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New Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh promises different style for different times
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New Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh promises different style for different times

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Chris McIntosh

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank greets new Badgers athletic director Chris McIntosh on Wednesday at the Kohl Center. Blank promoted McIntosh from deputy after an eight-week search to replace the retiring Barry Alvarez.

The walkway to the main entrance of University of Wisconsin athletic department offices at Camp Randall Stadium passes between statues that could be intimidating to someone in the position Chris McIntosh is about to fill.

On the left outside Kellner Hall stands the likeness of Pat Richter, the athletic director who elevated the Badgers out of financial distress.

On the right is Barry Alvarez, the coach who awakened the school's football program to make those prolific years possible, then followed Richter in a highly decorated turn as athletic director.

McIntosh, who played for Alvarez as an All-American offensive lineman before becoming his deputy athletic director, will be the one to follow those two figures in the big chair but said Wednesday he isn't worried about how he'll compare.

"I don't view my future or my role necessarily as a comparison to two great men in the history of our university and our program," McIntosh said. "I had the privilege of being a student-athlete under Pat Richter's leadership. And everyone knows my experience with Barry.

"The statue is not a motivator to me. I think it's probably a losing proposition to try to compare to Barry. I'm a different person than Barry is and I have a different approach."

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank stayed in house to replace Alvarez, who announced eight weeks ago that he will retire at the end of June.

The UW System Board of Regents on Wednesday morning approved a contract with McIntosh, 44, a former Badgers football player who will be only the third UW athletic director in 32 years. Richter held the position from 1989 to 2004, then Alvarez took over.

Wisconsin State Journal sports reporters Jim Polzin and Todd Milewski reflect after an event to name Chris McIntosh the next University of Wisconsin athletic director on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at the Kohl Center.

Changes ahead

McIntosh promised a different style of leadership for different times. College athletics programs are facing the potential for sweeping changes as McIntosh moves up from deputy athletic director July 1.

The NCAA and its member schools are under pressure to address equity and diversity concerns and set a course to allow players to be compensated for their name, image and likeness. Schools also have to recover from the financial damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blank said what helped McIntosh cement the job in the interview process was his response to a question about how UW can face the coming challenges and remain a leading program.

McIntosh said he gave a "realistic approach of what it is that we're facing."

"I don't view this next chapter as just carrying the baton," McIntosh said. "That's not what's needed here. We're facing significant, real challenges. There's likely some challenging times ahead and that's going to take a concerted effort and for us to work shoulder to shoulder going forward."

Blank called it a "superb answer."

"That's when I thought, this is really the person for the next 10, 20 years at Wisconsin," she said.

Blank opened a national search April 7 and appointed nine people to a search committee that met four times in closed session to discuss a pool of 35 applicants.

Former UW deputy athletic director Sean Frazier, now AD at Northern Illinois, said he interviewed for the position. Ball State athletic director Beth Goetz also was believed to be a finalist.

The final decision was with Blank, who said any of the finalists could have been selected. McIntosh stood out from them, she said.

"Chris is a leader," Blank said. "I'm confident he's going to build on coach Alvarez's legacy of success and make our alumni and fans across the state and around the world proud."

Focus on academics

McIntosh, a Pewaukee native, played offensive line for the Badgers from 1996 to 1999 and was a first-round NFL draft pick. He joined the athletic department administration in 2014 after his playing career and jobs in the health and wellness industry. He was promoted to deputy athletic director in July 2017.

McIntosh is set to make $940,000 annually on a five-year contract, according to a UW official. Of that, $500,000 is in base salary and $440,000 is from private gift funds designated for athletics and held at the UW Foundation. Alvarez made a combined $1.55 million annually in the job.

UW will embrace the changes that are coming, McIntosh said. Education will be "the top priority of our department" and UW athletics will make a commitment to treat athletes well regardless of sport or scholarship status.

"We are committed to doing things with integrity, with hard work," McIntosh said. "We love to have fun and we like to do it the Wisconsin way. I'm proud to be a part of this department and I'm proud to have played a role in the success of this department.

"But I'm even more excited to lead this department in a way that is welcoming to all people of all backgrounds and experience. A place where people can develop to be their very best. And it's a place where we can come together during the good times and inevitably during the tough times."

Comparisons are going to be unavoidable for McIntosh in following Alvarez and Richter as leader of the athletic department.

Kevin Warren, who spoke at Wednesday's event at the Kohl Center to introduce McIntosh, is 18 months into his job following longtime and influential Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. His advice to McIntosh was to stay true to himself and build on what got him to where he is.

"I didn't look at it as pressure," Warren said. "It's really a state of gratitude that because of what Pat Richter and Barry Alvarez have done, the foundation is so solid here. He can really be who he is. And he'll be great."

Athletic Board and search committee chair Pete Miller and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank respond to a question about the 35 applicants for the school's athletic director opening at a news conference Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at the Kohl Center.

Confidence from work

Donnel Thompson co-captained the Badgers' Big Ten championship football teams alongside McIntosh in 1998 and 1999. He said McIntosh's confidence for the athletic director role will come the same way it did as a player: through preparation and effort.

A lot of college football teams have their quarterback or wide receivers in the spotlight. Left tackle at UW — the spot McIntosh occupied during his playing career — is one of the premier positions in the country, Thompson said.

McIntosh was matched against the best pass rushers in the Big Ten and had to deliver the blocks. Thompson said he's confident McIntosh will deliver as athletic director, too.

"This matters to him," said Thompson, a Madison native. "He's from Wisconsin. He went to the University of Wisconsin. So many former players know Mac. We will have an opinion. He knows he represents us and he wants to be successful.

"And I think if afforded the opportunity he'll retire as the athletic director. And that's the type of person you want to have the job versus somebody that sees it as a new opportunity or that likes the idea of being athletic director but the Wisconsin part not being that important."

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