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LSU's Woodward says Coach O wrong to publicly support Trump; asks coaches to avoid politics

Scott Woodward grew up in Baton Rouge. He attended LSU, earning a degree in political science. He ran a private firm that specialized in government and political relations. He was originally hired by then LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert as director of external affairs at LSU, a position that worked closely with Emmert and the University on navigating Louisiana politics.

It is safe to say Scott Woodward knows politics. Scott Woodward enjoys politics. Scott Woodward does not shy from politics.

Monday, LSU's athletics director who is approaching his two year mark on the job – who also has stints shepherding the athletics program at Texas A&M and at the University of Washington – criticized his football coach for having voiced support of former President Donald Trump as well as told his coaches to avoid political statements.

Woodward made the comments during a nearly hour-long visit with Jim Engster and WRKF, National Public Radio, Baton Rouge.

Woodward was asked directly about Orgeron's appearance last August on Fox News, when Orgeron said “I love President Trump … I think he's doing a fantastic job.”

Woodward said Orgeron's words were a mistake and that he had informed his football coach as much.

“Yes. And he owns it and he admits it,” Woodward said of Orgeron. “You know, he needs to stay out of politics; that's not a good thing to do. I want all of our staff and all of our coaches to be involved with it, but they understand that they have a platform that they can't use, except for LSU and for doing the right thing. And politics is not where it is.

“I want you to vote, I want you to be involved in the process. But I don't think it's for us to do those types of things.”

Asked by Engster if he had implored LSU's athletics coaches to avoid political statements, Woodward assented.

“Yes,” Woodward said. “But they have First Amendment rights. I just make it clear that it's poorly advised, that it would be bad. Not a good smart thing to do.”

Woodward was asked about LSU's handling and ongoing response to the ongoing Title IX and Les Miles investigations at the school.

The Husch Blackwell report released within the past two weeks painted a damning picture of how LSU operated its athletics department and Title IX department on campus; it also resulted in Miles' forced ouster as head football coach at Kansas. Woodward pointed to a pair of new LSU partnerships as part of the university's response.

“We have contacted and contracted with two very good groups: A Call to Men and Star,” Woodward said on air. “They are leading us and addressing a comprehensive educational plan to really work and work with our student-athlete governmental groups, SAC (Student Advisory Committee) and Black Student Athlete Association, to get it right. It's far, far more important to show that we're going to get it right going forward and address these things through education and getting better.

“We have to just live this and breathe this; I've always preached it before even controversies come, that we have to have two things in what we do in our education and that's compassion and empathy. That's compassion and empathy for the utmost importance of our survivors of what has happened but also for our staff and our students to treat people well and treat people with respect.

“As I say it, to steal a line from Spike Lee, 'Just do the right thing.' We have to continue to be educators in that front.”

Like many of his Southeastern Conference peers, Woodward said he was optimistic as to what football in Death Valley in the fall would entail.

“We'll continue to look at the expense side but pray the revenue side is coming back and that we'll have a much more robust Tiger Stadium come this fall,” Woodward said. “I hope so and I feel like it personally will be.”