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Always a Badger: The Pat Richter Story [Paperback]

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Item description for Always a Badger: The Pat Richter Story by Vince Sweeney...

All-American tight end . . . basketball and baseball star . . . winner of Rose Bowl glory. Pat Richter's record as a University of Wisconsin-Madison athlete would be achievement enough for most men. But after making his mark in professional football and the business world, Pat Richter returned to lead the UW athletic program through one of the greatest turn-arounds in the history of college sports. This is Pat Richter's story. From his childhood in the sandlots and playgrounds of Madison, to his record-setting years as one of the greatest Badger athletes, to the gripping story of how he transformed a mediocre, nearly bankrupt sports program into a national powerhouse. From his front-row seat in the UW Athletic department, and with unprecedented access to the movers and shakers, Vince Sweeney gives you an insider's glimpse into sports history. The controversy --- the drama --- the thrills --- and the remarkable determination of Pat Richter, the man who is . . . Always a Badger.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   216
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 31, 2005
Publisher   Trails Books
ISBN  1931599629  
ISBN13  9781931599627  

Availability  0 units.

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1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Sports > Biographies > Football
3Books > Subjects > Sports > Biographies > General
4Books > Subjects > Sports > Football (American) > General
5Books > Subjects > Sports > General

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Pat Richter: a worthwhile biography  Mar 17, 2007
Always a Badger: the Pat Richter story

Biographies of sports figures usually prove a disappointment, even to those who admire of these individuals. Some contain an element of autobiography, where the figure is named as an author together with a well-know sports writer; and for the most part these books are not good. [Exceptions occur when the athlete is articulate, and the writer is well-above average--an unlikely combination. Don Drysdale's (with Bob Verdi) Once a Bum, Always as Dodger is just that.]

Vince Sweeney's Always as Badger: the Pat Richter Story (Trail Books, 2005) is a pleasant reminder that straightforward biographies need not be all bad. Minimally, Hugh V. "Pat" Richter, Jr. has had a two-part adult life: first, as an extraordinary athlete; second, as an imaginative business leader in both private and public sectors. Having known Pat since my teenage years, and watched his work from a distance, I submit that these two features are specially intertwined. One learns much from competitive athletics that serves one's posterity. Sweeney's book establishes this theorem.

I shall not dwell on Richter's athletic skills. These are of the stuff of legends, and well-documented elsewhere. What I can say is that his All-American football years, and his special performance in baseball [to a lesser degree in basketball] at Wisconsin were marked by an uncommon grace. This important disposition seemed to have a significant impact on those with whom he played. Readers will get a sense of this grace in early chapters, and providentially, the notion that it will play a role in Richter's later life.

Richter's post-Madison athletic career was played out with the Washington Redskins. While his NFL records did not approach the fame of his Wisconsin years, the times and personalities prove fascinating. Among the names are these: Otto Graham, Vince Lombardi, Edward Bennett Williams, and Joe DiMaggio. Richter as the leader of the NFL Players Association in the "lockout" of 1970 proves an interesting tale.

Mindful of a need for longer-term employment, Richter had been working on a law degree from the University of Wisconsin in his off-season times. That degree was awarded in 1971. He joins the then privately-held meat packing firm of Oscar Mayer. The 1971-1989 period shows a steady progress for Pat in that firm. One cannot but think that his mentor, P. Goff Beach [Mayer's CEO], had much to do with this; but I know that Goff found Pat one of the best that he had ever attracted to the firm. The reader will find that Richter was a great "reader" of trends in business management, that he understood the long-term consequences of the sale of the Mayer firm, and its subsequent mergers into General Foods and then Kraft.

We have, then, Richter residing in Madison in 1989. If things were not looking up at the Mayer division of Kraft, then southwest of his office, things were looking terrible in the Wisconsin Athletic Department. How bad? Well, large and expanding deficits linked to lousy football performance and over-extended programs; and, most-serious, the economic consequences of Title IX constraints.

This terrible mess at Wisconsin was not unique, but it might have been larger. It would have been good for Sweeney to address this. I have some views on both topics: first, many schools were not sufficiently-led to understand the sea change; second, Wisconsin had many years of very poor leadership both from the top, and at the Director's position. In this time period I would mark up but one institution, the University of Michigan, for excellence in management of its athletic program, where the incomparable Don Canham read the tea leaves, balanced the budget, and produced regular championships in all sports. [The rules of the review provide that I cannot reveal further elements of the Richter-Canham story, but this is another reason to read the book.]

Who would have taken the Wisconsin Athletic Director's position? Well, only a risk taker like Richter. And that is why this book needs reading. You will see the corporate skills [strategic management planning, asset management, and careful selection of human capital] rolled out in a not-for-profit, but large scale enterprise. People to be found, prices to be set, costs to be understood, facilities to be constructed: these are the themes of Richter's leadership. There are the constant tensions between the academic leadership of the University, and those of the state's political leaders. There are, frankly-reported some "hick-ups" along the way. The outcome, in retrospect, looks to be a perfect plan. If Richter had required a book that said that this severally-dimensioned success was his first vision, I might have fallen for it. That Sweeney has got the "fullness" of the starts and stops, is to be celebrated. Economists talk regularly about "learning by doing". In this case we have the chance to see that learning & the doing done pronto.

I am not above offering some criticism of this book's construction. The index is lousy, something that should not happen in this day of electronic composition. A glaring case in point is Pat's wife, Renee, who fails to get named and page-linked. Further, this book needed a better proof-reader.

Two sets of readers will get the most value from this book: those who appreciate the complexity of modern athletic program management, and those who anticipate participating in today's collegiate athletics. With luck, some for the latter will go on--like Pat Richter--to leadership in the arena that the former appreciate.

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