New LSU athletic director Scott Woodward built his reputation as an athletic director for being a skilled judge of coaching talent, a first-class deal closer — and for not being shy about pulling the ejector lever on his coaches.

Woodward arrived at Texas A&M from Washington in 2016 — where he had lured the seemingly unreachable Chris Petersen from Boise State — and by the end of the 2017 season had fired Kevin Sumlin and his middling 51-26 record. His replacement: former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, the coach Woodward’s predecessor Joe Alleva was blocked from hiring at the end of the 2015 season.

In March, Woodward dismissed New Orleans native Billy Kennedy as his men’s basketball coach after a 14-18 season, despite the fact Kennedy took the Aggies to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 two of the previous three seasons. Woodward then lured highly regarded Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams, whose team, like LSU, reached the NCAA East regional semifinals, to College Station before homing back in on Baton Rouge.

Woodward’s arrival at LSU was widely thought to be a warning signal for its current coaches to perform or else. Instantly, football coach Ed Orgeron’s seat was assumed to be warming once again.

You don’t have to hold down the rewind button too long to recall that Orgeron was tabbed as the Southeastern Conference coach most likely to be fired going into the 2018 season, with big question marks on offense and a brutal schedule lying before him and the Tigers. Instead, Orgeron appeared to solidify his position, leading LSU to a remarkable 10-3 record and a No. 6 national ranking after beating Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.

But with Sheriff Woody now in town, there has been rampant speculation in the media and on social media that Orgeron would again be on the hot seat. Every athletic director wants to put his stamp on the program, right? And no better place to start than with the football coach.

Whether intentionally or not, Woodward publicly poked a hole in that theory when he spoke glowingly of Orgeron on Monday during his packed-house introductory news conference at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communications.


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In fact, Woodward spoke more glowingly of Coach O than he did coach Will Wade, who is still trying to emerge from the cloud of being caught on FBI wiretaps apparently talking about violating recruiting rules. Asked about Wade, Woodward replied that he wants him to continue to be LSU’s coach, but qualified his remarks with the following addendum:

“I need to be briefed. I need to find out what’s going on. But coach Wade is LSU’s coach and until then he’s going to have my 100% support.”

Orgeron cut a prominent figure at Monday’s news conference, taking a seat on the second row to Woodward’s left not far from the “Win!” crossbar section from the 2003 national championship season Woodward was presented as a welcome gift.

“I see Coach O right there,” Woodward said. “Excellent coach. He knows how to do it at the highest level. I saw them kick our ass at USC (in) recruiting when I was at (Washington). He knows how to get it done.”

If high expectations for Woodward are paired with higher expectations for Orgeron, Coach O isn’t fazed.

“That’s what we’re here for,” he said. “We’re here to win championships. We know the expectations at LSU. I knew that when I got hired.”

As you would expect, Orgeron expressed his gratitude to Alleva for making him LSU’s full-time coach in 2016 after taking over on an interim basis four games into that season when Miles was fired. But he also said he expected — and welcomed — more input into the program from Woodward, a guy known for sitting in on offensive coaching meetings with Fisher when he was offensive coordinator here under Nick Saban. He also spoke of the bayou water that runs through both of their veins, the first Louisiana natives since 1955 to serve as LSU's football coach and athletic director at the same time.

“I think Scott’s going to be more involved, obviously,” Orgeron said. “Scott seemed like he’s more of a hands-on guy, going to be around, which I invite. He’s transparent, we’re transparent. I think we’re going to get along fine.”

Expectations are high for LSU in 2019 — the Tigers are reportedly No. 4 in ESPN’s latest Football Power Index (FPI) rankings — and any LSU football coach is only one down season away from finding a pile of kindling under his swivel chair.

The added concern for Orgeron — and Texas A&M fans alike — has to be that if Woodward lured Fisher to A&M, a place where he had no ties, could he one day entice him back to LSU, where he still raves about his years as an assistant?

Oh, this LSU-Texas A&M football rivalry just gets more interesting by the day.


Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​