JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
HORSESHOE BAY— Even though Scott Woodward has only been the athletics director at Texas A&M University for three months, that didn’t stop members of the Horseshoe Bay Sports Club on April 13 from asking the same question that has been asked since 2011.
Will the Aggies play the University of Texas in football again?
“We have to really assess what is our best path to winning the (Southeastern Conference) West,” Woodward said. “I don’t foresee anything happening in the near future. There are a lot of opinions well above my pay grade. Rivalries, I think, are healthy for the game.
“It’ll be something we’ll consider,” he added. “It’ll be a discussion I’ll have to have. I have no objection to it. It’s something that has to work for us and for folks.”
Woodward, who was the club’s monthly featured speaker, complimented Texas A&M for making the move to the nation’s toughest football conference beginning in 2012-13.
“In my opinion, it was the best college move to a conference in sports,” he said. “And the SEC benefits largely by opening up the Texas (television and radio) markets. A&M really came out of the shadows and became what it should have become.”
Woodward got his start in athletics as a peanut hawker at Tiger Stadium on the Louisiana State University campus in the 1970s. He eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from LSU in 1985 and later served as a political consultant and a legislative liaison in the state capital of Baton Rouge. Once his children began going to LSU, he decided he wanted to give back to his alma mater, even though he was running his own government and public relations firm. So he met with then-LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert, who is now the president of the NCAA, and offered to help.
Once the interview wrapped up, Emmert called Woodward with good and bad news. The good news was that Woodward had a job at LSU. The bad news was that Emmert wanted him to work full time.
“And this is the truth,” he said with a grin. “I sold my Mercedes Benz and bought a Honda Accord and went to work for LSU.”
He was LSU’s director of external affairs from 2000-04 as the liaison between the university and government and corporate officials and between the athletic department and the administration. At the time, the LSU head football coach was Nick Saban.
Woodward’s ties to A&M President Michael J. Young date back to when the two worked at the University of Washington. Woodward became Washington’s AD in 2008.
When he was first contacted about the A&M job, Woodward said he wasn’t looking to leave Washington. After all, he loved living in the state and enjoyed competing in the Pacific 12 Conference.
But as he thought about it, he became more intrigued. He is a Louisiana native with deep ties to Baton Rouge and Alabama. So moving to Texas meant being closer to family.
So during a duck hunting trip in Louisiana over the holidays, Woodward drove to College Station and interviewed for the job. Shortly after, he formally accepted the position.
And he believes taking over as Aggies athletics director was a step up.
So as he thought about what he wanted to accomplish in the first year, he came to a quick conclusion.
“Don’t screw it up,” he said with a smile. “The university couldn’t be in better shape. We want to continue to be great and continue to win championships.
“You want to compete at the highest level, but you want to do it the right way with strong athletes who are getting degrees and getting a great education,” he added. “It’s very important to our fanbase that we’re great in everything we do.”
He noted that men’s and women’s basketball teams were top 20 squads during the past season, the men’s tennis team is ranked No. 5 nationally, and the softball team is ranked No. 16.
In short, the Aggies want to be great in everything they do.
Now that the renovations to Kyle Field have been completed, Woodward said the Texas A&M board of regents will be asked to vote on two other projects: a new softball facility projecting $39 million and a new track-and-field facility projected to cost $39 million.
“I can see a bunch of stuff that needs to be fixed,” he said. “Our softball facility is probably the worse in the SEC. (Head track coach Pat) Henry hasn’t hosted a meet since he’s been the head coach. A new facility will allow us to bid for national and regional meets and Olympic trials. We want to be great in everything we do.”
As for the possibility of adding two new SEC members and moving Alabama and Auburn to the SEC East, Woodward said he hadn’t heard about that.
He said adding more members means splitting the revenue share even more.
“It dilutes the pie to take two more members,” he said. “Revenue goes down when you have more mouths to feed.”
Woodward said he is in favor of student-athletes receiving cost-of-attendance, which means they receive financial aid totaling the amount of money it costs them to go to college. He is not in favor of paying athletes in an employer-employee situation.
“We want to continue to do a better job of providing for them.
“The state of college athletics couldn’t be in better shape,” he said. “Television ratings, attendance, popularity couldn’t be better. I want to ease your fears. I think you continue to see student-athletes do great things and do it in a balanced way. That’s why I’m so bullish and positive on what’s going on.”