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Richards Continues to be 'Fix-It Man' in College Athletics
March 11, 2014
By Mark Janssen
Dr. Milt Richards defines his career in college athletics as a "...turn-around guy. I come in to places and try to make them better."
If the name doesn't ring a bell, Richards was Kansas State's Director of Athletics for a 15-month period of time that ran from the fall of 1991 to January of 1993 when it needed fixed financially.
"That was a fantastic experience," said Richards. "Jon (Wefald, former university president) gave great support, and working with individuals like Bill (Snyder) and Dana (Altman) was a terrific experience. There are no fans more loyal than those at Kansas State."
At the tender age of 32 - yes, 32 - Richards was hired away from Temple University to be the fix-it man to the Wildcat athletic department's financial woes.
"The department was in debt - $2 or 3 million, which was a lot of money at that time," said Richards. "Was I ready at the age of 32? Probably not - you don't know that when you're 32. But I was ready to do was what I was hired to do."
That was raising money and balancing the budget. In his 15 months on the job, the department was working on a five-year plan, operating in the black and starting a fund raising project headed by Ernie Barrett for the press box that would provide suites for the fans.
But Richards, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., and coming from the Philadelphia-based school of Temple, admits that the fit perhaps wasn't right.
"I did not do the best job of learning the culture of Manhattan and the state of Kansas," said Richards, who followed Steve Miller and was succeeded by Max Urick. "It was my first time away from the eastern part of the country and I learned a valuable lesson. From that point on I tried to have an understanding of where I was living."
Laughing, Richards added, "What a lot of people didn't know was that I was born in Lawrence. I was only there as a baby, but that's not something I wanted to advertise too much."
Richards says he got the K-State job, "the old-fashion way." He explained, "I didn't know any of the right people, but I applied, was interviewed in Philadelphia, and then a final interview in Kansas City, and was offered the job."
While Richards says he was not fired, but chose to leave on his own after 15 months, he says, "I absolutely have no regrets. Jon gave me an unbelievable opportunity at a young age, and being connected with someone like Coach Snyder was a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Of Snyder, who was only in his second year, Richards said, "The student-athletes knew he cared about them. Bill was a master of that. (Pause) Both of those guys were all about Kansas State. They loved it and lived it. I knew Bill was going to have success, but I never imagined he would do what he ended up doing, and continues to do."
BEFORE AND SINCE K-STATE: Richards knew Bob Huggins before K-State knew Bob Huggins.
"Our paths crossed at West Virginia," said Richards, who has three degrees, which includes a doctorate from WVU. "Bob was a valedictorian-type of student. He's a brilliant man."
And, Richards was an outstanding student at West Virginia as, in 2009, he was inducted into the Physical Activity and Sports Sciences Hall of Fame.
Richards served as Chief Financial Officer and Associate A.D. at Temple for nine years prior to his hiring at K-State.
Since K-State, he went to the University of New York at Albany where he took that program from NCAA Division III status to Division I.
Richards went on to California State University, Stanislaus where the 355 student-athlete population scored a 3.0 GPA in the classroom for the NCAA Division II school.
Two years ago, Richards took a significant career jump by becoming athletics director at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, which is located just outside of Vancouver. During his brief tenure, the school of 35,000 became the first international school to join the NCAA at the Division II level. It's an academic institution that Richards compares to Stanford.
With a program of 17 sports, plus 17 other club sports under his direction, Richards inherited a budget of $700,000, which is now $2.2 million two years later. In addition, he led the charge to fund a $16 million student recreation complex.
Is it a final career stop for Richards?
"When you're in your 30s, you're always looking for that next job, but when you're in your 50s, you're not as concerned about that next job," said Richards. "Every job I've taken has been an excellent career move. Kansas State was one of those, and now Simon Fraser is providing me a wonderful opportunity."