DESTIN, Fla. — New LSU athletic director Scott Woodward seems right in his element this week as he represents his alma mater as a key player during the Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings.
The only SEC athletic director currently serving on the league’s executive committee, Woodward was relaxed and engaging as he spoke to reporters at the Sandestin Hilton about a wide range of topics from being back at LSU to Will Wade, alcohol sales to SEC football scheduling and the headache of LSU football game-day traffic (spoiler alert: Woodward doesn’t have a magic wand for that one).
Here’s a sample of some of the topics Woodward spoke about this week:
What is it like being here representing LSU after three years here as Texas A&M’s athletic director?
"It's great to be back to a place I'm very familiar with and enjoy. Issues are the same. It's very competitive at a high level, especially in the SEC West and we've got to focus on that and make sure that we do it right and we do it in a very competitive fashion."
What did you think of basketball coach Will Wade’s decision to speak to the media here this week and what has your initial relationship been like?
“It's his choice. He wanted to do it. Felt like it was best to do it that way instead of doing it one-on-one. We supported him on that.
“So far, so good. Will's a very affable guy and the student-athletes really like him and obviously the fan base likes him and he's done a nice job. Our initial meetings were very good and very positive.”
Do you think SEC members will allow stadium-wide alcohol sales?
“I think it will (happen), but that's a discussion that the CEOs are going to have. It's kind of out of our hands as far as the ADs go. They'll decide what they decide and you'll see in the next day or two what's going to happen and what's going to come out of it. I'm hoping for LSU's standpoint that we get a liberalization of the policy and see if we can serve it to our fans."
DESTIN, Fla. — CBS took a look at the LSU-Alabama game this year and decided to punt.
Your take n legalized sports betting failing to come to a vote in the state legislature?
“You always have multiple years for things to happen in legislative processes. I wouldn't take it as they're not having an appetite for it. I think all the interest and all the parties have to decide what that is and hopefully we'll have a little voice in the regulatory piece. That there's proper funding to make sure that it's done with integrity and that there's not undue influence on our kids or our coaches and our staff or anything else and it's properly regulated. I want to have that discussion going forward.”
Woodward, speaking just a few feet away from where former Ole Miss and new A&M athletic director Ross Bjork was speaking to reporters, was asked if the poaching of athletic directors among SEC schools was awkward:
“It's awkward, but it's done in a very civil manner and I think we handle it well and do things well from that standpoint.”
After losing the highest-scoring game in college football history and seeing a scuffle break out on the field after a seven-overtime marathon …
Have the ticket prices reached the tipping point for the average fan?
“I think you're seeing it in a lot of ways, yes. What it is, I don't know. I don't think it's that way in the premium seating right now. I think there's a very good appetite for that in multiple places I've been, but yeah, for the average fan, we have to start thinking about it. We have to start thinking about how we engage them and get them to come back because you can't feel and experience that thing in your living room.
“(College football) is enormously popular. The viewership's off the charts. And there is an issue of erosion at the gate a little bit because I think television is so good. There are things we're going to have to address and do to really change the way we look and engage that new generation of fan."
Is there a long-term concern of younger fans not attending games?
“There's concern for the live gate, but I still think they're consuming it in other ways. Whether it be on their PDAs or whether it be at home or wherever. The place I just left, 36,000 students (attend games). They're consuming it. Out of a student population of about 65,000 students, they're going. They're leaving early and doing things that other generations didn't do, but you can't expect the way I consumed it, which, you get there a half hour to 45 minutes early, you buy a program, you buy a bag of peanuts, you drink a Coke, you consume the game, you get ready.
“They don't do it that way. They want to engage with what and how they're doing it and with iPhones and Galaxys and however they're doing it and they want to do different stuff. We have to figure that out. My favorite model is the way the Phoenix Open did it in golf. The fashion show became more popular than the golf event. And we may have to do stuff like that to draw fans and different types of fans in there. It's a way to think creatively about it.”
DESTIN, Fla. — If you like your LSU football under the lights, you will like the first three games of the Tigers’ 2019 football schedule.
What do you hope to accomplish in terms of trying to change the mindset regarding football scheduling with permanent cross-divisional opponents?
“For me, it's a two-step process. The first step is, here again I'm very cautious because it's worked from a championship standpoint, there's a reason we're the best conference in America. Scheduling probably has a lot to do with it. I don't want to screw that up.
“But, and there's a big but in there, it's, is it fair for our student-athletes not to know places in the SEC East? I don't think so. I think it's good that they get to know Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Georgia and go to these places. I like more of a mix and a variety, but we'll have those discussions and we'll have them intelligently, not only with our colleagues in the room, but with media partners and with the conference."
What is your assessment of LSU’s facilities?
“Pretty impressive. They’ve done a lot since I’ve been there. People forget it’s been 15 years. I had to go in and look under the hood pretty good. There are some things to do and continue, but it’s a good standpoint.
“Just like at A&M, my focus is going to be raising money for human capital. I think it’s important that you get the right coaches and the right staff and the right people to support these student-athletes."
What do you mean by "human capital?"
“Elite coaches. All that stuff that gobbles up a lot of money. The elite programs are starting to endow that stuff, the Michigans and Stanfords of the world. That’s what we need to pivot to.”
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On expanding support staffs for football:
“It’s 85 kids. You need a lot of hand holding, a lot of teaching. As long as coaches can prove it has constructive benefit, we’ll do it. But there is a point where it gets ridiculous.”
How important is it to you to be good in all sports?
“My former boss, Mark Emmert, said we want to be great in football and physics. You do. You look at these sports like your children. Each of them have their strengths and weaknesses, and what you want to do and how you want to do it. But darn right, you want to be successful in everything.”
Are you taking any administrative staff with you from Texas A&M to LSU?
“I have not. I’m talking to people. But I haven’t taken anyone yet.”
On selling peanuts in Tiger Stadium at age 10:
“I was the youngest dude there. I would find the cutest girl and make her date buy peanuts. Then it would be a competition. ‘Hey, this guy needs to sell his peanuts!’ The drunker they were the better they were.?
Do you have any plans for improving game-day traffic at LSU?
“That’s like splitting the atom, man. I’m leaving the best place for that in A&M and going to the worst place as far as traffic goes. A&M has multiple state highways and multiple ways out. We’ve got that (Mississippi) river blocking us. We’ve got to be part of a solution with the city and the state.
It’s a long-term deal. I’ve got to get in there and make that case. That’s a huge issue for attendance. Huge. People leave early. They don’t want to get stuck in traffic for an hour after the game. It’s something I’m going to pay attention to, but there’s no long-term solution."