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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

February 13, 2012 at 4:06 PM

Q-and-A with Scott Woodward, part one

I had a chance to sit down with Washington athletic director Scott Woodward today for an interview, the first extended opportunity I’d had to speak with him since the Huskies made significant changes to their football coaching staff last month.

Those changes included the firing of defensive coordinator Nick Holt and two other defensive coaches, making five new hires overall, also replacing two coaches who left for other programs.

In the first of two parts, Woodward talks about the thought process behind the changes, how UW was able to make some of its hires quickly, and more. As reference, here’s a story detailing the changes and salaries for the coaches involved.

Q: Can you talk about the process of the firing of Nick Holt and two other defensive coaches after the Alamo Bowl:

A: As you know, my management style is Steve (Sarkisian) and I talk every day, at least an hour or two on football every day. And he and I know each other well, we know our tendencies, we know each other, it’s almost like a partnership, a collaborative partnership. So there were no surprises. We talk on a daily basis, we see things, we talk about them, game-by-game, practice-by-practice, week-by-week. So there was no just culmination to this thing — it was pretty much we both knew it had to be done after the Alamo Bowl.

Q: Was anything decided prior to the Alamo Bowl?

A: No. To be frank with you, all signs were leaning to that there needed to be a change. But we had not come to any decisions. Steve and I talked face-to-face, like we always do, and we talk about these things and we talked about it after the game. We calmed down and then we talked about it the next morning and talked all through the weekend.

What ultimately were the main factors that went into making the coaching changes that were made?

A: You are always assessing and always judging what you can do to be better and to get better. And Steve’s a first-time head coach and a young first-time head coach and the level of maturity that he brings and knowing what he has to do to continue to get better and make incremental steps to get better has been very refreshing to me. He and I have been on the same page and this is just another obvious sign that he knows when and what to do when there are tough decisions to be made.

Q: If Sarkisian had not wanted to fire Nick Holt would Nick Holt still be here?

A: That’s not a fair question because he and I are so collaborative in what we do, we know where we are with each other and so I just didn’t see that as a possibility and never saw that as a possibility. But back to my point that I’ve made from day one, Steve is the chief of football and that’s why I hired him. I don’t make personnel changes, he does, and he makes the hires and I provide him with the ways and means to do so.

Q: Some of the hires were made so quickly following the firings. How was that able to be accomplished?

A: We talk to people all the time. I have a very concise and broad (coaching) tree on my part of the world and he has a very broad tree on his part of the world. We are always talking about talent and who is good and who is not good and who fits and who doesn’t fit. So these names came up in a hurry, and we knew once we identified who we wanted, that’s the route to go.

Q: The offers made to these assistants were very attractive. Can you talk about the thought process there?

A: We have retention money and budgets in our plans going forward and we are always prepared for this and we knew we had to invest because every other school in the Pac-12 had made huge investments in their assistant coach’s pools and we’ve had teams come after our assistants and pro teams come after our assistants and we’ve had to retain them, so we were prepared for it and ready for it from a financial standpoint.

A: The Tosh Lupoi hiring, in particular, has gotten a lot of attention and some at Cal have expressed some displeasure with how that went down. Is there anything you had to do to repair relations with anyone at Cal?

A: Steve, I know, called coach (Jeff) Tedford (before making the hire) and that’s how you have to do it. We’ve had institutions poach our coaches and come after our coaches that we’ve had to retain, and I’m sure that will continue to be the case. It’s not personal, it’s everyone trying to get better.

Q: It looks as if the new Pac-12 TV contract has led all the schools to increase payrolls for coaches. Is that changing the dynamic in the conference in any way?

A: It’s new to the Pac-12 but look, our staff, we have guys like (offensive line coach) Danny Cozzetto from Arizona State, the staffs are littered with people from other schools and (the change) in this day and age of everything being instant and the social media and 24-7 reporting is that now people are aware of it. But I think the point for our hires is we hired some impressive coaches from some big-time programs and that doesn’t always happen, and everyone always seems to think that we in the Pac-12 are second-tier when it comes to that and that is not the case. There are some great coaches from the head coaching on down that have been hired in this league and I think it bodes well for the future of the Pac-12.

Q: The contracts were noteworthy both in terms of the salaries and the years. Is that a statement being made by UW of its intent to do what it takes to get back to the top in football?

A: I think that’s well said. But just remember, we are prudent, too. We are going to pay market, we are not going to pay over market. These guys are great coaches and as you saw and heard me talk about, essentially we paid Justin Wilcox what his deal was at Tennessee. It’s a lot of money, but I think we got a hell of a deal and a hell of a young coach and I think you will go down the line (of all the new hires) and see that everyone is paid market.

Q: Even Lupoi?

A: You go look at it, we are paying market. These guys are sought-after hard coaches. Yeah, we paid more for Tosh because I thought he was an under-value and he deserved that. But you see what the BCS (schools) and what our competition is paying for offensive and defensive line coaches and for coordinators, we are in that sweet spot, I think. We are not top of the heap by any stretch of the imagination but we are aggressive, we are top quartile, which is where we are in funding. We are commensurate.

Q: What are your thoughts on the football program going forward and taking the next step to returning to the top of the Pac-12.

A: That’s where the next step is, where we are competing for championships. And we’ve made it clear that we want to get there incrementally and we have done that and I think we are building it on a solid foundation. You look at our program, whether it be our strength coach or our trainers or our support staff, or our assistants now, and the type of student-athlete we are getting here, I think everything is rising and I think it is going to continue to bode well for our success.

Q: What are your thoughts on the new TV money making everything more competitive throughout the conference.

A: The classic saying is a rising tide lifts all boats is so apropos here. I am a big believer in that philosophy. Pick your cliche — growing pie, rising tide — they work for me, no doubt.

Q: Is there any danger that that competition changes the tenor among the schools in the conference?

A: I don’t think so. I think the most important thing is that it makes us competitive with our other BCS conferences, whether it be the Big Ten or the SEC. It puts us in that league and now we have to perform, and we have performed and now we have to continue to do so.

In part two, Woodward talks about the progress of the Husky Stadium renovation and a few other items.

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