Woodward's Decision should open the Door

SEATTLE - Scott Woodward would have been an excellent choice as the next Athletic Director at Washington except that he was just too valuable to University President Mark Emmert in his role as Vice President of External Affairs.

Scott is bright and understands the big picture, including funding and the overall operation of a major university. To confine him to just one aspect of its many and varied programs would no doubt have effected the major missions of the current administration.

Woodward understands politics and was in fact an ex-lobbyist himself before he arrived at Washington. He is simply too valuable helping run the whole show. I hope, however, he keeps his handle and personal interest in the football program because that is an area that especially needs his attention and support. He is the first Washington athletic administrator since Mike Lude who truly understands the complexity of the sport of football and its overall importance to college sports.

Let's face it: football is and should always be the 'Golden Goose' at Washington. The football program, along with the two basketball programs, are the most important sports simply because they produce 95 percent of the athletic department's revenue.

They should be successful and should be emphasized. Personally, I don't believe that has been the case since Lude left almost twenty years ago. Washington went from a football school to a Sears Cup contestant and then proceeded to totally dismantle their football program by a series of continuous hirings and firings.

Sadly, the turnover at football coach at Washington has been accompanied by a similar turnover at the athletic director position. Since Lude was forced out at the end of the eighties by then-UW President Bill Gerberding, there has been Chuck Armstrong, Barbara Hedges, Dick Thompson, Todd Turner, and now Scott Woodward. Of course, Hedges held the position for the bulk of those years, during which the football program gradually declined after inheriting a national championship football team her first year, as well as a bulging bank account.

Hedges was, and will always be thought of as a pioneer for women in sports administration. She left many legacies and broadened the athletic department to include projects like the remodel of Hec Ed, the building of softball, soccer, and baseball facilities, and the construction of the indoor Dempsey Center. She led the department for a long time, and regardless of what she did to or for the sport of football, it certainly had stability.

Washington now needs stability on both fronts. Emmert hired Tyrone Willingham and I believe the school has really supported him these past four years. I know Emmert, as well as Woodward, assist in recruiting whenever they are available and they represent the most 'hands-on' administration with regard to football in decades.

They realize they hired a really good person in Willingham, a man who is a great sports educator and a coach who is well respected man within college football. What they don't know is if he can consistently win. Winning has now been made a very clear objective and I believe Coach Willingham will have a winner this coming season. That would mean the first bowl game for Washington in five years and I would expect a renewal of his contract.

The following season they will win the Rose Bowl. I believe that Willingham was a great hire at the time and I also believe they realized the program was at its lowest point ever, in terms of both record and talent.

I have watched literally dozens of practices with Scott Woodward over the past three years and his passion for football was obvious. He understands the game, talent, practices, and fully realizes its position within a major university.

Having been at LSU for a national championship, he also realizes the Huskies have been trying to win with lesser talented kids. They realized it would take Coach Willingham time to turn it around and that only coaching stability would produce positive recruiting. They were right and by staying the course it has produced the best recruiting class at Washington in decades (despite a losing record).

Scott knows what it is going to take to rebuild the program and they have already decided it will include remodeling Husky Stadium - something that should have been done a decade ago when it would have cost half as much.

I realize they have put together a committee of 14 to recommend the next AD, and have even gone so far as to hire a search firm for $75,000. I imagine the position will pay at least a half million or more and they should have plenty of interest. I imagine the committee will talk to lots of people, meet lots of times and go through lots of interviews, as well as spend lots of money. That's how it works I know, but somehow I would be just as happy in trusting Emmert and Woodward to make the decision themselves and get it over with tomorrow.

The number one requirement, I would think, would be to get someone who has had actual hands-on experience in running an NCAA Division-1 program. I really hope a football background would be viewed as a positive thing.

I don't like what Oregon did and hope that isn't the way they are going to go. I know a business background is an important consideration. But having experience in this field, as well as finding someone who understands the culture of Seattle, the school, the alumni and boosters, as well as the Pac-10 Conference are all attributes that would allow the new director to hit the ground running rather than spend years learning all that which is relative to the job.

That is precisely what happened to Todd Turner and Barbara Hedges, for that matter. I don't think either really understood 'Husky football' and its needs and operational structure. It took both of them years, not to mention crisis, to get settled in. Both had mixed results in their overall performance and were let go.

Now that Woodward has removed himself from consideration, it is time to get the process rolling and bring in someone who is familiar with Washington and the Northwest and someone who is a proven fund-raiser, because taking care of Husky Stadium after years of neglect is not going to come cheaply.

If Bob Stull, currently the Athletic Director at UTEP, isn't a finalist, I'd be totally shocked. He is a highly-qualified person who really wants the job and has been at Washington before and understands the community, as well as the revenue sports.

I know getting endorsed by me might be the kiss of death for Bob but I really want them to turn around the fortunes of Husky athletics and I can't believe there is anyone more qualified than Bob Stull.

I admit my prejudices and my loyalties to the Mike Lude and Coach James era, but Bob Stull is the right person at the right time for this University. He knows the lay of the land. He's lived here two different times. He knows the University of Washington. He knows football and basketball. For cripes sake, this is a no-brainer. There will be lots of people out there interested in this job but not one will have the specific credentials that Stull brings to the table. I hope he at least gets an interview, because he's earned it.

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