The dominoes fell quickly on Wednesday with embattled LSU AD Joe Alleva stepping down and the Tigers reaching out to A&M athletic director Scott Woodward to replace him. Woodward is an LSU grad with tons of connections to the area and the school, so his leaving was a bit of a no-brainer.
It’s a no-brainer that Woodward’s legacy at A&M is rock solid, ushering the Aggies into a new era with the highest of high profile hires, luring Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State. Woodward doubled down by securing the services of Buzz Williams to run the basketball program. Woodward swung for the fences and didn’t miss.
If you’re an Aggie fan, you want to find someone with a similar mindset. When college football laughed at the thought of Jimbo leaving Tallahassee, Woodward went out and got him, showing a bravado that his predecessors seemed to lack. The move to the SEC changed A&M’s athletic and economic fortunes and employing an AD with that level of daring matched the Aggies’ lofty ambitions.
In the BCS/playoff era, only two coaches have left a National Championship winning program for other pastures - Jimbo Fisher and Urban Meyer. Meyer left Gainesville due to burnout, he alleged from coaching, but we suspect he grew tired of reading his squad’s lengthy rap sheets. Meyer spent a season with ESPN before landing at Ohio State. A move he’ll replicate when he jumps to USC in 2020. Allegedly.
Woodward poached Fisher from a national power, exhibiting a swagger that A&M fans crave and former ADs and administrators lacked - exhibit A: the Mike Sherman Era.
Once A&M stepped out of Texas’ shadow and jumped to the greener pastures of the SEC (pastures growing thick with dollar bills) the two universities entered into a cold war that still occupies the state today. Both are building up facilities, coaching rosters, and war chests with a glancing stare at each other. A&M was never Texas’ equals and wouldn’t be as long as they lived in Austin’s shadow. Conference politics and the Longhorn Network saw to it that Texas would maintain its pole position, bolstered by the Longhorn’s rich history.
If the Aggies were ever to attempt to challenge that monolith, they would need bold thinkers and Woodward was the most daring to date. We criticized the firing of Kevin Sumlin and the pursuit of the two the three wins that separated A&M’s position in the middle of the SEC West and the extreme upper echelon of the division. Then Woodward played his hand and brought in Fisher, a transformative figure with BCS and playoff scalps. Where Sumlin sold a social media assault, claiming the Aggies ran the state, Fisher has the credentials to make that claim a reality.
It didn’t hurt that while A&M was “running the state,” Texas’ athletic department was imploding, fighting over coaches eating for free in the cafeteria and living in an unfamiliar reality, mediocrity. Texas’ hiring Chris Del Conte more than solves those problems. The Horns are coming and for Aggie fans that resonates all too familiar memories when Texas dominated the vast landscape at A&M’s expense. Woodward matched Texas and Del Conte, or at least he didn’t resign himself to half measures.
Woodward’s successor will have the benefit of top coaches at its two revenue positions in Fisher and Williams. A&M’s baseball program continues to flirt with the top 10; Jo Evans softball program plays in a newly christened cathedral on West Campus, built under Woodward’s watch; the track program is a national power; the coffers are brimming. It’s a top 10 athletic department job, solidified by Woodward’s work. Now he’ll ply his craft for what passes as A&M’s biggest rival in Baton Rouge. A&M must fill his seat with another daring mind who isn’t afraid to make bold moves.