Only two years after engineering his "100-year decision" to truck Texas A&M off to the SEC, R. Bowen Loftin quit the school for Missouri. If that seemed a little quick on the trigger after such a momentous move, Scott Woodward makes Loftin look like a lifer. Because after pulling off a couple of the biggest hires in school history over a 15-month stretch, the athletic director high-tailed it for LSU this week.
And here's the kicker: What's stopping him from coming back for the Aggies' football coach?
Jimbo Fisher's 10-year, $75 million contract may be fully guaranteed, but if he wants to leave, there's no buyout. Nothing to keep him from returning to Baton Rouge - where he's been an on-again, off-again head coaching candidate since he was an LSU assistant under Nick Saban and Les Miles - except his own good sense.
Why leave facilities ranked among the nation's best? Why take on a job in a state that practically invented the term "political football"? Why start over again so soon?
Why give up $75 million guaranteed?
Good questions, and if there's one thing your intrepid reporter has learned after more than four decades haunting press boxes, it's that coaches don't always have good answers.
They do all sorts of crazy things. Most observers didn't believe Jimbo would bolt Florida State for A&M until they saw the size of the offer. Some didn't believe it even then. They couldn't see how he'd leave a place where he'd won a national title in 2013 for a school that hadn't done the same since before World War II.
Besides the money, Texas' recruiting base and the presence of an athletic director he trusted in Woodward, the perception is Jimbo left Tallahassee because he didn't always get what he wanted at FSU. And he wants a lot. He's on record that if you're not constantly upgrading facilities, you're behind.
He couldn't ask for more than what he has at A&M, could he? Just a couple of months ago, 247Sports.com ranked the Aggies' football digs the nation's third best, behind Clemson and Oregon and ahead of Alabama. LSU came in 10th.
And what about the politics encircling LSU football? A time-honored tradition in Louisiana since Huey Long co-wrote "Touchdown for LSU." In the Lafayette Daily Advertiser this week, Woodward, who has worked under a former Baton Rouge mayor and Louisiana governor and once ran his own governmental relations consulting firm, was praised as the first athletic director in LSU history with experience in athletic, administrative and political circles. He'll need it all at LSU.
"Because I've got news for you," James Carville, a pal of Woodward's and the man behind Bill Clinton's first presidential election, told the Daily Advertiser. "Big-time athletics and administration is politics."
Maybe Jimbo could count on Woodward's political expertise to smooth over any rough patches at LSU. Fisher has liked Woodward's style since he allowed him to sit in on meetings with LSU's offensive staff in the early 2000s. Woodward, then the university's liaison with the athletic department, knew better than to ask for similar access with Saban's defensive coaches. Jimbo didn't mind. He told the Houston Chronicle the mutual education was good for all parties.
Woodward's desire to return to Baton Rouge, where he grew up, is certainly understandable. But what's the appeal for a West Virginia kid?
Besides the potential to lock down one of the nation's best recruiting bases, there's Jimbo's experience as an assistant there from 2000-06.
"I loved living in Baton Rouge," he told Sports Illustrated. "I love the people, honest and fun-loving. I love the honesty of them. If they didn't like it, they'd tell you. Hey, I'm like that! If I don't like something, I say it, too.
"They're good ol' genuine people."
And that was his take after he moved to College Station.
"I know I'm sitting at A&M," he added, "but that was some phenomenal years of my life."
At last year's SEC media days, Jimbo also called it "unfortunate" that both sides never came to agreement that would have made him LSU's head coach. At least three times he's been among the leading candidates. His hiring was practically a done deal in 2015 until a wave of public opinion swept Les Miles back into the job. Then, when Joe Alleva fired Miles after a 2-2 start in '16, talks between Jimbo's agent, Jimmy Sexton, and Alleva reportedly broke down. Which is just one of several reasons why Woodward is now LSU's athletic director.
Basically, then, it leaves only two legitimate questions as to what could keep Jimbo Fisher from following Scott Woodward to Baton Rouge if it doesn't work out in College Station:
How could LSU match, much less exceed, what he's making at A&M?
And what about Ed Orgeron?
Sports Illustrated has reported that, in its talks with Sexton, LSU looked at a salary structure similar to the one Jimbo received from A&M and didn't faint. Only the term was shorter. A committee member told the magazine they weren't sure Jimbo was worth $7 million a year. Or that he was even the best candidate.
Here's betting Woodward could swing some votes, if he were so inclined. Of course, first he'd have to be convinced that Orgeron isn't the man for the job. A Louisiana native, Orgeron was born to coach LSU. All he has to do is win, and a 25-9 record so far is a pretty fair start on an era.
Just the same, if Orgeron stumbles, as coaches eventually do, rumors about Jimbo and LSU will start up again. They always do. Only this time he's got a guy on the inside.
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