New LSU athletic director Scott Woodward gave evidence Tuesday that he isn’t your average Joe.
At his packed news conference at the Manship School of Mass Communication, Woodward quoted an impressive assemblage from Thomas Wolfe to William Tecumseh Sherman to B.B. King. He worked the room like the one-time political operative he is, mentioning coaches (Ed Orgeron) and friends (Collis Temple) who were present, and deftly answering questions about those who weren’t (Will Wade).
And of course he expressed his deep love for LSU and Baton Rouge, the school and the town to which he returns at a critical time for the university and its athletic program.
Woodward had everyone in the room and Tigers fans the world over hanging on his every word — most of them hoping he will be the one to lead LSU athletics to that mythic “next level,” whatever they conceive that level to be.
Woodward spoke with vision, in remarks not dissimilar to former football coach Gerry DiNardo’s introductory “Bring back the magic” news conference in 1995, raising a call for LSU to realize the greatness it can achieve.
Scott Woodward was introduced Tuesday as LSU's new athletic director, saying embattled basketball coach Will Wade has his support "100 percent…
“I didn’t just come back here because it was just my alma mater,” Woodward said. “I’m at LSU because I believe in who we are and what we can do together.”
If you were looking to be inspired, Woodward delivered. He practically spoke in terms of truth, justice and the LSU way.
He did so in a way his predecessor, Joe Alleva, could not.
Alleva was pushed out into a hastily created fundraising position to fill out the term of his contract — not because things had gone horribly off the rails under his directorship, but because Alleva came to be seen as a divisive presence.
The new athletic director’s job is to lead a department that, first and foremost, wins and wins big. There was no missing the symbolism when Woodward was presented with a piece of the “Win!” crossbar from LSU’s 2003 football national championship season.
LSU won that title when Woodward was there in first stint, from 2000-04, as director of external affairs under then Chancellor Mark Emmert. Woodward lifted the “Win!” bar with embattled LSU President F. King Alexander — a rather curious scene considering how much speculation there is about how much longer Alexander will be holding up his end.
Can't see video below? Click here.
“I’m not one who seeks the spotlight,” Woodward said. “I want our student-athletes and our coaches to have that shine, and I want to be behind them 100 percent. And while there are challenges here at LSU and there are challenges from time to time, there are so many great things happening and so much already in place for us to have success across the board.
“We will win SEC and NCAA championships. We will not only graduate our student-athletes, but we will provide them with a world-class experience and with world-class help after they graduate. We will conduct ourselves with integrity, and we will do our small part in elevating this university.”
Sure, Woodward’s message was loaded with uplifting stock phrases, historical references and folksy witticisms (“God gave you two ears and one mouth. So I’m going to be doing a lot of listening”).
But that wasn't all. There was a sober edge to his message, too.
At the top of the list was the Wade situation. True, the LSU basketball coach was reinstated April 14, more than a month after being suspended for refusing for weeks to talk to school officials about the potential recruiting violations he was caught referring to in an FBI wiretap.
But there is a broad sense that Wade’s problems, and by connection LSU’s problems, may be far from over. Even Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, asked Monday about Wade, told reporters “We’ll see how this whole story concludes.”
Woodward said Wade has his “100 percent support.” He later said he wants Wade to continue to be LSU’s basketball coach. But he was quick to say he does not know all the facts in the Wade case. One was left with the impression that Woodward agreed with Sankey’s assessment that the Wade story has yet to reach its conclusion.
Then there is the other elephant in the room. The red elephant. Beating Alabama in football, a microcosm of LSU’s goal to be a more championship competitive program in the hyper-competitive SEC.
Scott Woodward's parents 'never dreamed' their son would return to Baton Rouge as LSU's new athletic director.
“You win wars with resources,” Woodward said, adding that LSU has to have its boats rowing in the same direction to keep from getting “our butts kicked” in Tuscaloosa and Auburn (he actually said Opelika) and Gainesville.
“I have no intention of letting that happen,” Woodward said with conviction. Strong and comforting words for the LSU legions. Be mindful though, that winning with superior resources does not come cheaply.
The “Win” bar was set pretty high for Scott Woodward on Tuesday. He cleared it, hitting all the high notes along the way. But as world-class LSU pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis would tell you, that bar keeps getting set higher.
This was the easiest day of Woodward’s entire career as LSU’s athletic director.
Now the hard work begins.