The former Saint Louis AD brings experience and a strong vision of the future to Tampa.
TAMPA - Doug Woolard was 14 when his father died in a car accident.
His coaches took it from there.
"Coaches were people that I respected throughout high school and college," said Woolard, whose father instilled his positive attitude and cultivated his love of sports. "They were people that I learned a lot from. They took an extra significance in my life, absolutely.
"Coaches helped shape me."
Woolard's experiences sparked a life's commitment to working with coaches and helping student-athletes, a commitment that will continue at South Florida.
Wednesday at the Marshall Center, president Judy Genshaft introduced Woolard, the school's new athletic director.
"He's got the vision and the leadership," Genshaft said of Woolard, the AD at Conference USA rival Saint Louis the past 10 years. "He's got proven experience as an (AD). He puts student before athlete. He has all of the things we were looking for."
Woolard, 54, will sign a five-year deal effective June 14, culminating a national search. Lee Roy Selmon, who resigned in February because of a private health matter, will work directly with his successor as USF's chief fundraiser for athletics.
"My first executive order has been to ask Lee Roy to make the switch from the defensive line to the offensive," Woolard said. "So that I can run behind him."
Woolard donned a USF cap, was engulfed in a hug from mascot Rocky the Bull and enumerated his vision for the school. He will navigate the Bulls into the Big East Conference beginning in 2005.
"There's a great opportunity and potential here, perhaps like no place else in the country," Woolard said. "We're going to take our vision out to this community and have the community embrace our athletic program. We want to make USF the best athletic department in the Big East as quickly as we can."
Some all-star references helped Woolard get the nod over the other finalist, Virginia senior associate AD Jon Oliver. Genshaft cited phone conversations with Bob Costas, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, former NCAA president Cedric Dempsey and Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive, the former C-USA commissioner.
"The kinds of references he has are stellar, and everything came out just glowing," Genshaft said. "One of the things that Bob Costas told me is that Doug was able to establish collaborations and partnerships with the pro teams in St. Louis (the Cardinals, Rams and Blues).
"The experience in an urban environment and being able to connect with the pro teams, those are very good skills for USF in the Tampa Bay area."
Woolard has known Costas since he chaired the Saint Louis AD search committee. Woolard previously had been at Washington State, where he was an associate AD under Jim Livengood.
"Doug is unbelievable; this is a special guy," said Livengood, now the AD at Arizona. "In his short time in college athletics, the number of people who think highly of him is incredible. He is a bright, bright guy and truly a good person.
"People at South Florida will look back on this in six months, a year, and say, "Wow, what a hire.' He's the real deal."
Saint Louis doesn't have football, which is the cornerstone of USF athletics, but Livengood said Woolard is prepared.
"He knows college football at the top level from Washington State with coach Dennis Erickson," Livengood said. "He saw Pac-10 football as good as it gets."
Woolard, a graduate of Southern Illinois, was a high school AD in Carbondale, Ill., for 10 years before he was lured to the college ranks in 1988 by Livengood. At Saint Louis he helped found C-USA, sat on multiple NCAA committees and cabinets and became familiar with USF.
The Bulls face many challenges. The 2002-03 athletic budget of $15.99-million would have ranked last in the Big East among its football schools, about $24.4-million less than No.1 Syracuse. Upgrading the budget and allocating it properly are high priorities.
"I don't think it's all about money all the time," Woolard said. "When I was at Washington State, our budget was second to last in the Pac-10, and we made a bowl game three times in six years.
"That said, we're going to make sure we drill down into all of the revenue sources available and maximize it. Then we'll try to provide our coaches with a level playing field, from resources to facilities to everything."
Woolard said the goal is to compete for conference championships right away in most sports and eventually in all, including the foundering men's basketball team, which will be joining one of the best basketball conferences in the nation.
"Sixty percent of the reason that people are successful is probably attitude," Woolard said. "If we feel we have a chance to be successful, then we have a chance to be successful. If we don't, then you've got little chance. My glass is normally two-thirds full."
Woolard has impeccable credentials for high academic standards: Saint Louis had C-USA's highest cumulative GPA all eight years of the league's existence.
USF expects to finalize the terms of Woolard's contract today. Vice president Michael Rierson reiterated the compensation would be "Big East competitive," meaning a significant upgrade from Selmon's $165,400 salary.