Whatever message UW athletic director Scott Woodward was trying to get across on Saturday was lost in the tone of his statement. When asked about Oregon and the athletic facilities in Eugene, Woodward responded by shifting the focus to the academic side of the University of Oregon, calling it an embarrassment. It's a classic deflection move. He couldn't hang with the athletic side -- his responsibility, no less -- so he aimed his gun at academics -- not his responsibility, for those playing at home.
Woodward may have had a point about the dwindling support for academic institutions by the state of Oregon. It's not a problem exclusive to our neighbors to the south and is something that we, here in Washington, are dealing with, as well. Whatever his point may have been is moot now as the University of Washington deals with the fallout from his statements.
There was no reason for Woodward to delve into the world of academics this weekend. He's an athletic director. His job is to oversee the direction of the athletic program at the University of Washington -- not to comment on the academic standing of other Pac-10 institutions. It reeks of jealousy when Woodward points out the flaws of UO while the Ducks continue to whip the Huskies -- and the rest of the Pac-10, frankly -- on the field.
Given ample opportunity to back-down, Woodward declined. With every subsequent statement, the hole he dug grew deeper, making himself look foolish in the process. Asked by The Seattle Times' Bob Condotta to clarify, Woodward took another jab at Oregon in a statement that sounded just as smug as the first.
"What they have done here athletically is nothing short of a miracle. It is fabulous what they have invested and how they have done it. But it is a shame that the whole enterprise isn't benefiting (from the athletic success), and that's one thing that is very much a sense of pride at the University of Washington - that our whole enterprise is excellent in all we do."
So your athletics are great, Oregon, but since your academics aren't benefiting from it, your successes on the field are beneath me. His clarification sure didn't undo the damage, but did the apology he felt obligated to send out fix it? When an apology opens like this, it's safe to say no.
"I apologize if my comments were found as critical or insulting to fans and alumni of the University of Oregon..."
"Sorry if what I said made you mad, but I feel it was the truth."
He did attempt to clarify his comments in the apology, saying he was speaking to the lack of public funding for higher education and the effects it has on Oregon, as well as other institutions. Again, that's a fair point, but that isn't what he said. He said -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- Oregon is an embarrassment because the academic side is bad, but at Washington we have great academics and are therefor superior; just don't look at our football program right now.
Woodward's job is to oversee athletics at the University of Washington, to raise money -- bucket loads right now, in fact, with the stadium renovation on the table -- and to interact with the other athletic directors in the conference. He's now taken clear, verbal jabs at both Oregon at Washington State in the last year, earning him a reputation of arrogance. Both are rivals, but leave the sparring to the fans. Taking a pot-shot at academics is an embarrassment to UW, a school that wants nothing more than to beat Oregon on the field right now.