Scott Woodward is a bona fide sniper athletic director. He’s been on the job since January of 2016. That’s about 23 months of service and most Aggie fans don’t know much about him other than he previously served as Washington’s Athletic Director before coming to Texas A&M. Well, Aggie fans know all about him now with the hire of Jimbo Fisher. The media can grade out the Jimbo Fisher hire however they want but the fact of the matter is Scott Woodward pulled off the hire of the year and maybe even the past decade. He convinced a coach with a national championship and a program that by many accounts was established as a Top 10 program to move to Texas A&M. I can’t think of another time that’s happened in recent memory.
Nick Saban was looking to leave Miami and get back to the college game. Urban Meyer was sitting on the sidelines. Chip Kelly was also on the sidelines and was familiar with the West Coast along with being able to hide in Los Angeles. I don’t think the Chip Kelly is a bigger hire than Jimbo Fisher this year. It took a lot more to convince Jimbo Fisher to leave Florida State and come to Texas A&M than it took UCLA to convince Chip Kelly UCLA was the right school for him. Going back to recent big hires there was Jim Harbaugh but he’s a Michigan alum and was looking to leave the NFL. It certainly wasn’t Charlie Strong, Tom Herman, Kevin Sumlin, Art Briles, Chris Petersen, or any other mid-major to major hire. Maybe I’m missing a hire in the last decade but I can’t think of a hire where a coach left a program like Florida State for Texas A&M. The most recent might have been Dennis Franchione when he left Alabama for Texas A&M but that was way back in 2002. That’s been almost 15 years ago.
If you listen to the Jimbo Fisher press conference there’s one reason why Jimbo Fisher is at Texas A&M – Scott Woodward. Scott Woodward’s friendship was the main reason but there’s no doubt it took some serious convincing to get Jimbo Fisher to make the move. Bill Byrne nor Eric Hyman could have made this hire. I’m not convinced any other athletic director in the country could have made this hire. LSU tried twice and I’m pretty sure Texas asked as well last season. Jimbo Fisher is a bigger higher than Tom Herman. There’s no denying that. I’m sure there’s also been other programs that expressed an interest in Jimbo Fisher but he’s never made the move from Florida State to anywhere but Texas A&M. Texas A&M has Scott Woodward to thank for that. There’s no doubt Woodward got plenty of support from those in charge of Texas A&M but this hire is solely Scott Woodward’s.
The interesting thing about Scott Woodward if you pay attention to conversation about athletic directors across the country you never hear his name mentioned. At all. Scott Woodward’s name never comes up with the “big named” athletic directors. The only thing anyone knows about Scott Woodward at Texas A&M other than this hire is when he went on the record saying Kevin Sumlin needed to win more at SEC media days. Outside of that comment you’ve never heard about Scott Woodward. People have heard of Joe Castiglione at OU, Scott Stricklin at Florida, Jeff Long formerly of Arkansas, Chris Del Conte now of Texas, Greg Byrne at Alabama, and others but you NEVER have heard of Scott Woodward with those names. You likely won’t hear Scott Woodward’s name much despite pulling off the biggest hire in college football in the last 10-15 years. He just sits in the weeds and does his job with no self-promotion which is why you don’t see his name thrown out there.
No matter what anyone says the MOST important thing an AD in college athletics can do is hire a winning football coach. You win in football and everything else falls in place. Athletic Director’s careers are made based on the success of the football coach. Everything else is a distant second. If you’ve got a winning football coach and have the ability to string complete sentences together in a crowd you’re going to be crowned a “successful” athletic director. There’s no doubt Jeff Long got ran off from Arkansas because he hired Brett Bielema. The man had done really well with the Arkansas athletic department but got fired because he hired Brett Bielema. Joe Castiglione, Chris Del Conte, and Greg Byrne are all considered elite athletic directors because of the football program. There’s no doubt those guys are competent athletic directors but the success of the football program lifts the perception of the rest of the athletic department. It’s that plain and simple.
Scott Woodward is a Sniper Athletic Director because you haven’t heard a peep from him other than his introductory press conference in January 2016 and his comments this year at SEC Media Days. On December 1, 2017 he fired a shot that made everyone stand up and take notice. At least those with half a brain took notice. Scott Woodward without any fanfare brought Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M. He made his comment during SEC Media Days stating expectations and that had been it from him. When it came time to pull the cord on Sumlin he quietly and calmly pulled the trigger bagging his mark. Everybody knew he was around but nobody was really sure what was going on. There was lots of speculation but nobody knew for sure. Woodward didn’t say anything during the whole process other than when it was announced Sumlin would no longer be the head coach. Woodward simply said the next time you would hear from him is when the new coach was named. That was it. That’s operating like a sniper rather than an infantry person spraying bullets hoping something big falls. See Tennessee for an example of that later. Woodward had his mark, his perch, and fired a clean shot. That’s the way snipers work.
His use of the media was very well done. Rather than let some wild speculation happen there was just enough leaks to keep any media person specifically covering Texas A&M on the Jimbo Fisher trail. Some media people were speculating other names but those that cover Texas A&M closest always pointed to Jimbo Fisher. It wasn’t just one media person either. Brent Zwerneman, Billy Liucci, and Mark Passwaters who cover A&M the most were consistent in their updates it was Jimbo Fisher. I’m hoping that was by design to get just enough information out there but not too much if Jimbo Fisher couldn’t be landed. On the day Sumlin was let go, Randy McIlvoy of KPRC in Houston was brought into the mix to announce “according to sources” Jimbo Fisher would be the next head coach at Texas A&M. Jimbo Fisher had one more game to go but something tells me McIlvoy’s source was the Athletic Director at Texas A&M. At least whoever told McIlvoy had the blessing of the Athletic Director to go ahead and get the name out there. This way when the hiring was made official it wasn’t a total shock and the media was ready cover it from different aspects. Woodward proved the doubters wrong but he left enough crumbs out there for those truly paying attention with an objective lens.
The hiring process really reminded of the move to the SEC. Dr. Loftin spoke just enough to control the message but never overpromised anything. There was denial and speculation early on by a lot of the media people just like with the Jimbo Fisher. Through it all A&M kept quiet making sure everything was lined up. As things appeared to be happening enough news was leaked so people were prepared for the official announcement and it wouldn’t be complete shock and awe. I thought Texas A&M handled the move to the SEC and hiring of Jimbo Fisher with almost perfect execution. They spoke less and executed more. As Jimbo Fisher said in his opening press conference, “Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying.” Texas A&M’s actions said exactly what Texas A&M is about. Doubt us and we’ll prove you wrong.
With a 10 year, $75 million contract Scott Woodward’s entire legacy is likely tied to the success or failure of Jimbo Fisher. It seems he knows that which is why you don’t hear much from him. I suspect Woodward will stay behind the scenes and let the football program speak for his acumen. This was his hire and he knows this will be his legacy. He knows ultimately the actions of the football program will speak so loudly nobody will hear what he’s saying. There’s no point in saying anything. Just sit back like a sniper hoping his job is done.
If you want to know a little more about Scott Woodward he’s a graduate of LSU which makes the hire of Jimbo Fisher ironic because his alma mater couldn’t do it in two previous attempts. He graduated in 1985 and worked in politics working mainly on campaigns for state and national elections. In 2000 he was hired by LSU as director of external affairs also serving as the liaison between the chancellor and athletics. In 2004 he left LSU for Washington working in the same role. In 2008 he was named the athletic director at Washington where he served in that role before taking the same role at Texas A&M in January of 2016.