After searching far and wide for a new athletic director, the Washington Huskies ultimately ended up finding one right at home. The school ended a...

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After searching far and wide for a new athletic director, the Washington Huskies ultimately ended up finding one right at home.

The school ended a nine-month search Wednesday by promoting acting AD Scott Woodward to the permanent role. He will begin immediately, with UW president Mark Emmert saying Woodward will likely receive a five-year contract, though details have yet to be finalized.

“At the end, I concluded that the person best suited for the job is the one who had it right now,” Emmert said.

Woodward, 45, had been UW’s vice president of external relations since the spring of 2004, coming to UW after Emmert was named president. The two had worked together at LSU, where Emmert was chancellor from 1999 to 2004.

Woodward had been fulfilling both acting AD and vice president of external relations roles since AD Todd Turner resigned under pressure last December.

Woodward said in May that he would not be a candidate for the job at the behest of Emmert, who preferred to keep him in his upper-campus role.

However, Woodward said the longer he was in the AD’s job, the more it grew on him.

“I went through a lot of emotional wranglings of whether I wanted to do this or not do this,” Woodward said. “And in the end, I wanted to do this. I really wanted to.”

Emmert and Woodward said they agreed “a handful of days ago” that Woodward would take over as the permanent AD. Emmert said he ultimately concluded he couldn’t find an AD elsewhere better than Woodward.

Emmert said the search for a new AD was “much more thorough than was generally recognized” and that he forwarded “about a half-dozen” names of candidates to a 14-person search committee. He said he personally interviewed “a dozen or more.”

“I looked at as many candidates as I needed to to know what the market had, and I knew I had the right guy in the job.”

Woodward’s most immediate task will be to evaluate the football program, which continues to struggle in the fourth year under coach Tyrone Willingham. The Huskies are 11-28 under Willingham and lost at home to Oklahoma on Saturday, 55-14. Woodward called fixing the football program one of his “top priorities.”

Asked about the current state of the program, Woodward said: “No, I’m not happy. Nor is coach Willingham. Nor are the student-athletes who participate in football. No one is happy.

“I go out to practice every single day, and in the training room every single day, and in the study hall and the training table, and I see these kids and look in their eyes. They are not happy. But they are working hard. They are nowhere near quitting and they are going to give it their best. This is early in the season and it’s premature to talk about anything but supporting them as best as we can.”

In a private session with a few reporters after the news conference, Woodward said the two likely scenarios for the end of the season are either making a change or giving Willingham an extension. Willingham is in the fourth year of a five-year contract.

Woodward also all but ruled out an in-season coaching change, contrasting it to a firing that LSU made with one game left in 1999 when Emmert had just taken over there. Woodward said the program at LSU was not only losing but beset by off-field issues, calling it an “extraordinary” circumstance, a situation he hinted he isn’t seeing here.

Willingham said Wednesday his time working with Woodward was “positive” and his “passion for football is clearly evident.”

Woodward will also continue to take the lead with the UW’s efforts to renovate Husky Stadium. The school will ask the Legislature in January for $150 million from the King County tax on rental cars, hotels and restaurants that funded Safeco Field. The school has pledged to raise another $150 million on its own.

UW officials won’t discuss other candidates they interviewed. But among those Emmert is believed to have spoken with are Georgia Tech’s Dan Radakovich, Utah’s Chris Hill, San Jose State’s Tom Bowen and possibly former Oregon AD Bill Moos.

The hire of Woodward received the blessing from one of the school’s most prominent boosters, Ron Crockett, who is the head of Emerald Downs racetrack and also has been enlisted by the school to help with the Legislature and King County with the funding of the Husky Stadium renovation.

Crockett said the hire was “very well received by my contemporaries. At a time when the performance of the football program is in question and the renovation of Husky Stadium is an issue, I feel very confident Scott will rise to the occasion and perform very well.”

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or