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LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 23, 2019
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
F. KING ALEXANDER: Thank you, and thank you all for coming today. This is a very exciting day for us, and we are certainly proud to welcome Scott Woodward, Baton Rouge native, LSU alumnus, and longtime friend of our university, back home as LSU's new athletics director. On behalf of the LSU family and on behalf of the LSU community, we certainly want to welcome Scott back home, welcome, as well as we'd like to present you with this win bar from 2003 back when you were a university administrator working at Thomas Boyd hall. Even then you had a strong influence on success of LSU athletics and what you did with us and working with the legislature was very influential back then, and we're looking forward to seeing you and our Tigers perform to new levels and new heights in the years to come.
So here, this one is pretty heavy. But we'll present this to you, Scott. This win bar is from your first years back here in 2003. Congratulations to our new athletic director.
SCOTT WOODWARD: Wow. Chosen one. You're the guy. Thank you so much, President Alexander, for those really kind words. I want to thank you and the board of supervisors for this incredible opportunity. Many athletic directors and coaches talk about being humbled and honored when they take on a new challenge, but for me here today, humbled and honored are gross understatements. I also want to thank my wife Nannette and our two boys, one of which is here today, Michael Eric. They've been so supportive of me in my career, and I know how much this means to them.
And finally, a thank you to my parents, lifelong residents and LSU fans, Cy and Sylvia Woodward, who fostered my love of education and sports. Thank you so much, mom and dad.
Thomas Wolf once said that you can't go home again. But clearly they've never been to Baton Rouge. I grew up a few miles from here, and LSU was a part of my life from my earliest memories. At the age of 10 I was climbing the stairs of Tiger Stadium during football games hawking bags of peanuts for 25 cents a bag, stopping every now and then to take in the pageantry of LSU football.
After graduating from Catholic High, there was never any thought of not going to LSU, and I spent four wonderful years here as an undergraduate.
Life took me into government and lobbying work, mentored by a great guy, Buddy Roemer and others, with LSU never too far away literally and figuratively, and fate brought me back to work for president Mark Emmert in external affairs. It was incredible to be here, as President Alexander said, in 2003 with this wonderful gift, and as LSU brought home the national football championship for the first time in decades, it was really a special time.
After stops in Washington and Texas, I'm back home. But let me be clear, and very clear, I'm not solely back at LSU because it's my alma mater. I did not return because this is home to me and my entire multigenerational family, and I'm not -- I did not come back because of the pull of any one individual. I am at LSU because I believe in who we are and what we can accomplish together, and I stress together. And because LSU means so much to me and it means so much to many people here in this great state.
For those of you who don't know me well, I'm not one who seeks the spotlight. I want our student-athletes and our coach 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. Thank you, all of you, who have had a part in this great journey for me, and thank you again, President Alexander and to the board of supervisors and all who have reached out for the past week, because together we can make this so great, and I can only end with the greatest thing I know: Go Tigers!
Q. How do you think your early years in the legislature and being around LSU prepared you for this moment, to navigate the unique climate that is LSU athletics, administration and politics?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Yeah, it's very simple. I talk about my mom and dad and people that have had great influences in my life. It's just a people world, and it's a people business. It becomes very simple and a simple thing, and there are people that lift you along your life path to do this. It had a great amount of influence in how we do it because we are all so intricately connected in this state and it matters so much.
I've said it before, my former boss Mark Emmert and even my good friend James Carville have said that there's no state university more important to its state than LSU is to Louisiana, and that passion and how we do it, whether it's on the football field or in the physics room, classroom, it is paramount to what this state's success is all about, and just being a part of that and being a part of that mix is so important and has always been a part of who I am, and it's the people, whether it's starting off with Tecumseh Sherman here when he founded this university as the first president to David Boyd, all the way through to General Middleton to the great ones that have been through here.
You know, it's all about the people, and to me, it's that simple.
Q. If you would, would you mind walking us through maybe a timeline, when you were first contacted, when you accepted, and if you would maybe elaborate a little more on why you accepted and what that decision was like for you deciding to come?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Sure, I'll be happy to talk about the latter. But the former question, this is something I don't want to break confidences on, and we'll talk about that later. This was LSU's process, and I'm happy about it and happy for it and happy I'm here today, and you and I will have plenty of time on the radio to talk about a lot of things, and we'll do it at the appropriate time.
But why I stated in my statements, it's a passion. It's a love affair, and it's the same love affair that thousands and thousands of people in this state have, and to have an opportunity to be a steward of this great place is just something that I have to pinch myself in the morning about. I'm lucky.
You know, I see friends all throughout here. It gives me goosebumps to know that Warren Rabb was part of my life as my parents' friend and that Matt Mauck, who's a successful dentist today, is still a close friend we keep in touch with, and Matt Flynn, three National Championship quarterback coaches that epitomize what LSU is about, people that do it the right way and do the right things. I couldn't be more proud of that association and what that's about, Matt.
It's just -- I get emotional when I think about it, but it is so, so important to do it right and to do it with integrity, and back to your question, it was easy. It was a call I couldn't say no to.
Q. You mentioned some of the goals that you have with championships and academically. Just in this week what's kind of your first steps here in this job?
SCOTT WOODWARD: By the way, you should win a Pulitzer for fiction, man. That's a great piece that all my friends lied about me on. I appreciate that. Made my mom feel good. But again, thanks, that was a nice piece. Repeat your question again, sorry, I was distracted.
Q. Just your goals and your first steps this first week --
SCOTT WOODWARD: Yeah, first and foremost, and I've used this before, and I've said it before, doctors take a Hippocratic oath, and part of that is "First do no harm." That's what we have to do at this incredible institution. Look, we're not going to screw up traditions, we're not going to go about changing things radically. I'm going to listen and I'm going to talk to people, and I'm going to figure out how to continue the success and even how to take it to new and greater levels because you can always do that here.
So I'll do a lot of listening, and you'll hear all my stupid clichÃ©s and metaphors I'm warning you, but one of my favorites is "God gave you two ears and one mouth," and so I'm going to do a lot of listening.
Q. There's always kind of a debate when it comes to the non-revenue producing sports, how much to invest in it. Sometimes people say invest in what they call the big three or whatnot. Can you speak to trying to have greatness across the board when it comes to football, on to the other sports?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Yeah, I hope without sounding arrogant that my actions speak louder than words from my time at University of Washington and my three years at A&M is that all sports matter to me. They're like children. Obviously your two revenue sports, really three here, mean more from a revenue standpoint because they're the goose laying the golden egg. It's important to have that engine driving all that so we can do great things in our non-revenue sports.
But it's a love affair. It's just like your children. They do different things and they have different skill sets. But I am going to focus with our administration and athletic department on that as well as our other sports, and there will be plenty of access and plenty of things to celebrate because it's been important to what we do.
You remember my boss Mark Emmert saying it, we want to be great at physics and football and everything in between, and that's what these folks attracted me to. That's what King's vision is and that's what this is about. Any way I can help I'm going to do it, and the non-revenue sports are part of that.
Q. You were able to meet with a lot of your head coaches today, I guess. Kind of what are the first things you say to them when you meet with them?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Yeah, it's hey, welcome, look forward to working with you, and it's just kind of an introductory, hey, I'm Scott Woodward, I'm the dude who sold peanuts in Tiger Stadium. I'm not any different than when you knew me, the ones that were here, and a few of them I did know from that experience, and the ones that knew of me or that I've just met today, it's like hey, I'm just a guy and I'm going to be accessible and I'm going to have collaborative in how we do things. That was essentially it, and looked forward to working with them.
Q. How do you assess your sports programs, your parameters from year to year to assess how they're doing, if they're going the right direction or not? At A&M you weren't afraid to make changes but you let guys go two or three years and looked at them. What's your parameters for that?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Yeah, I'm not going to give you all the trade secrets. Coach Bertman and I keep those real tight to our vest. But no, it's very subjective, and here again, I'm going to go back to medicine and my dear friend Carl Luikart, and he always would tell me that there's the science of medicine and there's the art of medicine. As talented of a doctor as Carl Luikart is, he is one of the best artistic practitioners of medicine there are, and you have to do that and you have to understand and look at these programs not only from a wins and losses standpoint but what kind of experience your kids are having and what's the future look like, are we recruiting well, are we recruiting the right kinds of kids to LSU and are we doing those types of things.
I know I didn't answer your question with a real objective answer, but there's an art to it, and you take each case differently. You know, that's why I bring up Coach, I'm looking right at him. We've talked about it and we've talked about it from time to time, and they're hard decisions, but you just have to be straightforward and honest with them and saying, expectations are or aren't being met, and we will do that. We will be transparent.
Q. You have a unique perspective in that as you said, you started as a fan of LSU and now you're back here running things. You can see things from the fan's perspective. What do you think the fans want, and what will you try to do to -- obviously winning is the most important thing, but what will you do to try to enhance the fan experience or try to improve that in any way, and could you see a game where you roll the peanut prices back to 25 cents?
SCOTT WOODWARD: You know, that's a great question, and I'm not smart enough to know. People forget, I've been gone 15 years, and a lot of things have changed here, and I'll have to rely upon a lot of folks. My friend Brian Cheramie, head of the Tiger Athletic Foundation, and Rick Perry and those guys, and we're going to have to really talk as a department about what is going on. I mean, I've got news for everyone that have just been to Tiger Stadium. We are the envy of the nation, and our experience is second to none, and they're crazy about it.
Here again, I don't want to screw up what's good, but there's always room for improvement. I'll do a lot of listening and I'll see how things are going from that standpoint.
Q. College athletics have seen a lot of changes over the past really decade and a lot of scrutiny in terms of how things are going just as an industry, I guess. What do you feel like you've adapted well and your departments have adapted well at your stops in the past?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Yeah, I mean, I think we're such a hypersensitive populous now. There's so many great things going on. I just mentioned three incredible LSU Tigers that had an influence and that I'm friend with today, and I'm lucky to have been associated with. There are thousands of them. They're everywhere, whether it's my good friend Tommy Hudson who played tennis here who I worked for, or just the hundreds of athletes that do great things that we don't hear and talk about. We hear all the negativity.
I always remind people, and I always want to talk to you guys honestly, the press, hey, man, only 20 percent of this country have Twitter accounts, and of those 20 percent, only 10 percent are active. And of those 10 percent that are active, only 2 percent are hyperactive. So they're creating all this noise and BS that's out there, and frankly, you know, look at it half full; things are good and things are going well, and we're doing great things, especially at these incredible institutions of higher learning, and athletics is a key part of that. That's how I feel about it.
We can talk and we'll have plenty of time to talk about what's going on and what's right and what's wrong, and there is some wrong, I'm not denying that, but God darn there's a lot right.
Q. You left a place that had oodles of money; how important and central to your mission is fundraising to get where you want to go?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Yeah, you know, here again, being a student of history and what it recalls, I remember reading a while back, William Tecumseh Sherman when he was telling David Boyd goodbye here and the South was very optimistic about winning the Civil War and he told General Sherman that, hey, we have fighting spirit here, we have the people, we have what it takes, and this is going to be a short war. And Tecumseh Sherman in his very, very dour and sour way says, you've got it all wrong. He has the great quote of saying that "War is hell." But that's another story.
But he told David Boyd, You've got it wrong. The North has one thing the South doesn't have, and that's resources, and that war was won with resources, not with fighting spirit. So we have to have resources, and we have to have very, very competitive resources.
And we're blessed. We're in the best conference in America in the Southeastern Conference and we have resources here, and people before me, whether it was Joe or Skip, have set a great basis here of where our financial standing is very good. Can we do better? Of course. But we have to be cognizant that you win wars with resources, and that's the most important thing.
Q. If I could get you to brag about yourself for moment --
SCOTT WOODWARD: It's not going to happen.
Q. What makes you the right guy for this moment, and what are some of your -- what you think are your best personal skills that suit you for this moment?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Yeah, you know, my best personal skills are I listen. You know, I'm a student, and I always want to learn and do better. Like I told you in my remarks, I'm not here because this is my alma mater and I have a love affair with this place and this place transformed my life. Those are all bonuses. I'm blessed on that front.
I'm here because of what our body of work has been with people that I've worked with all through this industry and all through -- in all parts of it. You know, I think what you'll see and you've heard me talk to especially the print guys, I view this job more like an executive producer instead of an autocratic leader. I used to tease Skip all the time when I was here giving him advice: Skip, we can't make personnel decisions this way. We have to really go through this and be thoughtful about it. Not that he wasn't; I was just teasing him, of course. But it's just collaboration. It's transparency, it's just basic simple things in life that you have to do that you have to be successful.
The most important -- I mean, this is paramount, and King and I and James Williams and I talked about it so, so, so many times. If we're not rowing in boat in this direction, we're going to get our butts kicked in Tuscaloosa, we're going to get our butts kicked in Opelika, we're going to get our butts kicked in Gainesville, and trust me, I have no intention of doing that. So I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that we're rowing this thing in the right direction.
Q. Over the past couple of years LSU has received a lot of criticism for students leaving early from football games, leaving at halftime. What are you going to do to improve student interaction and attendance at not just football games but all athletic events?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Yeah, it's a nationwide problem, it's not just an LSU problem. Here again, we like to focus on it being our problem, and it's not. We do it better than most, and it's happening everywhere.
We're going to have to figure it out. You know, I and I see my friend Burt LeBlanc over there, we consume Tiger athletics differently. We go to the game early, buy a program, get a Coke, watch the guys warm up, and kids aren't doing that. They're trying to figure it out. I'm understanding of that, and I understand that my son's generation and that your generation want to consume things and do things differently than we did.
It's so much different, and we have to figure it out. I'm going to say something radical here, but we're going to have to embrace everything, and I mean everything, and I'm not going to be a proponent of it, and certainly I'm not going to advocate it here with my boss King Alexander here, but we have one that's the elephant in the room and that's gaming and gambling. It's legal in Mississippi, sports gambling. It's here. We'd better embrace it because people are going to be doing it, and it saved the NFL, and it might be a savior for our sport. I don't know that. But at least we have to talk about it. And I know the presidents in their meetings at the SEC are talking about it seriously, how we do it with integrity, how we do it with protections, how do we do it to keep student-athletes from being influenced and to protect them. Because it's here whether we like it or not, and then, hey, do we embrace it for fan experience. I don't know that, but it could be something that we look at.
So everything is open, and I like to think about these things a lot and think about how we look at them and how we do it. You know, we have different beliefs. King and I and Joe Alleva and I were wide on letting us have more open alcohol policies at Tiger Stadium versus what the rest of the SEC did. We have a different belief system down here in the south of Louisiana. We take things differently.
So we have to look at them, and we have to do them the right way that makes sense for us, and that's how we're going to do it, and I promise you we're going to do it with the highest integrity.
Q. You got back into the SEC three years ago at Texas A&M. What have you noticed about this conference, and what does it take to be successful across the board in this league, which as you mentioned a few minutes ago, is as good as any in the country?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Yeah, it's brutal. With all the spoils come the expectations. You know, it's just doing it and trying to do it the right way, and it's so important. We have an advantage here. The state has an incredible advantage in what and how we do things in athletics and so does this league. But everyone is doing it.
But we always have to remember, there's not an equal competitor in our state. There's no Alabama-Auburn here, there's no Florida-Florida State. There's no Texas-Texas A&M. There's no -- name it, Georgia-Georgia Tech. So we have that inherent advantage where we can get and capture the minds of young student-athletes in the high school level to come to LSU and to have that dream, and then as we discussed, resources. We have to compete, and we have to compete at the highest level with all of the great institutions. That means everyone. That means people are going to have to donate. That means people are going to have to do what they have to do, keep their eyeballs on the TV and do everything that we need to do to mount resources to be hyper, hyper-competitive.
Q. You mentioned the influence your parents have had on you. How did they raise you to get to this point?
SCOTT WOODWARD: You know, my dad was a strict man in a good way. It was stick and care; trust me, he got my attention when I needed it. But it's also the love of a mother who never doubted you. I always tease her, in my cynical piece, which is there's a piece of it out there. I always quoted the great B.B. King, the late great B.B. King, "Nobody loves you but your mother, but she may be jiving you too." My mother really loves me; I know that.
She was always there for me, in times of insecurity, in times of need, in times of all that. They were always there, and they believed in me, and they unconditionally loved me, and that's just a great thing to do and to have done to you. I'm forever grateful. That's the piece that you can't say enough about.
Q. You talked about resources and some of your best resources and assets will be the coaches that you have and the coaches that you may end up hiring. Could you talk about the hires that you made while at Texas A&M, how you can apply those same resources and the way you got those coaches to LSU?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Yeah, it's not site specific, it's environment. It's knowing what and how is the right fit for you, and it's knowing and timing and all that stuff. And first and foremost, it's -- people forget, retention is the most important thing. We have great coaches here. We've got to show them the love. I see Coach O right there, excellent coach. He knows how to do it at the highest level. I saw them kick our ass at USC recruiting when I was at UW. He knows how to get it done.
You go at it, though, when you have to -- whether it's a retirement or a change, you have to go about it by knowing what and how you do things. Here again, it's a long and difficult process but it has to be done way in advance.
Q. Can you guarantee no more seven-overtime games?
SCOTT WOODWARD: President Alexander and my old boss Mike Young at Texas A&M are putting pressure on those things so they never happen again. I kind of like the idea he and I batted around about here again, an idea, I'm not advocating it, I'm having conversation with you. I like the start at the 40 and go for two immediately. I don't know if Coach O likes that or not. He might kick me in the shins when I'm done here. But I kind of like that because there needs to be something for those anomalies. Those things can get dangerous.
Q. You do inherent a tough situation with the basketball program. How do you plan to manage that moving forward?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Yeah, it's like everything. I know probably less than you do on this, and I need to be briefed and 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 percent support.
Q. Following up on that, have you met with Will?
SCOTT WOODWARD: I have not. We've seen each other in group meetings and socially, but we have not met.
Q. Just curious, when you were growing up, can you remember one or two games or sporting events you attended at LSU that really made a profound impact on you, like when you walked away, I'll always remember this game?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Not events. It goes back to people. I'm looking at one of them right there, a legend, Collis Temple. Collis Temple worked for friends of my dad at the time as a student employee here at LSU, and Col stopped at the old McDonald's here that was on the corner of I think State and whatever that street is -- I've walked it 10,000 times and don't know the name of it. But Collis would stop and mess with me, rub my head, jive with me and just always encouraged me to have fun and do things. You never forget stuff like that. And he played with a guy at the time who I just admired and later worked with in the legislature, a guy name Tommy Casanova who's a successful doctor now and one of the all-time great LSU football players. Those guys just had -- that's how much influence they have on you.
I got lucky and got to work with Collis when I was later a student worker, and Collis always answered my questions and always paid attention to me, and it's in his DNA like it was in mine. My great grandfather was an educator. He was the first principal here at Central High School. Collis's dad was a principal in Kentwood, and we had that kindred spirit, and we knew that education and the pull of this place is so important.
So I can't tell you, hey, do I remember Collis knocking out Lynn Koslowski in the P-Mac at the time in the Assembly Center; hell yeah, I remember it, but I remember the McDonald's much more fondly and doing those things. But it's just part of it. Yeah, I was there when Eddie caught his touchdown pass. I was there for all the great stuff, Burton LeBlanc, I sat there and watched us agonizingly lose to USC. I mean, it was painful. That was probably the most talented college team ever assembled and we had them. Yeah, I remember that stuff, but I remember those things much more importantly.
Q. You spent a couple years at A&M, you got to play LSU in all of the major sports, the minor sports, for football, basketball, baseball. How close to where you think they need to be are the programs from what you've seen from afar?
SCOTT WOODWARD: Oh, they're excellent, and I need to look at them a lot harder. But hey, like I told you, first do no harm. I think we have some very, very good programs here, and it's a great basis to start from. That's a credit to Skip and to Joe and to everyone that was part of preceding me. There's a lot here that's good.
Q. How much has your hobby of fishing really shaped your philosophy on people and listening and really having patience but hoping for success?
SCOTT WOODWARD: That's a great question. It's probably more of a philosophical question. My son is a fly fisherman and does it with grace and class, and I've still got too much redneck in me; I want to put 25 in the boat.
So I've got -- back to your question, I've got to slow down sometimes and back off and look and do what my son does, put the fly in front of the bait, in front of the fish and let it hit it and be patient with it instead of trying to horse 25 into the boat. So that's my best answer.
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