose 42-37.
Richter entered the 1963 NFL Draft and was selected with the 7th pick by the Washington Redskins.
In 1997, he was inducted into the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame.
He was also named to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA Football’s All-Century Team.
Richter made his return to the University in 1989 when then-chancellor Donna Shalala hired him as the athletic director. When he came into the position, there were a lot of problems. The biggest obstacle, however, was getting out of debt.
When he inherited the position, the athletics department was $2.1 million in debt. On top of that,
the facilities were outdated and falling apart, and fan interest was at a low. He had his work cut out for him.
Richter made a lot of changes, including the hiring of Barry Alvarez, who is looked at as a major
reason the Wisconsin football program was revived and has thrived to this day. He is also responsible for the hiring of basketball coaches Stu Jackson, Dick Bennett and Bo Ryan. Bennett and Ryan have both led the Badgers basketball program to Final Fours.
Under Richter, new facilities were constructed, such as the Kohl Center, University Ridge Golf Course, Goodman Softball Diamond and the $98 million renovations of Camp Randall Stadium.
While Richter was the head of the athletics department, three Wisconsin teams won national championships and won more than 50 Big Ten titles. He made being a Badger cool again. He
helped re-create an athletic program the people of Wisconsin could take pride in again. He turned that $2.1 million deficit and turned it into a $6.4 million surplus.
He stepped down in 2004 and was succeeded by the current athletic director, Barry Alvarez. He is still hanging around the Madison area, and has a weekly radio show call The Pat Richter Show, on ESPN Radio.
Wisconsin athletics have never been stronger, and Pat Richter is a crucial part of what is going on in Madison. We all have him to thank for having strong and competitive on a consistent basis.