What Does Woodward’s Leaving Mean for Texas A&M?

Woodward Aggie

Now that the dust has settled on Scott Woodward’s departure let’s look back at what happened and what it means for Texas A&M.  I’m not an insider and have no inside information to what took place.  I’ve only read the public reports with speculation on what happened.  Seems no one other than those involved know the real story but there’s plenty of speculation on what happened.

What we know:

  • A Tweet emerged from LSU media that LSU’s AD would be stepping down and Woodward would be the target. This was the first public report.
  • It caught everyone in the media including Aggie media “insiders” by complete surprise. There was a lot of shock and surprise on what was happening.  This seemed to be the first anyone close to the Aggie program had heard about Woodward leaving.
  • As people started chasing sources it became apparent that Scott Woodward was likely leaving A&M for the LSU AD job. This happened within a few hours of the first Tweet by LSU media about LSU’s AD stepping down.
  • The next day everyone agreed that after hiring Buzz Williams to coach Men’s Basketball Scott Woodward was in fact leaving for LSU’s AD job. It was a done deal and more covert than his hires.  Woodward being more covert in his departure shouldn’t be a surprise.  The dude is an assassin when it comes to job hires.  He keeps quiet and you’re only sure it happened when it’s already done.

What has been speculated:

These aren’t chronological but just a summary of the speculation as to why and how Woodward left.

  • Someone above Woodward in the A&M chain of command rubbed him the wrong way. This caused Woodward to put out feelers about becoming the LSU AD.  The belief is that when information about LSU’s current AD stepping down came out Woodward to LSU was already a done deal.
  • Once Woodward had agreed to take the LSU AD job he didn’t/wouldn’t consider any counter offers from A&M.
  • A&M didn’t make any efforts to keep Woodward upon learning of his potential departure to LSU.
  • Woodward simply wanted to “go home.”

What this means for Aggie Athletics:

  • Texas A&M was set to have a SOLID decade run of athletic success with football and men’s basketball. It wouldn’t be easy, but a proven AD, proven football coach, and proven men’s basketball coach were in place.  Their past success says A&M was set up really well.  Now one of those key pieces is gone.
  • A&M’s biggest competitor in terms of conference and geography just got infinitely stronger at the AD position. LSU under Joe Alleva as AD for football and men’s basketball was a complete mess in recent years.  He botched the firing of Les Miles and getting Jimbo Fisher.  He then thought he had Tom Herman locked up only to see him go to Texas.  He had to settle for Coach O.  In basketball Alleva’s hires of Trent Johnson and Johnny Jones didn’t work out.  The Will Wade situation is a mess right now.   Maybe it’s issues with LSU but Alleva’s handling of the football and men’s basketball program is a complete 180 from how Woodward handled those positions at A&M.  LSU now has an AD that’s shown he can execute in hiring coaches for those positions.  Life for A&M athletics would be easier if LSU continued to botch the handling of the head coaches for those two positions.  There’s no doubt LSU is MUCH better off in the hands of Woodward than Alleva.

My Thoughts on Everything:

Why Did Woodward Leave?:

While there are certainly some elements of Woodward “going home” I believe there was a big factor of someone at A&M upset Woodward.  Who that person is I don’t know but speculation is John Sharp.  I’ll get to more on Sharp later.

I believe this because of the timing and how people that are normally connected were taken by surprise.  For a few hours people that were normally connected were freaking out trying to figure out what was going on.  Those connected people didn’t see this coming at all.  The whole timing and lack of awareness speaks to Woodward wanting out before a natural departure and finding his way.

I have no issues at all with what he did.  If someone above you in the chain of command dis-respects you the only real recourse is to leave.  To gain even more respect you go to a competitor with the opportunity to go head to head with the person that dis-respected you.  I don’t think Woodward is vindictive but he took the absolute best position to prove his worth.

I respect the hell out of how Woodward handled the situation and where he went.  There’s nothing worse than working for someone that doesn’t value your true worth.  Woodward quietly put out feelers to take the job at a place he wanted to go.  When feelings were reciprocated he was able to work out the details to make it happen.  It’s fascinating in this day and age Woodward kept this all under wraps.  It’s remarkable and speaks to how the guy operates.

Even on his way out of Aggieland Scott Woodward showed he is a true professional while looking out for himself.  I can’t blame him for one thing he did.  I wish he hadn’t left but he proved how adept he is at change one final time in Aggieland.

Interim AD:

While I think R.C. Slocum is an outstanding representative for Texas A&M I cringed when I heard he was named Interim AD.  This is not a knock on R.C. at all.  We live in a different era of college athletics.  Gone are the days of plugging in good ol boys to run the athletic department.  You need an experienced administrator who has proven success in the financial, regulations, personnel, facilities, and marketing components of a major athletic program.  A popular figurehead doesn’t cut it anymore.  Just look at Lynn Swann at USC.

Mal Moore at Alabama was probably the last coach to have a successful tenure as an athletic director.  And Moore wouldn’t have been perceived as successful if he hadn’t hired Nick Saban.  That hire erased his hires of Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, and Mike Shula before him.  Without the hire of Saban Moore’s tenure as AD is in question.   That single hire changed the long-term perception of Mal Moore.  It’s also an interesting read on how Moore made it if you have the time.  It’s a fascinating read.  Just Google, “Mal Moore, Nick Saban Hire”.

Things have changed in college athletics and I don’t think coaches are equipped to handle the decisions an AD has to make in this day and age.  It’s a constant battle of generating revenue and smartly spending so your athletic programs are as competitive as other programs in the country.  What do you spend on staff, marketing, outside entities, and facilities?  It’s not just gland handling and raising money.

If R.C. was named the Interim AD for a few weeks that would make me feel better.  However, I don’t see the reason for that.  If you just needed a short-term placeholder I think Stephanie Rempe or Justin Moore would have been completely adequate as they seem to have been pretty involved with Woodward.

I get the feeling R.C. isn’t a true Interim AD.  I think he’s a short-term AD that’s set for a 6 to 18-month tenure.  The powers that be at A&M feel everything in the Athletic Department are fine with Jimbo and Buzz being on board.  They feel R.C. is just fine as the figure head of the Athletic Department for now.  R.C. will be the face of the athletic department while those at the highest level make decisions they should leave to a true professional AD.

Maybe things will be fine.  It’s certainly not the approach I’d take if I had influence on how the athletic department should be handled with Woodward’s departure.  I would be looking for the most professional AD I could find and put them in place right away.

Once again, none of the above is a knock on R.C. Slocum at all.  I had my issues with him as a head coach as in the end he didn’t win enough games.  I don’t blame him one bit for being the Interim AD.  He did what was asked of him.  He’ll be a fine figurehead but I think A&M needs more right now.

Future AD:

I have no clue what to think on the next AD in Aggieland.  I’d like to think we go hire another person like Woodward right away but I don’t see that happening.  This feels like when Mike Perrin was named Interim AD in Austin to bridge the gap from Steve Patterson who was a disaster.  Perrin wound up having the interim tag removed from his title four months on the job and would serve two more years before the Longhorns hired Chris Del Conte from TCU.

I’m not comparing A&M to the Longhorns so settle down.  I’m just saying this feels like a similar situation where the Interim AD could have a longer tenure than originally expected.  I’m not sure R.C. ever loses the interim title but it could be until the summer of 2020 until we see a new AD.  Why we wait so long I have no idea but that’s the general feel I get.

If I were going after a new AD my first call would be to Oliver Luck.  He’s currently serving as CEO and Commissioner of the XFL but I think we all know how that’s going to turn out.  He has AD experience having served as West Virginia’s AD for 4 years.  He spent 4 years with the NCAA as Executive Vice President for Regulatory Affairs.  He’s also spent time as GM for the Houston Dynamo, President of NFL Europe, and served as GM for some NFL Europe teams in the 90s.

He’s spent considerable time in Texas having played for the Oilers for 4 seasons.  After football he earned his law degree from Texas.  His son Andrew graduated from Stratford High in Houston before going to Stanford.  Needless to say he’s familiar with this part of Texas.  He’s the guy I thought the Longhorns should have hired when they hired Del Conte.  Not sure if Texas even tried to hire him but he’d be my first call.

Maybe R.C. was named the Interim AD to buy time and see if the XFL would fail.  I don’t think that’s the case but the XFL starts in Q1 of 2020.  The original XFL and more recent AAF couldn’t make it past the first season so odds are it won’t succeed.  Maybe R.C. was a chess move waiting to see if we can land Luck a year from now.

I personally wouldn’t wait on Oliver Luck and would look at current ADs at P5 schools and would start in the SEC.  I don’t think Greg Byrne would leave Alabama for A&M but if he would I’d make that move in a heartbeat.  I’d certainly ask.  I’d also investigate Hunter Yurachek at Arkansas.  He’s got time in Texas as the AD at UH.  Not sure there’s anyone else in the SEC I think would be possible to grab.  I’d still look down the list of current SEC ADs and see if there’s any worthy of asking.

Outside of the SEC I’d look at Kirby Hocutt.  I know we tend to despise things at Tech but Hocutt seems to have done okay in Lubbock.  Football has struggled but I don’t think he had a choice in hiring Kingsbury and holding onto him as long as he did.

There’s speculation of Dan Radakovich who is the current AD at Clemson but I’m not sure he’d leave what he has at Clemson right now for A&M.  He’s from Indiana and the closest he’s been to Texas professionally is 5 years as senior associate AD at LSU.  If he was interested in moving from Clemson to A&M I’d certainly do the due diligence but I don’t see it happening.

I’m certain with effort and diligence A&M can hire a quality AD sooner than later.  That certainly would be my approach.  We have serious momentum with what Woodward left us and we need to act like a major athletic program.

As for the talk of having Jimbo involved in the AD hire I’d certainly seek his input and allow him to sign off.  I wouldn’t waste Jimbo’s time on being fully involved though.  He’s got a football program to run.  I can’t see Jimbo wanting to meddle in the search.  Just hire the best AD you can that’ll support Jimbo and leave him the hell alone to win football games.

There is speculation Rick Perry will step down as Secretary of Energy to become the Aggie AD.  I can’t imagine that.  Rick Perry is a likable person but putting him as the Aggie AD would be the most good ol’ boy move ever.  He has no business running the Aggie athletic department.  It would be a disaster.  If this is being considered I’d much rather see R.C. named the Aggie AD.

Is This John Sharp’s Fault?:

As reports of Woodward leaving surfaced, Aggie insiders started investigating and a similar story seemed to emerge.  Woodward had enough of someone above him.  Some of those insiders implied it was John Sharp without saying his name while others directly stated Sharp’s name.  The smoke sure made it seem like Woodward was tired of working under Sharp.

I have no clue if this is true but this speculation came from people who seemed to be correct about lots of things in the past.  I don’t know if Sharp did something specific or if it was a collection of things.  I do think there’s a lot of truth to Woodward’s leaving coming down to an issue with John Sharp.  Based on timing and most folks being blindsided by the news I believe Woodward was tired of someone above him.  It sure seems like John Sharp.

LSU is Woodward’s home but he was in a good position as Aggie AD.  He’d just made two amazing hires in the biggest revenue sports.  Maybe he just wanted to go home but wouldn’t he want to see the fruits of his labor at A&M for a little while?  Something seems off in the timing of all of this.  I don’t think Woodward just decided to head to Baton Rouge having no issues with anyone above him.  There just feels like there’s some kind of fire to the smoke from Aggie insiders.

With the smoke around Woodward’s departure there’s now three big data points related to leadership at A&M since Sharp took over as Chancellor:

  • Bowen Loftin who astutely took us to the SEC stepped down as President so he could teach in the College of Engineering. He then took the job as Chancellor of the University of Missouri.  That tells me he wasn’t ready to stop leading a university.  There was speculation he was tired of working with Sharp.
  • Eric Hyman had an interview with Mac Engel where he referenced leadership at Texas A&M meddling with the AD and not letting them do their job. I’ll post the relevant quotes at the end of this so you can read them.  I’m no fan of Eric Hyman as Aggie AD but his comments align with the smoke around Woodward’s leaving.  Hyman also specifically referenced things changing in his role when Loftin stepped down.
  • At least two Aggie message boards that have been on point with major moves in the past pointed to Woodward having an issue with someone above him as major factor in leaving. Those issues were pointed towards John Sharp.

Maybe John Sharp is a fine Chancellor for Texas A&M. However, there’s some data that indicates he needs to stay in his lane as Chancellor and let those he hired do their jobs.  Especially those that have proven to be extremely competent.  Texas A&M is greater than any one person.  If any one person believes they are greater than Texas A&M they need to be shown the door.

If Sharp is the reason Woodward left then someone needs to have a serious conversation with him.  We don’t need anyone else of Woodward’s competence level leaving.  John Sharp is not bigger than Texas A&M.

Will Jimbo Leave?:

As of right now I don’t think there’s any concern with Jimbo leaving.  However, I’m not foolish enough to think that Jimbo can’t do to us what he did to Florida State.

10 years for $75 million was certainly a factor in Jimbo’s leaving FSU for A&M but that wasn’t the only reason.  It was also about Jimbo not seeing eye to eye with the leadership at FSU when it came to program support.  Jimbo felt he wasn’t getting the support he needed to win national championships.

Jimbo isn’t coaching for money at this point.  He’s coaching for national championships.  Kevin Sumlin he’s not.  Jimbo knows he’s going to get paid wherever he coaches so it’s all about the opportunity and support to win national championships.  He wants to be compensated on the level of the highest paid but it’s not just about the annual salary.

As long as the leadership at Texas A&M leaves Jimbo the hell alone and gives him all the support he requests as head coach there’s no reason for Jimbo to leave.  If someone above Jimbo pisses him off I can see Jimbo doing the same thing Scott Woodward did.  Texas A&M leadership needs to study the Alabama playbook for dealing with Nick Saban.  They also need to study all the mistakes Jerry Jones has made in handling his head coaches.  Support Jimbo and leave him the hell alone.

As for LSU I’m not dumb enough to think Jimbo could never go there if someone pisses Jimbo off.  The state of Louisiana might not be the most financially stable state but you’re a fool if you think they won’t find the money to lure Jimbo and especially under Woodward’s stewardship if the opportunity and timing are there.  They’ll search every couch crevice and pass every gumbo pot in the state to find the money to get Jimbo this time.  LSU also has one of the most talented teams in the country so Jimbo could step right in and compete with anyone in the country from day one.

There’s no concern in Jimbo leaving right now but if A&M leadership doesn’t learn from other events it could happen.  Thinking it won’t ever happen is foolish.  We’ll just have to see if those in power have learned anything from the past at A&M and other places.

So Now What?:

What’s done is done.  Texas A&M’s best AD is gone and A&M is in EXCELLENT shape as an athletic department.  There’s no immediate concern.

If the powers that be feel the athletic department will run itself then we’re in trouble.  If the powers that be believe it’s okay to meddle in the day to day operation of the athletic department then we’re in trouble.  There’s a difference between checking in and getting updates compared to meddling.

What Texas A&M needs to do is hire the most experienced and competent AD they can find.  They need to do it sooner than later.  I’m fine taking time to make the right hire but that shouldn’t take more than a few months.  I don’t see any reason why the new AD can’t be in place by summer.  That would be my goal.

Texas A&M is set up to have an unprecedented run in football and men’s basketball.  The leadership just needs to make sure what’s in place doesn’t get off track.  They need to hire the best AD they can get and then just leave them the hell alone.

No one person is bigger than Texas A&M.  We can all celebrate together as the good times happen in football and men’s basketball.  Egos and stupidity don’t need to ruin this.

Gig ‘Em.

 

 

Here’s the excerpt of Hyman’s interview with Mac Engel that I referenced earlier in this piece.  Like I said I’m no fan of Eric Hyman as A&M AD but his comments seem to have a little more merit based on the smoke around why Woodward left:

Here’s the link if you want to read the whole thing:

https://www.star-telegram.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/mac-engel/article174596706.html

You have a legacy at TCU and South Carolina; do you feel like you have one at Texas A&M?

I wasn’t there long enough. We tried to implement some programs but at A&M they managed the activities, they didn’t manage the results of what we were trying to do.

What does that mean?

They were in the day-to-day activities of athletics. If you want to hire an athletic director you have to let them do their job.

Who is they?

The leadership of the university.

Do you regret taking the job?

There are some things that I felt because of my ethical standards I was not a good fit. I felt if I had to do it again, I would probably do a lot better job of researching it.

The myth surrounding the expansion at Kyle Field is that it was done on the back of success of Johnny Manziel. Is that true?

It was already done. When I got there, before Manziel won the Heisman Trophy, a lot of work had already been done. The road map was in place. Did Johnny make it easier? Sure. No question. Because of the success and notoriety. When I got there, I think, most people were apprehensive about the SEC. Most people felt they were not sure how well they were going to do. Johnny flipped the thought process and gave them a boost of confidence.

Can A&M in the SEC be successful and sustain it?

It’s a tough league but if look at historically, what A&M has to do is not shoot itself in the foot. Yeah, I think the potential is there. My reservations about taking the job was the 12th Man Foundation and how involved they were in what you were doing. I thought they were fantastic.

What were those reservations?

I had heard they ran athletic department, which was just a rumor. When I got into it, that was my biggest surprise. The quality of people was terrific.

Did you enjoy your time at A&M?

Parts I enjoyed and parts that I did not. There were situations they did not let the athletic director do their job. People there wanted to run the athletic department and not let the athletic director do it. It was so political. Because of that it’s made it difficult to achieve of what you wanted to do.

I laid out, in the interview process, what I wanted to do to do what a successful athletic department does. I didn’t deviate from that. That’s what I tried to do. When I got into the situation, that was not true.

They told you what you wanted to hear?

Well, Dr. (Bowen) Loftin was the president, and then he was asked to leave. At that point in time, it was Katy bar the door.

Are you hopeful or concerned about the future of A&M athletics in the SEC?

If they allow the people to do the job, they can be very successful. They’ve got people there that want to be the athletic director. They micro manage.

Do you think that is a common problem at other large, Power 5 state schools?

You have the presidents more wired than they used to be, because of the visibility and because of the money that is involved. Some schools, probably so. It just varies. But the ones I’ve talked to, none are like Texas A&M.

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