They gave new LSU athletic director Scott Woodward a piece of the “Win!” bar from the Tiger Stadium goalposts on his first official day on the job last month.

Pretty fitting, considering that Woodward opened with the kind of win that his predecessor, Joe Alleva, could only have dreamed about.

After a controversial tenure at Duke, Alleva never enjoyed the kind of broad-based support that Woodward has enjoyed from day one. You have to give him credit for lasting 11 years in such a difficult job.

If Woodward has his detractors, they have not made their feelings public for fear of facing withering criticism for this popular new leader. If he were a politician, which in part he is, Woodward is practically running unopposed right now.

For certain he will rankle some folks along the way. It is the nature of being an athletic director. But Woodward has a serious mandate to take LSU’s athletic department in directions he sees fit. In ways Alleva could only have dreamed of.

Alleva often did himself no favors public relations-wise. Could he not have anticipated something like that thunderous abuse heaped on him at the Vanderbilt basketball game in March after suspending men’s coach Will Wade? I would have watched the game from home. But I think Alleva was acting at the behest of LSU president F. King Alexander, much as he was when Alleva announced after the 2015 Texas A&M game that he was keeping (for the moment) then-football coach Les Miles.

I will never be convinced that Alleva didn’t want to fire Miles and hire Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State. But financially, paying off Miles’ buyout and paying the kind of king’s ransom that Woodward eventually used to lure Fisher to Texas A&M ($75 million guaranteed for 10 years) was so unpalatable to LSU’s administration that Fisher stayed at Florida State until the Aggies came calling.

Woodward probably faces fewer constraints. Oh sure, everyone has to answer to someone. But as much as he loves LSU and returning to his hometown after 15 years away in places like Seattle and College Station, you have to believe Woodward asked for and was granted a lot of latitude from the LSU Board of Supervisors to run the athletic department as he sees fit.

The immediate question is, what does he do with his considerable clout?

Woodward developed a well-deserved reputation at Washington and Texas A&M as a superb judge of coaching talent and a major deal closer. No one could pry football coach Chris Petersen out of Boise State until Woodward did at Washington. He made the deal for Fisher at A&M that Alleva could not, then followed up by hiring well-respected basketball coach Buzz Peterson away from Virginia Tech.


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But moves by Woodward in the major sports at LSU do not appear imminent. He has again and again praised football coach Ed Orgeron for LSU’s 2018 season (10-3 and a No. 6 final ranking) and his current run of remarkable coast-to-coast recruiting wins. He has given qualified support to the still somewhat embattled Wade, but support it is. You increasingly have to believe that unless some concrete evidence comes to light to crush Wade, he will be coaching the Tigers in 2019-20.

I know, I can hear some of you out there grumbling about Paul Mainieri. Yes, right now this is looking like the most disappointing LSU baseball season ever given the players returning this season and the Tigers’ No. 1-ranked recruiting class. But seriously, Mainieri is on firm ground, not quite two years removed from a near miss in the College World Series final.

Even women’s basketball coach Nikki Fargas, who missed the NCAA tournament for the second time in the past four seasons, appears to be in good shape for next season. Alleva said in March she would return, and Woodward has given zero indication anything has changed.

He also has expressed confidence that LSU’s facilities are in good shape. With the glaring exception of swimming and diving, which is still working out of an un-air conditioned 1980s-era natatorium that has seen few if any upgrades over the decades, they are. Over the past decade, and here again Alleva deserves credit, all of LSU’s other sports have enjoyed new or improved facilities or both.

So where does Woodward first make his mark? He has spoken in broad terms of investing in human capital, which would seem to translate into money for coaching staffs and support personnel. It would be surprising not to see some sort of revamping of LSU’s compliance office structure.

For now, he would be wise to bide his time, trying to do what he can incrementally to make a good situation on most of LSU’s playing fields and courts even better. But when he has to make a big move, given that he comes in looking more powerful politically than even Alexander, you have to believe Woodward will be able to follow his own course.


Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​