Former athletics director Mike Alden talks state of Mizzou Athletics

Alden: “Missourians expect that; they want to see their athletic director in their community.”
Athletic Director Mike Alden speaks at a news conference on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 in at Mizzou Arena. Alden answered questions related to the latex ESPN Outside the Lines report about alleged sexual assaults committed by former Mizzou football player Derrick Washington.

Families, friends and former coaches gathered Thursday at Hickman High School, the alma mater of Missouri wrestler J’den Cox, and there, clad in gold, was former athletic director Mike Alden.

Alden, who now is an associate teaching professor in the Department of Educational, School & Counseling Psychology at Missouri, said he got a call Thursday morning from Cathy Cox, J’den’s mom, asking him to come out. Alden said he had some events planned but canceled them because of how much he admires Cox’s family.

Alden held the Tigers’ athletics chair for 17 years, so he spoke to reporters on Thursday about Cox, first-year football coach Barry Odom and the athletics director position. Here’s what he had to say:

On the joy Alden takes in seeing the athlete and person Cox has come to be…

Mike Alden: I think when you have the opportunity to observe a young man like J’den Cox, you know there’s so much more to him than simply one of the best wrestlers in the world. His character and the way that he conducts himself in the community and throughout the world is something I think all of us can expect, admire and learn from.

On what interaction was like with Cox when Alden was the athletic director…

MA: I knew J’den when he was in high school. During the recruiting process with Cathy and his dad, I had an opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with him, and I’ve watched J’den grow up in Columbia, Missouri. To be able to watch him grow as a young man, to mature in his faith, to mature in his academic pursuits — it’s been exciting and humbling for me, just to be able to watch that and how proud all of us are of the way he represents our community.

On his reaction to the news of former athletics director Mack Rhoades leaving and the reports that former deputy athletic director and current interim athletic director Wren Baker, too, is on his way out…

MA: You become surprised when those types of things take place, and certainly you want to take a look at the longevity and continuing to have things move forward and in a positive direction. However, those kinds of things take place. People make decisions for whatever reasons, but the one thing that gives me confidence on what we’re doing in the athletic program at Mizzou is a certain layer of folks that continue to work hard each and every day and are doing great things with regards to the athletic program. So, as the institution goes out and identifies the next athletic director, your confidence comes from the infrastructure that you already have in place that’s been there for quite some time that’s going to continue to move the ship forward. However, you got to find stability and we’ll be able to do that. Mizzou is going to attract an outstanding candidate, I’m sure of it, and I know I look forward to the next step.

On the possibility of being the interim athletics director and people throwing this name out on Twitter…

MA: It’s flattering when people [mention your name in part of these things]. You know, maybe we had done quite a few things in a positive way, but for me, my focus is what we’re trying to do in the College of Education and with international engagement. However, any opportunity that I get, if someone has some questions or I can be of assistance, I’m always there for them. Mizzou knows that we love the institution, so I try to be as supportive as I can in whatever way I can.

On what Barry Odom has done thus far and what he’s going to do....

MA: I believe Barry Odom is a heck of a football coach and is going to be a great football coach for Mizzou. I’ve known him since he was a junior in college and I really like the way I’m watching Barry put his stamp on the program. Not only from his staff that he’s been able to develop, but certainly from a programmatic standpoint, from an impression standpoint, from a recruiting standpoint — I think he’s doing a lot of really solid things. He’s built off the successes that we’ve had and is adding his stamp to it and his mark on it, which you need to do. So, I think step-by-step he’s going to continue to build this program into one that is very successful. We had a lot of success under his predecessor and I believe that Barry, over the course of some time, is going to deliver some real exciting results.

On what he thinks are the important traits for the new athletic director to be successful…

MA: There’s a number of important traits. There are three: One is that you have to be connected with people throughout the state of Missouri. Missourians expect that; they want to see their athletic director in their community. They want to make sure that person is visible and doing a variety of things. A second characteristic is you want to look at someone who has great mentoring capabilities to be able to grow and develop the staff to be outstanding in everything they’re trying to do and that they can overachieve — no different than a coach doing that with their student-athletes. And then finally, you want to identify that athletic director that truly wants to be at Mizzou. This is a destination spot, it really is. It’s an SEC job, a great institution, a great job and everything in the state of Missouri centers around Mizzou, so those three things are critical.

On what a deep run in these Olympics for Cox could do for the overall face of Mizzou Athletics…

MA: I think it’s immeasurable, what this already is going to be doing for the University of Missouri. When you see Mizzou on the world stage through the window of an outstanding wrestler and person like J’den Cox, that immediately is bringing a great value added component to our institution. As he gets exposure meeting people throughout the world, as an advertising vehicle and a connection vehicle, I think it’s going to be exponentially exciting to see what he can do not only for Mizzou but for our community and for our state. He’s an example of what we’re all trying to accomplish here, and it gives us a chance to have a lot of people connect with what we’re trying to do at Mizzou in a positive way.

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