COLUMBIA — More than 400 people gathered Thursday at the Holiday Inn Select for a special dinner of spinach salad, raspberry doused cheesecake and a main course of roasted Mike Alden.
The Alzheimer’s Association's Mid-Missouri Chapter held the roast of Alden, Missouri's athletic director, to raise money for research. The event included embarrassing stories from Gov. Jay Nixon; Peggy Kirkpatrick, the Central Missouri Food Bank executive director; Mario Moccia, a senior associate athletic director at Missouri before becoming Southern Illinois' athletic director in 2006; and a surprise video roast by ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Anderson.
Nixon started and said Alden will be in the Hall of Fame one day. Then he joked that Alden is already in the Kansas Hall of Fame for selecting the troubled Quin Snyder for men's basketball coach over Bill Self, who went on to win a national title for the Jayhawks.
Kirkpatrick also poked fun at Alden by saying he has never met a mirror he didn't like. Video displays showed Alden in his youth wearing tight shorts that he said were probably too tight, and bits by Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton made the audience roar.
Ashley Burden, who helped coordinate the event for the Alzheimer's Association, said that it only took a few meetings for the chapter's board to decide Alden would make a great roastee.
“Every year we have a big discussion among board members on who in town is roast worthy, and this year Alden was a great choice,” Burden said. “Everyone loves Mizzou sports, it’s an integral part of the community.”
Alden is the fourth-longest tenured athletic director at MU at 11 years and has brought Mizzou athletics back into the national spotlight. Mizzou sports has earned nearly five top-25 finishes a year since he started his tenure. The previous best was three. Alden hired football coach Gary Pinkel, who has led Mizzou to four straight bowl games, and Mike Anderson, who took the men's basketball team to the Elite Eight last season.
Alden hasn’t always been successful. He struggled with the departure of Snyder the men's basketball coach before Anderson arrived after the 2005-06 season. Most recently he had to deal with the arrest and suspension of several players on the 2007-08 men's basketball team.
Alden originally declined to be roasted, saying it was a big risk.
“My first reaction was no, I had no interest in that. In my position, I’m up in the public quite a bit, and I thought I don’t know about that. But the more I thought about it, I thought it was a great opportunity to raise some money,” Alden said.
Brian Maggard, Missouri's associate athletic director for student services who has known Mike for 10 years, said he knew Alden was a great choice.
“I think it’s a great event and Mike is a great sport," Maggard said. "He’s been through a good, and not so good, and now a great era at Mizzou, and he and his family are very giving.”
Before the event began, Mike Anderson agreed that Alden was a good choice
“I’m actually looking forward to seeing the look on his face," he said. "It should be a fun night, a great great event.”
However, the event wasn’t all about fun. There were several reminders in both videos and speeches about the event's purpose. Alden’s wife Rockie spoke about the seriousness of Alzheimer’s disease and how it has affected her father.
In the end, the event raised more than $50,000 for Alzheimer's research, not including money raised at an auction that closed the event. The audience left smiling and and chattering about the jokes, and even Alden appeared to have a great time at the event, smiling and laughing the whole time.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, but it turned out to be funny, I really enjoyed it,” Mizzou football player Tim Barnes said.