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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

June 8, 2011 at 5:31 PM

Q-and-A with UW athletic director Scott Woodward

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I had a chance to speak this week with UW athletic director Scott Woodward on a number of topics relating to the Pac-10/12 — which held its annual spring meetings in Seattle over the weekend — and Husky football.

In a few of the more interesting notes:

— Woodward (pictured talking to none other than Hugh Millen last spring in a Mark Harrison photo) said UW has raised $40 million of the $50 million in private money donations needed for the renovation of Husky Stadium;

— Said one of the main tasks now for the Pac-12 is planning the conference title game, and noted that one potential complication if UW were to host it is that the Seahawks play a home Thursday night game the day before against the Philadelphia Eagles (the Pac-12 title game is set for Friday, Dec. 2);

— And that he’s not disappointed that football season-ticket sales haven’t risen in the wake of last year’s 7-6 record and Holiday Bowl win, saying the school needs to continue to give fans a better product.

Here’s the interview in full:

On where things stand with the Pac-12 TV network: “(Commissioner) Larry (Scott) is in discussion and confidential and private negotiations with various interests, whether it be potential partners or the conference goes on its own. He’s looking at all models so I would say that right now, everything is on the table. I think he will get it done in a hurry, that would be my prognostication.”

On what is next for conference athletic directors to address: “Really, we are trying to get our arms around how our conference championships are going to be run, especially football going forward and the potential for basketball in 2013.”

On what are the issues with the football title game: “We are going to a model that has really not been done a lot in college football. Usually it’s like the Big 12 and ACC and SEC where they are neutral site games. We are going to home-field advantage with the team with the best record hosting the championship game. I think a lot of the thinking and why we are doing this are two reasons: 1, we have to turn it around so quickly; and 2, the geographic spread of our conference. It’s hard for fans to travel by automobile to a neutral site venue that works for everyone.”

On how committed the conference is to a neutral site game: “I think it’s open. I think they are going to look at see how successful it is and how it goes. Obviously it is already a success from a television standpoint. We had aggressive bidding on it and very pleased with the outcome with FOX covering it. But from the standpoint of live gate — where do we go, how does it work — it’s put a lot of taxing issues on the league office having to have contingency plans for multiple venues, especially us playing at Qwest essentially the next two seasons (in terms of the conference title game) and resolving some other neutral site issues like the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl for the LA schools. And so getting all of those logistics straight, they are very doable but they are very complex problems.”

On if playing at Qwest on a Friday night in December could pose some logistical issues: “Especially with a Thursday night (Seahawks game against Eagles on Dec. 1) where you don’t have two nights, you have one. It could be very difficult. And I don’t know what WSU is going to do, whether they are going to play at Martin or propose to play at Qwest as well. I don’t know, but there have been rumors about that so there are a lot of things that have not been resolved as far as sites that work and minimum requirements to host a championship game — hotel rooms, where to practice, all that kind of stuff are very complex. But the good news is we have a very competent guy in (Jim Steeg) who has done multiple Super Bowls planning this event for us and I feel like we are in great hands.”

On the need to improve officiating in the conference and being pleased with the changes that have been made so far: “Yeah, very much so. I think we had to get better at what we were doing. From my standpoint, it’s about integrity of the game for both of our high-profile revenue sports, men’s basketball and football, and I really like the direction that the conference is going on. Is it going to be solved overnight? No. But is it going to get better? That’s my hope.”

On the progress of the renovation of Husky Stadium: “It’s on track and proceeding. We are just proceeding. We are getting construction documents ready and going in that positive direction. Fundraising is continuing to go well and we are happy with where we are and we will start marketing very aggressively this fall.”

On the progress of fundraising: “We are at about the $40 million mark of a $50 million goal. I couldn’t be more pleased. But it’s always difficult to raise the last money coming in the door. That’s always the case — just like it’s always difficult to sell the last seat in the stadium. And we are going to work hard and not let up. This is not us letting out a sigh of relief, it’s us saying ‘hey we’ve got to sprint to the finish.’ We’ve got the rest of the way to go on this important task that we have, 20 percent is left to close.”

On getting the construction plans for the stadium finalized: “That’s what we are working on right now, daily. We are getting specs now, and we meet all the time with the stadium committee — we make decisions to do this, what kind of materials to use, what kind of design to do. We are in that construction phase of construction drawings of the plan. We have a schematic that was done in the late winter, early spring, and now we are in the actual construction document phase where we are nailing everything down. So we are making those decisions daily.”

On the plans for the football operations center being completed: “For the most part. We are still tweaking it — rooms here, sinks there, doorknobs here. Where it all flows and works, we are still in that phase of document planning. … We’ll roll that out when we are finished with construction documents and we will have a splash.”

On whether the new money from the Pac-12 TV contract changes the renovation in any way: “No, really not. It’s two separate things. I know the numbers look mindboggling at first when you accumulate them and add them all together. But we have a lot of expenses going forward and a lot of pent-up costs and demands encumbering this money. We are facing a 14 percent tuition increase. We have buildings and capital projects that need to be done going forward that we need to encumber some of that money for. We have a lot of things that we need to support better and continue to invest in, our student-athlete services being paramount, as well as our coaches and our entire program. But this guarantees that our department is going to be a self-sufficient department going forward for another decade. That’s the good news from the TV revenue. But we still have our philanthropic programs in and our asks and we are going to continue to do so to stay competitive with all of our counterparts out there at other BCS schools. But now I feel like the playing field is level now in that we can compete at the highest-level with whoever we come up against, whether someone is trying to steal our talent or whether we are building new and good facilities, we are going to be at that point where I can say we are on par and we are going to be a competitive program. Not only academically and on the field/court/water but as well as with facilities and the way we compensate our personnel.”

On any disappointment that football season ticket sales appear to be down just a little bit from last season: “No. I think we have a very healthy season-ticket base and I think we need to continue to work it and we need to continue to give our fans and our season-ticket holders a better product, whether it’s winning more football games or a better venue, which we are going to have in 2013. We need to continue to do that to draw in fans and give them a reason to come out to Montlake.”

On the progress of the football program now: “I think the record speaks for itself. I’m very pleased with the continuum and where we are. … The obvious stuff that fans don’t spend a ton of time talking about, such as their off-the-field behavior and classroom performance. That’s the great thing about Steve (Sarkisian) is that the GPA of the football team has gone up every single quarter since he has been here. I hate to bring that up because eventually it’s not going to happen because you hit the proverbial glass ceiling there and it’s going to come, but I am very impressed with the level of engagement he has with our student-athletes and our academic progress. The assistants are involved, making sure the kids going to class and doing their homework, and I’m very pleased from that standpoint of the way our young men are acting and behaving and representing.”

On the scheduling philosophy going forward: “We (Woodward and Sarkisian) are totally collaborative on that part, on the same wavelength and philosophy, kind of my A,B, C scheduling philosophy (such as this year’s slate against Nebraska, Hawaii and Eastern Washington), and I think that’s what we will do going forward.”

On if there is talk among the conference athletic directors about going to eight conference games: “It is (an issue) with coaches. From a competitive standpoint, they think it’s better if we go to eight games. But ADs and administrators feel differently about it.”

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