Scott Woodward knew his first few weeks as athletic director would be trying. There was a massive stadium renovation project on the horizon, and the program’s crown jewel—the Husky football team—was floundering under fourth-year coach Tyrone Willingham.
Woodward wasted little time in shaking things up. He fired Willingham seven games into the season, and also replaced Marie Tuite, the senior associate AD in charge of Olympic sports, who had worked at the UW for 14 years. He gave Tuite’s successor, Stephanie Rempe, the added responsibility of overseeing both men’s and women’s basketball programs in an effort to spread oversight of the department’s 23 sports among more of the senior associate ADs.
But in cutting ties with Willingham, who agreed to coach the Huskies through the end of the season after starting 0-7, Woodward made his biggest call by far. “It became quite obvious with the performance on the football field that it wasn’t what we talked about at the beginning of the season,” Woodward said at the Oct. 27 press conference.
Willingham came to the UW in 2005 with high expectations, having turned the Stanford football program around in the 1990s and enjoyed a reasonably successful stint at Notre Dame. But he never won more than five games in a season and is the only coach in UW history to post three consecutive losing seasons. When asked what went wrong at Washington, Willingham simply stated, “We didn’t win enough games. That’s it.”
Woodward was appointed interim athletics director last December, following the resignation of Todd Turner. President Mark A. Emmert, ‘75, asked him to fill the position permanently in September, and he accepted. Although he is a relative newcomer to the field of athletics administration, Woodward is a longtime and trusted colleague of Emmert’s. The two worked together at Louisiana State University, where Emmert was chancellor and Woodward served as director of external affairs and liaison to the LSU athletic department.
Woodward, 45, is also an experienced lobbyist with strong connections in state government, which should come into play when the UW asks the state legislature in January for $150 million in tax revenue to help remodel Husky Stadium. The school has pledged to raise another $150 million on its own.
As for the Huskies’ new football coach, Woodward is expected to work quickly and move to name a new coach shortly after the Dec. 6 finale at California.