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Originally published Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 4:52 PM

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Huskies AD gets a shot at former employer

Scott Woodward worked at LSU before coming to Washington with Mark Emmert

Seattle Times staff reporter

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He grew up with a poster of LSU legend Tommy Casanova on his wall and a dream, later fulfilled, of attending the school.

But scheduling a game against the Tigers as one of his first acts as athletic director at Washington wasn't part of any grand plan, says Scott Woodward, LSU class of 1985.

In fact, it was LSU that first approached the Huskies in early 2008 after both schools suddenly had openings in their schedules, he says.

"It was like, 'This makes sense, so let's do this,' " said Woodward of the agreement, finally reached in May 2008 for the Huskies to play LSU in a home-and-home series — the first of which comes Saturday when the Tigers open the Steve Sarkisian era in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The back end comes on Sept. 29, 2012, when UW will visit LSU.

The Huskies suddenly needed a game after Nevada asked out of a visit to Seattle, apparently to play Notre Dame. The Wolf Pack opens Saturday in South Bend.

Woodward, who had become interim athletic director in December 2007 when Todd Turner was fired, said he talked to a few other BCS schools but couldn't make anything work before getting a call from some old friends at LSU. He had been director of external affairs for five years at LSU before coming to UW in 2004 along with Mark Emmert, who was chancellor there and became UW's president.

Everyone involved knew adding the Tigers made for a tough schedule with Notre Dame and nine Pac-10 games already on the slate, and Woodward said coach Tyrone Willingham batted it around for a few days before finally agreeing.

But the fact that ESPN had already agreed to televise the game helped seal the deal. The Huskies will receive $285,000 from ESPN for the game. Then there was the fact there just weren't many other options a that point.

Now that the game is drawing near, Woodward says there is no question where his allegiance lies, despite his deep ties to LSU.

"I probably want to beat them more than I want to beat any other team," he said. "I want to show the world how good we are."

He then notes that UW is 3-0 against LSU in athletics since he came to Washington, two wins by the men's basketball team and another in women's soccer. "I would like to continue that streak," he said.

He'd also like to get the second full year of his tenure as AD off to a good start.

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It was in mid-September a year ago that Woodward was named AD after serving as interim for nine months. Interestingly, he has yet to sign a contract, but says that's just a paperwork issue and should happen soon.

It's been a rockier first year than Woodward might have imagined, one that included the firing of Willingham and budget cuts that meant the decision to eliminate men's and women's swimming, as well as laying off 13 department staffers.

"I wasn't expecting to have to do those hard things in reducing the budget," he said. "No one deserved to be fired, but it had to be done."

But he said he doesn't regret taking the job — he had been UW's VP for external relations — and that he'll stay "as long as they have me."

Significant challenges remain, notably renovating Husky Stadium. Woodward spent much of his first year leading an unsuccessful effort to get public funding for the project from the Legislature. The school was asking for $150 million to pay for half of a $300 million project. Despite that setback, he says the school will try again this year: "I'm confident we are going to get it from the Legislature."

Confident enough that he is already making plans to start the renovation after the 2010 season. The Huskies would play in 2011 at Qwest Field before returning to a renovated Husky Stadium in 2012.

"We are going to dig, no matter what," Woodward says. "Failure is not an option as far as getting Husky Stadium renovated."

Notes

• True freshman linebacker Tim Tucker returned to practice Wednesday while the NCAA continues to review his transcripts. Until his case is settled he is not cleared to play, and he wasn't in the two-deep.

• The Huskies practiced in helmets and shoulder pads and came through it unscathed. With just one practice left, today in helmets, before Saturday's game, the Huskies are pretty healthy. No projected starters should miss the game due to injury, and only a couple of backups — notably, safety Jason Wells and linebacker Matt Houston — have been ruled out.

• Defensive coordinator Nick Holt said Vonzell McDowell is likely to start at one cornerback spot opposite Quinton Richardson, ahead of true freshman Desmond Trufant.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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