The Mike Alden "era" is ending at the University of Missouri. The athletics director has announced that he will step down in August, after 17 years on the job.
He will be remembered for some of the biggest positives and most horrendous negatives in Missouri athletics history. He is the man who hired a future legend, Gary Pinkel, and forced out an old legend, Norm Stewart.
He raised the money to get a new arena built, only to see its namesake, Paige Laurie, caught up in scandal, causing the $75 million facility to be renamed "Mizzou Arena" just three weeks after its opening.
While Alden hit a home run with Pinkel, who has elevated Tiger football to an elite level, he has had major problems with basketball coaches. In 1999, he chose Quin Snyder over Bill Self. While Self went on to great success at Illinois and Kansas, Snyder self destructed at Mizzou. After reaching four straight NCAA tournaments, including a 2002 run to the Elite-8, Snyder's teams stumbled over his last three seasons.
In addition, the NCAA found Snyder guilty of committing 17 rules violations, leading to three years probation.On top of that, a Snyder recruit, Ricky Clemons, was jailed for domestic abuse. While in jail, Clemons' taped phone calls made national headlines.His conversations with the wives of MU System President Elson Floyd and Associate AD Ed Stewart were a deep embarrassment for Alden and the entire university.
Few argued against cutting ties with Snyder, but Alden botched the job, sending Tigers basketball radio analyst Gary Link to deliver the message to the coach. Instead of exiting gracefully, Snyder ripped Alden publicly, resigning with several weeks remaining in the 2006 season.
The uproar was almost Alden's undoing. On the day he introduced new coach Mike Anderson, the AD was very nearly fired, only receiving a vote of confidence in the minutes after Anderson's press conference.
Anderson calmed the waters, winning games and ending the off court drama. But, when he chose to leave for Arkansas in 2011, Alden's decision to hire Frank Haith was a shocker. Haith had done very little at Miami to impress people, and he was soon caught up in the NCAA's investigation of Miami's basketball recruiting. That scandal would hang over Haith, and Mizzou, for two full years.
Alden quietly pushed Haith toward another job in 2014, leading to his exit to Tulsa. That opened the door for former MU player and assistant Kim Anderson's hire.
While basketball has been a problem, most other sports have thrived under Alden's leadership. And the AD is widely considered one of the nation's top fundraisers.
In 2010, Alden steered Missouri through conference realignment, pushing school officials to campaign for a spot in the Big 10. When that did not come to fruition, Alden spearheaded the move to the SEC. The new league has meant a stable home, but it also killed one of the greatest rivalries in college athletics. The famed "Border War" rivalry with Kansas ended with MU's move out of the Big 12. Alden had hoped to broker a non-conference series with KU, only to be rebuffed.
While there is much to like about the SEC, losing ancient rivals has hurt Missouri in many ways. Alden has to hope that MU can develop a new rival (Arkansas?), or convince KU officials to change their minds, and restart the "Border War."
Through all the ups and downs, Mike Alden has remained a positive figure. He stuck by Gary Pinkel, when many wanted to change coaches, and he has been a tremendous ambassador for Tiger athletics. When no one was returning media phone calls, Alden would pick up the phone.
He says he will remain in Columbia, teaching some classes in the College of Education. A national search for his replacement has already begun. It is highly doubtful that the person who follows in his footsteps will be able to completely fill his shoes.
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