In almost any conversation with someone who’s worked with Scott Woodward, you quickly learn two things about LSU’s newly hired athletic director.
On one hand, the Baton Rouge native is approachable and personable. On the other, he knows how to set goals and accomplish them.
Actually, there’s one other thing: his competitiveness.
It doesn’t matter if he’s trying to seal a lucrative financial deal, making a big-splash hire or simply going for a jog, Woodward is always striving to get it done.
No one knows about the latter better than Verge Ausberry, a former LSU football standout and current deputy athletic director who got to know Woodward two decades ago — before Woodward began working at the university for then-chancellor Mark Emmert.
The boy everyone called "Woody" sat in the back seat as the gold Jaguar swerved around the barricade and onto the empty interstate.
Going the distance
Ausberry used to take leisurely runs around the campus with former LSU strength coach Vern Banks, who one day asked Ausberry if he would mind if they were joined by Woodward, who was then a lobbyist.
At the time, Ausberry, who'd been a hulking linebacker for the Tigers in the late 1980s, didn’t know much about jogging when he began running with Woodward around the LSU lakes.
“I’m not a distance runner, but I could be in the weight room and lift weights all day … cardio wasn’t my thing,” Ausberry said with a laugh. “But after a while, we were going out further and further on our runs.”
On a particularly long jaunt one day, Ausberry said he didn’t recognize a few of the landmarks they were passing by and said to himself, “I must be damn crazy.”
“I had never been out there, so I started looking for a ride,” he said. “We finished it, but I said I wasn’t doing that anymore. I said, ‘I don’t even drive this far … I’m not going to run this far.’ ”
The rundown on Scott Woodward: Where he's been, who he hired and what he accomplished at LSU, Washington and Texas A&M.
Working his way up
Ausberry didn't know it at the time, but it was the beginning of a long relationship with Woodward, who, upon being hired as LSU’s director of external affairs by Emmert in 2000, became a liaison for the chancellor’s office to the athletic department.
Aside from their jogging, Ausberry — who worked in the academic center before moving on to the Tiger Athletic Foundation and finally the athletic department — enjoyed conversing with Woodward about another thing they had in common: politics.
Ausberry said his family has a background in politics, so it was natural that he and Woodward, who earned his political science degree from LSU in 1985, enjoyed talking about that subject.
“We started hanging out together, and Scott was someone I could have a conversation with about politics,” Ausberry said. “He understood I liked it and we'd talk about it, so we just kind of hit if off from that perspective.”
It wasn’t long after that Woodward told Ausberry he was going to work at LSU for Emmert, which eventually led to Woodward becoming overseer of the athletic department for the chancellor.
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The next step
Ausberry credits Woodward for helping him make the transition to the athletic department and an opportunity to work under then-athletic director Skip Bertman and then-senior associate A.D. Dan Radokovich.
“It came time in my career to take the next step and Scott was one of the influences on that,” Ausberry said. “He gave me my first crack at it, and we’ve remained friends. In fact, my kids still call him ‘Uncle Scott.’ ”
There’s a reason for that, Ausberry said: “We’re like brothers. … He’s one of my best friends and I’m one of his best friends.”
When Woodward left LSU in 2004 to go to the University of Washington with Emmert, who had been hired as that school’s president, Woodward tried to get Ausberry to go along.
Ausberry stayed at LSU, but over the years he didn’t have to think about how Woodward kept moving up in the athletic world.
After becoming vice chancellor of external affairs at Washington, he became an athletic director for the first time in 2008 and moved on to take the same position at Texas A&M in 2016.
“The big thing is, Scott is a people person,” Ausberry said. “He’s easy to talk to and easy to get along with. The thing people here will enjoy is that he’s very approachable.”
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Pat Henry is another person who has dealt with Woodward on a personal and professional basis — first as LSU’s head track and field coach and later in the same post at Texas A&M.
After losing his athletic director to LSU, where he worked for 17 years, Henry recalled that Woodward — even when he was first cutting his teeth as an athletic administrator — was always engaged with his program.
“Scott was always engaged, and he still is,” said Henry, who led the LSU men and women to 27 NCAA titles during his tenure. “He goes to an awful lot of events here.”
But Henry quickly added that Woodward wasn’t at events just to be seen.
“He was always around. … That’s what was great about him,” Henry said. “Scott was always coming around the department to see how people were doing and how things were going.
“He was wanting to make sure people were happy. He was at a lot of track meets and our functions. … That’s what you want: somebody who’s engaged.”
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Getting it done
Woodward’s desire to get things done is another strength as an administrator, Henry said.
Upon arriving at A&M in January 2016, Woodward found that construction on a new outdoor track complex, which had been on the drawing board for years, still hadn't started.
That changed. A month ago, Texas A&M cut the ribbon on a $40 million facility that includes new coaches’ offices and meeting space, a new locker room and weight room, and state-of-the-art training and equipment rooms.
“From the moment we started, Scott let me be involved in the planning of the facility and how functional we wanted it to be,” Henry said. “He jumped in and encouraged it to happen. Once he knew completely that’s what we wanted, he said, ‘Let’s go,' and he accelerated it.”
It was just one of the projects Woodward oversaw in his three years in College Station.
While the crown jewel was the $500 million renovation of Kyle Field, the Aggies' 100,000-plus-seat football stadium, the baseball stadium was also remodeled and a new softball facility was built.
“Scott was at a big program at Washington, and he came to another big program at A&M and he just jumped in and got started from the get-go,” Henry said. “He came here and knew he had a job to do, and he got after it.
“Scott’s a good man,” Henry added. “Once a Tiger, always a Tiger.”
Love for LSU
Like Henry, Texas A&M women's basketball assistant coach Bob Starkey also worked with Woodward at LSU.
As such, he understands why the pull of LSU and Baton Rouge was too great for Woodward pass up.
“He just has a great love for LSU, and some of the things him and Dr. Emmert did while they were there had a profound effect on the university at the time,” Starkey said. “A lot of that work is difficult because of the political nature of it with higher education.
“They understood all the different components to it, but at the same time, it was rare to have the chancellor and his staff to get involved in the athletic department in such a way. They knew athletics is the front porch to the university.”
Perhaps it’s because of his background in the corporate world before transitioning into athletics, Starkey said Woodward has “more of a CEO style” in which he hires people and lets them do their jobs.
He said Woodward holds transparent monthly meetings with coaches, at which time he shares his vision for them and then gets out of their way.
“He has open dialogue with the coaches,” Starkey said. “He’s excellent in understanding the big picture more than any athletic director I’ve ever been around.”
Starkey noted Woodward made two coaching hires that should benefit A&M for years — luring Jimbo Fisher for football and Buzz Williams for men’s basketball with lucrative, long-term financial commitments.
Woodward did it without the help of search firms, Starkey said, after carefully deciding who he wanted.
“He knew well in advance who he wanted to hire,” he said. “He made a calculated move in each case, and he went and got them seamlessly.
"Those were two perfect hires at the highest level, and both made great sense for Texas A&M.”
In his first job as an athletic director, Woodward also made a lasting impression on current Washington A.D. Jennifer Cohen.
When he took that position in 2008, Cohen said, it was easy to see that he was going to succeed because he was so easy to talk to and work with.
“The first thing you notice is he’s so interesting,” she said. “It’s unique in our industry because he’s extremely intellectual and very book-smart. He has so many interests and is a fierce competitor, so it’s all that wrapped into one.”
Cohen said Woodward was fun to work with because he’s not like anyone she’s been associated with in all her years in athletics.
While there, he oversaw all the fundraising efforts for the athletic department while directing the renovation of venerable Husky Stadium.
He also gave her the opportunity to manage the football program and empowered others to do their part in making the athletic department one of the best in the nation.
While she learned much from Woodward, one of the things that struck her is his casual demeanor — which he keeps most of the time.
“He has a nice kind of smooth, slow way about him,” Cohen said. “His delivery is completely masked by the fact he’s one of the most competitive people I have ever met.”
That side usually comes out when the football team isn’t doing well, she said with a laugh, before swearing Woodward’s eyes become darker when he gets mad.
“But he’ll put his hands in his pockets and rock in his seat a little bit,” Cohen said. “Outwardly, he’s calm. But nobody wants to compete as much as him.”
The fact he’s coming home to his alma mater is the perfect scenario for him, Cohen said.
“He loves Louisiana State University,” she said. “Family is a big thing with him, and we've heard all kinds of LSU stories. So it’s a special place for him to come full-circle.
“But he doesn’t really like the spotlight … that’s not his thing. He really tries to put the students and programs and coaches first.”