Outgoing Missouri athletic director Mike Alden knows that his time is running short.
Alden, who announced Jan. 29 that he would retire, turned in his courtesy car, a sleek Chevy Silverado crew cab, and bought a Prius, which at least gets much better gas mileage on trips to the family farm in Williamsburg, Mo.
That erased all doubt, he said. The end is nigh.
Alden, 56, packed up his office two weeks ago — so the carpet could be shampooed and the grout in the bathroom scrubbed before his successor, Mack Rhoades, takes over April 27 — and moved into a temporary space in the MU School of Business.
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Eventually, Alden will transition to an office in the MU School of Education, where he will teach leadership courses as part of the Positive Coaching Program.
He met with a scrum of media Tuesday as something of an exit interview, recapping nearly 17 seasons at the helm of the Tigers’ athletic department.
Alden doesn’t want to be responsible for defining his own legacy, but several hallmarks of success are clear.
He took over an athletic department with a $13.7 million budget.
Alden said that Missouri’s 2016 fiscal-year budget is projected to be around $95 million and that the department should eclipse a $100 million operating budget by 2017, a spike of nearly 730 percent in less than two decades.
Across campus, there are concrete examples of Alden’s impact, including multiple expansions of Memorial Stadium, Mizzou Arena and the Mizzou Athletic Training Center — projects that were built on his watch.
Alden, who entertained 40 student-athletes at his house for dinner Monday night, said it’s relationships with Missouri’s student-athletes and the athletic department staff that he’ll miss most.
He also said that fostering those relationships is becoming more challenging for athletic directors nationwide as the commercial, legal and national issues swirling around college athletics demand more time.
Alden is “very proud to be associated” with the Tigers’ move to the Southeastern Conference, a decision the student-athletes have embraced and that puts the athletic department on relatively sure footing for decades to come, he said.
That, along with hiring Gary Pinkel to resurrect Missouri’s football program, are easily Alden’s biggest professional successes.
Both also have helped spur MU to greater national prominence, which also has a positive impact on the wider university and its higher-education aspirations.
But Alden didn’t shy away from questions about some of the more rocky times during his tenure, admitting that he wished he had handled former Tigers swimmer Sasha Menu Courey’s and former basketball player Ricky Clemons’ situations differently.
Alden was in Florida in his role as the National Association of College Directors of Athletics president when ESPN’s report thrust the alleged rape and eventual suicide of Menu Courey into the spotlight last January.
He regrets not hopping on a flight and getting out in front of that story, which led to an investigation that was critical of the university’s handling of Menu Courey’s situation and the campus’ handling of sexual-assault allegations in general.
Alden said he tried to learn from each situation and make the athletic department better in the long run. Alden also said he wished he had been more open about his personal life and background during his tenure at MU.
“It’s hard to bat 1.000,” Alden said.
Athletically, the only black mark on Alden’s resume is the struggle of the men’s basketball team, which did reach the Elite Eight under Quin Snyder and Mike Anderson — two of his four basketball hires — but never achieved a level of consistency needed to become an elite program.
Alden continued to profess faith in Kim Anderson, who recently completed his first season as the Tigers’ coach and hopes he will get a fair amount of time to right the ship.
Alden said he speaks with Rhoades almost every day in preparation for the transition. Alden listed Missouri’s apparel contract with Nike, various multimedia rights agreements, the new softball stadium and the proposed south end-zone complex at Memorial Stadium as key items on the agenda.
But Alden said he would never become an athletic director at another school and had no interest in a conference-level job.
Alden said he won’t dictate priorities to Rhoades, but he is keeping him informed about the big decisions on the horizon and his staff busily prepares binders — at Alden’s behest — in an attempt to proactively address questions that might arise.
He said he’s optimistic that his departure will further thaw relationships with Missouri’s former Big 12 brethren, including Kansas.
Alden worries that if MU and KU refuse to play for 20 years, an entire generation will miss out on the passion and intensity of the rivalry, risking irrelevancy.
Alden hopes things will change now that the old guard, which transitioned Missouri into the SEC, will be gone.