MADISON, WIS. -- Pat Richter left Washington nearly 20 years ago, but his memories of seven seasons as a reliable receiver with the Redskins are as fresh as the day George Allen told him his many services were no longer needed.

Some of the best memories concern a certain red-headed quarterback with a rocket arm, a slightly protruding paunch and a propensity for nocturnal adventures, many of which, Pat Richter giggles, "you can't put in your newspaper."

Richter, the straight arrow nine-letterman from the University of Wisconsin, roomed with Sonny Jurgensen back then, a pairing the coaching staff thought might have a calming effect on the night-owl quarterback who never saw a curfew he didn't want to break.

"Didn't make a bit of difference," Richter, still athlete-trim at 49 and now in his first year as Wisconsin's athletic director, was saying the other day. "Sonny was Sonny. In Carlisle, {Pa., the Redskins' training camp site} our room was called Le Club. That's where everybody met after practice for iced tea {another giggle}. Oh yeah, we had some fun times."

Richter was a fundamentally sound receiver who shuttled from tight end to split end and was the team's back-up kicker and punter -- known to teammates as "Two-Toe." Jurgensen was "The Red Roach" because "he'd eat anything any time," Richter said. "You had food anywhere around, Sonny would find it."

They were best friends, and still stay in touch. One day in Chicago in 1968, knowing that a huge contingent of Richter's friends and family was heading from Madison to Soldier Field, Jurgensen made it a memorable afternoon by throwing three touchdown passes to his roommate.

Jurgensen insists to this day he was simply taking what the defense allowed. "Pat caught three slants for touchdowns," he said. "He had great hands, a very smart player. He knew how to get open."

Richter has another theory. "Sonny knew my family was there," he said. "He made me look real good.

"My years in Washington were some of the best times of my life. There were so many interesting people. I'd met President Kennedy when I was in college and I got to know Ethel and Bobby. Edward Bennett Williams was the smartest man I'd ever talked to. Now, I meet a company president, it's just a company president. I got so much confidence back then, and it's helped me all my life."

He began preparing for his future almost from the day he arrived in Washington as a No. 1 draft choice fresh from making 11 catches in the most memorable Rose Bowl ever played. In that 1962 game against Southern Cal, Wisconsin trailed, 42-14, before quarterback Ron VanderKelen got his team within 42-37 when time ran out.

Within a few years, Richter was enrolled in night classes at American University's law school in the fall, then took a full load at the Wisconsin law school in the offseason. "We usually got out of practice at 3 o'clock," he said. "I know it sounded like it was difficult, but it really wasn't. . . . I had a degree in landscape architecture and I wanted to design golf courses. But the more I talked with Ed Williams, the more the law interested me."

When Allen cut him in his first season as head coach in 1971, Richter spent two weeks with the Dallas Cowboys. He had been one of the early leaders of the NFL Players Association and "that didn't sit too well with Tex Schramm. I was there because they had a couple of injuries, but as soon as their guys got healthy Tex got rid of me."

It may have been the best thing that ever happened to him. He finished his law degree at Wisconsin, went into private practice for six months in Madison, then was hired by Oscar Mayer & Co. in 1972.

From there, he climbed the corporate ladder, all with the same company, with stints in Nashville, Rye Brook and White Plains, N.Y., before going back to Madison as vice president of personnel in 1987.

He had always maintained strong ties to the University of Wisconsin. When former athletic director Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch announced his retirement in 1987, Richter was approached about the job, but decided to remain with Oscar Mayer. "The company had done some things for me that I felt required reciprocal treatment," he said. "The timing was just not right."

Last December, it was perfect. The university had a dynamic chancellor, Donna Shalala, a former assistant secretary of HUD in the Carter administration who was not happy with the football coach, Don Morton, or the athletic director, Ade Sponberg. The football team had gone 6-27 in 1987-89. Attendance had dropped to an average of 41,000 at 77,000-seat Camp Randall Stadium from a high of 74,000 in 1984. And worse, the athletic department had a $2.1 million deficit.

So Shalala fired Morton and Sponberg and began searching for replacements. Again, Richter was at the top of her list, and again, he was initially reluctant to take the job. But things had also changed at Oscar Mayer, by now part of Kraft-General Foods.

"My wife had always said to me 'Why don't you run the company?' " Richter said. "But it became pretty obvious that I had gone as far as I could go at Oscar Mayer. They had been very good to me, but I was not going to run the company."

Shalala called often. She offered him an annual salary of $135,000 and a five-year, rollover contract. She appealed to his abiding love for the institution, and she told him she would leave him alone and not interfere.

"He is the CEO of a small company," Shalala said. "This is a $14 million operation and it was being run like a mom-and-pop grocery store. I needed someone with a business background, and I needed someone who had the same kind of values I had in regard to athletics and a university.

"We both believe athletes should be students first. We believe it's possible to have a first-rate program for men and women. We believe we can win without cheating. I like to hire people who are smarter than I am and let them run the institution. Pat was a perfect fit."

Richter took the job last December and immediately set out to find a football coach, settling on Barry Alvarez, then the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame and a man with extensive recruiting contacts nationwide.

Morton had been running a veer offense at Wisconsin, a system that was anathema to pound-it-out Big Ten purists and poison to potential recruits. "All these big Wisconsin linemen were going to Michigan and Iowa because they couldn't fit into this system," Richter said. "We were losing the state's best athletes, and no one else wanted to come here either. Barry has changed all that."

This season, the Badgers, now 1-6, have been mostly dreadful, just as Richter and Alvarez expected. Yet there are positive signs. Alvarez says a number of the country's top high-school prospects have Wisconsin among their final three choices. He will bring in some junior college players to bolster a team that is filled with redshirt freshmen and sophomores. And despite all the losses, attendance is back at the 50,000 level, including 67,000 against Illinois last week.

"We've basically started from scratch," Alvarez said on the eve of a homecoming game against the Illini, a 21-3 loss to the nation's fifth-ranked team. "But we've got a good bunch of kids, and we're going to get some players. Pat has been great. The chancellor has been incredibly supportive. Hell, my family lived with her for three months until we could find a place of our own."

On the Wednesday before the Illinois game, Shalala went to football practice, ran out on the field and gave the team a pep talk. The next night, she was shooting free throws with Dick Vitale in a promotion that attracted 6,000 to Wisconsin's ancient field house to watch a basketball scrimmage. On Saturday, she escorted several basketball recruits through the press box, introducing them all around.

"Over the last few years, relations were strained between the administration and the athletic department. It was all friction," Richter said. "Now we're on the same page. She understands the role of sports and the university. She has tremendous energy, and she makes it much easier to operate."

And so does Richter's presence. He is known affectionately around here as St. Pat, a Madison boy still remembered for his exploits as a standout football, basketball and baseball player for the Badgers. His Rose Bowl reception record still stands. He once had 14 points and 14 rebounds against John Thompson's Providence basketball team. He had a .353 career batting average over three years. Now son Barry is a high-scoring sophomore forward on the Badgers defending national championship hockey team.

Richter lifts weights and works out every day. He is a low-handicap golfer, still plays fastpitch softball and occasionally takes a spin around nearby Lake Mendota on water skis. "There's not as much time to do a lot of those things any more," he said. But now, with a visitor from Washington in his office, he made the time to reminisce.

He remembered the time Jurgensen brought a telescope to training camp to look at the stars, the time the Red Roach broke curfew at a bowling alley -- accompanied by ballboy Dewey Graham, the head coach's son -- the time Jurgensen told Allen, "I throw with my arm, not my belly."

Pat Richter was giggling again. "And then there was the time . . . "