Athletic Director Mike Lude leaves office after 14 years

Former Athletic Director Mike Lude. Photo by Jimi Lott, courtesy of the Seattle Times.

Milo R. “Mike” Lude, athletic director at the University of Washington for 14 years, retired Jan. 15 from that position. Lude had the longest tenure of any of the UW’s previous 13 athletic directors.

Lude, whose employment contract was to conclude on Aug. 31, 1991, will instead remain with the University through Dec. 31. Rather than retiring in August, Lude was given the option of extended employment through 1991, coupled with an earlier departure as athletic director. He opted for the latter.

Lude had wanted to stay as athletic director until his 70th birthday, which is June 30, 1992. Discussions on Lude’s retirement had been ongoing for nine months when Lude and Vice President for University Relations James R. Collier made the announcement in late October.

Collier, who oversees the operations of intercollegiate athletics, says that it was his decision not to extend Lude’s contract. “This was my decision and not Bill Gerberding’s,” he told the press the day of the announcement. One reason for his decision, he added, was that “in a big-time business like this, in intercollegiate athletics, we have our stresses and strains.”

Collier has appointed Chuck Armstrong, former general manager of the Seattle Mariners baseball team, interim athletic director. A search committee is currently reviewing applications and a new director may begin as early as June.

Under the terms of his retirement, Lude will serve as a UW consultant until Dec. 31. Lude has said he will not comment publicly on the negotiations. The announcement of the settlement in late October sparked heated criticism.

Lude, 68, came to the UW in 1976. In previous interviews, Lude has said his “benchmark accomplishment” has been to maintain a high-quality athletic program at the University without the aid of state financial support.

During his tenure, Lude was on a mission to upgrade athletic facilities. His top accomplishment was the 13,000-seat addition to the North Stands of Husky Stadium. Lude also shepherded the stadium’s west end zone upgrade, a new weight room, the Lloyd Nordstrom Tennis Center, a new track, a new team assembly room and new office facilities.

The former athletic director has also been lauded for running a sports program free of scandal and NCAA sanctions. But at times Lude has earned the animosity of UW students, particularly when he moved prime student seating to make way for the Tyee Center.

Lude’s hiring and/or firing of basketball, crew, volleyball and gymnastics coaches have also drawn the ire of some sports fans and alumni. But fellow athletic directors from around the nation have honored Lude for his management. In 1988, the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors gave Lude the James J. Corbett Award, one of the highest awards in college athletics.

A native of Kalamazoo, Mich., Lude holds degrees from Hillsdale (Mich.) College and Michigan State University.

Lude served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. He coached football and basketball for 23 years (Marine Corps, Hillsdale, Maine, Delaware and Colorado State) before becoming athletic director at Kent State University.

What the Press Said

“For Lude, neither anger nor sorrow is warranted. The man is 68, two years short of the UW’s mandatory retirement age, and he is being given a new job through next year presumably at no cut in pay.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial

“The sacking of Lude—who’ll remain as a ‘consultant’—smacks of the old back-door buddy system. It was a monumental personnel-management clinker.” —Seattle Times editorial

“Lude’s announced ‘retirement’ might have been handled more gracefully, but there is really no graceful way out of a power struggle. It would have been a far worse commentary on the university had Lude turned out to be an athletic director too powerful and independent to fire.” —Tacoma News-Tribune editorial