As Alden’s lengthy AD tenure wraps up, search for replacement begins

Alden: “If you think over the course of almost two decades, there’s always things you’re going to go back on, look at and recognize.”
Outgoing athletic director Mike Alden speaks at a conference Jan. 29, 2015. Alden is headed to MU’s College of Education after 17 years as athletic director.

Off I-70, by Kingdom City, there’s a gas station with an unlikely connection to MU athletics history.

The name of this station is Gasper’s Truck Stop, and it’s where on July 4, 1998, over a modest meal of eggs and coffee, then-Chancellor Richard Wallace offered a 40-year-old Mike Alden the position of athletic director.

On the evening of Jan. 29, 2015, after a long and accomplished tenure, Alden released a letter online to announce his resignation as athletic director.

“After several months of contemplation,” the virtual letter read, “I have decided that it is time for a change, both for me and for the University that I so dearly love. I have informed Chancellor (R. Bowen) Loftin of my decision to step down as the Director of Athletics.”

Alden said he’s been thinking about stepping down and “toying around with” transitioning into something new for years.

His resignation is effective Aug. 31.

As athletic director at MU, Alden saw five basketball coaches, two football coaches, three chancellors and 17 classes of athletes come and go.

Moreover, he successfully led the university’s transition from the Big 12 into the Southeastern Conference in 2011.

Under Alden’s leadership, MU athletics has improved both financially, with its budget growing from $13.7 million to $85 million, and academically, reaching No. 2 in the SEC after Vanderbilt.

But the Missouri football program has benefited the most.

Prior to Alden’s arrival, Mizzou football was barely on the map. However, his hiring of head coach Gary Pinkel has helped lead the team to two Big 12 North and two SEC East titles, along with a program-record seven consecutive bowl appearances.

“I was most impressed by Mike’s integrity,” Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton said. “Mike and I learned very quickly that we shared a commitment to doing the right thing the right way. And I think that his commitment to that simple principle has led to his success as athletic director.”

Despite all of his successes on the field, the department has experienced its fair share of criticism under Alden.

There were multiple Title IX controversies, especially during the latter part of his tenure.

In March 2014, allegations against MU were brought to light by an ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” investigation that stated the university did not pursue a 2010 rape case involving swimmer Sasha Menu Courey.

After receiving little help from the university in dealing with the aftermath, Menu Courey committed suicide in June 2011.

In August 2014, another “Outside the Lines” report revealed allegations against Missouri tailback Derrick Washington.

Washington was investigated in 2008 for allegedly sexually assaulting a female student in an MU residence hall, according to the story. The football player was never released or penalized for his actions, though he was later convicted of sexual assault in a separate case and served four months in prison.

The university responded to the report swiftly. They modified MU’s Title IX protocol to designate all university employees as mandatory reporters of sexual assault.

“If you think over the course of almost two decades, there’s always things you’re going to go back on, look at and recognize,” Alden said. “You have mistakes, you could have done things better, you have some stumbles.

“You’re regretful that things happen, but what you hope is if they happen, and you know, inevitably, something is going to happen, how you’re able to approach that, learn from it and go forward. Those are the things that I really choose to focus on.”

Although he is leaving his position in the athletics department, Alden has no plans to leave the university. He will transition into the College of Education, where he will be an instructor in the Positive Coaching Program, as well as a teacher of leadership in higher education.

“It’s a great opportunity and something that’s pretty consistent for me,” Alden said of the Positive Coaching Program. “Those are things that I’ve been doing, at least on occasion, getting into a classroom and doing things. I’ll be doing it on a much more regular basis.”

Alden wears a wristband that was given to him by student-athletes. The keepsake displays a very clear message: “demanding not demeaning.”

“That, in itself, is the essence of positive coaching,” Alden said. “That’s what we’re trying to do with regards to that program.”

Additionally, Alden will have a key role in the launching of the Center for Global Service Learning Leadership.

The goal of the center, according to Alden’s letter, is to “harness the tremendous service interests of our students and faculty into leadership curriculum, (which will allow us) to take our campus to the next step in the development of our students and our positive impact on the world.”

Now that Alden has decided to step down, the search for his replacement is underway.

Loftin has been here before.

In 2012, while still serving as president of Texas A&M University, Loftin was forced to find a replacement for retiring Athletic Director Bill Byrne.

It took him just six weeks to find the man who would lead TAMU into the SEC.

Loftin said he has immense respect for Alden, but will begin to pursue a successor in the coming days.

“We will do the search right,” Loftin said. “It will be a careful process, but not terribly lengthy.”

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