Eric and Poseur are counting down the dozen biggest events in LSU sports of the last decade. Today, we kick things off with #12 on the list… LSU hires Scott Woodward as the Athletic Director.
In 1973, Scott Woodward started his first job at LSU: selling peanuts in Tiger Stadium. He graduated from LSU in 1985 and went to work for Baton Rouge Mayor Pat Screen, a former LSU quarterback. Woodward would make his way back to LSU, working under former AD Mark Emmert.
In order to advance his career, he left the confines of home, following Emmert to Washington and succeeding him as the AD there. He found his way back to the SEC by taking the AD job at Texas A&M in 2016.
“Thomas Wolfe once said that you can’t go home again, but clearly he didn’t grow up in Baton Rouge,” Woodward quipped at his introductory press conference.
Most of this list will look backwards. We’ll talk about the things that have happened and what they meant to us then. Lists like this are inherently respective. But this pick is prospective, it is about what Woodward is going to do, as he has not yet written his legacy at LSU.
The first thing it meant was the end of the tenure of Joe Alleva, one of the most unpopular AD’s in the country.
I do think a lot of the fanbase’s beef with Alleva was overblown. No one likes the accountant, and Alleva’s biggest accomplishment was finding a way to squeeze as much money out of LSU fans as possible. It was a necessary thing to keep up with the exploding budgets around the SEC, but it isn’t hard to see why that wouldn’t endear him to the fanbase.
That said, Alleva botched some major hires, feuded with Les Miles, and his best hire, Beth Torina, he sort of fell bass ackwards into. Alleva also managed to lose just about every public relations battle he ever engaged in. He wasn’t a bad AD, but he certainly played one on TV.
LSU fired Joe Alleva, and 48 hours later, it hard hired one of the hottest names in college administration, and a local boy to boot. It wasn’t just that LSU snagged one of the brightest rising stars in the sport, it’s that they looked downright competent doing so. There was a plan, and the plan worked.
It didn’t hurt that LSU got a former Tiger and a Baton Rouge native, a guy who loved the Tigers as much as any of us. And they got to stick it in Texas A&M’s eye when they did it, as an added bonus.
Texas A&M has been poaching LSU coaches ever since it lured Pat Henry away from the track program. The Aggies aren’t adept at developing talent, but they do have a gigantic money pipe in the form of an endowment from all of those oil wells. And they haven’t been shy at throwing money at LSU coaches, sometime successfully (Chavis) and sometimes not (Aranda).
This was a chance for LSU to fire back. Every single one of A&M’s programs had made the postseason under Woodward’s guidance.
Well, since taking the job, the winning part has certainly taken care of itself. The football team went 15-0 and won what appears to be the last title in college sports to ever be awarded. He didn’t have much to do with that, though, other than loosening the purse strings and paying for whatever coach or consultant Coach O desired.
But more than specific decision, the hiring of Woodward felt like the grey skies which hung over the program for the past half decade parted and the sun shone through. Good things happened. Guys stayed healthy. The drinks were colder and the Tiger dogs were tastier.
So much of an Athletic Director’s job is perception, and even if things didn’t actually dramatically improve all of a sudden, they seemed like they did, and that’s what matters. LSU fans went from waiting for the other shoe to drop to anticipating the next good thing.
The good vibes went beyond football. When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sports world, LSU was ranked #1 in women and men’s indoor track as well as beach volleyball. Softball was 20-3 and ranked #5 in the nation. Gym has the same #5 ranking and was poised to be the top seed in its region.
Both basketball teams were in line for NCAA bids. ESPN’s bracketology projected both team as 8/9 seeds, comfortably in the field. The women’s swim team was ranked #21, a massive improvement for the program, and the men were receiving votes in the poll. Even tennis was in the top 25. And baseball was still LSU baseball.
This was a program on the verge of winning national title in a whole host of sports. Sometimes, all you need is one good thing to happen, and others will follow. Winning is contagious, and that’s one virus no one on campus minds catching.
It all started with a press conference when Scott Woodward came home.