Local Ties Don't Bind Woodward; UW All The Way

Sept. 2, 2009

by Jeremy Cothran

SEATTLE - Scott Woodward's professional life comes full circle this weekend. Yet if there's any thought whether the Washington athletic director is wringing his hands over an internal conflict between his past and the present, well, that's just not the case.

He's much more interested in seeing how his hallmark hire, Steve Sarkisian, kicks off the new era of Husky football on a nationally televised game Saturday night. The magnitude of the matchup with Louisiana State - just a couple of years removed from a National Championship - on ESPN has the fan base buzzing with anticipation as well, as many are eager to see how the Huskies rebound from a 0-12 season.

At Monday's first weekly press conference of the season, he was as in-demand as Coach Sarkisian or quarterback Jake Locker. In the buildup towards the opener, the AD has had to absorb one question after another about his LSU ties. Each time, he shrugs them off.

The 45-year-old Woodward is an alumnus of LSU (political science), and built his career in athletic administration there as well. Baton Rouge holds a special place in his heart. He's made a lot of friends at LSU and developed professional relationships in his home state. He expects to shake a lot of hands with former colleagues on Saturday.

The matchup came about just as Woodward was furthering his career after joining UW president Mark Emmert in Seattle. The department was scrambling for a game after Nevada backed out, and it just so happened that one of Woodward's friends at LSU, senior associate athletics director Verge Ausberry, called with an offer. The Tigers would come up to Seattle first, and then UW would make a return trip to Baton Rouge in 2012. Done and done.

'We got back to him and made the deal,' Woodward said.

There are some factions of Husky fans who would rather see the team ease their way into the 2009 season, rather than face one of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference. For one, schedules are made well in advance, so it's impossible to predict how the team will fare in 2017, the time frame where UW is now doing a bulk of their scheduling work. Secondly, the Huskies have a long-time tradition of scheduling elite opponents.

When a reporter asked Woodward about the LSU deal, he responded with an anecdote about current Alabama coach and friend Nick Saban, who previously coached Michigan State.

'When Coach Saban started his career off at Michigan State (in 1995), he opened against No. 1 Nebraska,' Woodward said. 'He got beat, but he said his team learned a lot from it and got better. And they played in a bowl that year.'

For the Huskies, they're planning to enjoy the exposure that comes with a prime-time matchup, at home, against a top opponent. Most coaches would try and temper the enthusiasm, but not so with Sarkisian. He wants his players as fired up as possible. Linebacker Mason Foster laughed when asked about how his coach was managing the hype.

'Oh, he's jumping around with us,' Foster said. 'He lets us loose. Everyone is getting hyped together.'

On the administrative side, UW officials are looking forward to showcasing the positives of one of the Pac-10 Conference's pre-eminent programs. Woodward acknowledged that Seattleites aren't by nature boastful, but nevertheless the University should enjoy the spotlight. And he would prefer to have that as the focal point, rather than the storylines of his LSU ties.

'Outside the lines,' Woodward said, 'we want to show the world how great we are, and how great this place is...ESPN. 7:30 [PST]. It doesn't get any better than that.'

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