Scott Farmer: Officially in Charge
On October 27th, Scott Farmer was officially named the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Louisiana. Farmer had been serving the University as Interim Director since the retirement of David Walker in January, 2011.
It’s a job for which Farmer has been auditioning for, oh, about twenty-five years.
And, for the 47 year old native of Ormand Beach, FL, it’s a family thing.
“Bud” Farmer, Scott’s dad, was the head swimming coach and athletics director at Daytona Beach Community College while Scott was growing up.
“I started swimming competitively when I was five,” Farmer said. “My dad coached me and I was with him a lot. By the time I was in high school, I knew I wanted either to coach or be an administrator like my dad. I just wasn’t sure which one.”
As it turned out, the answer was both, at least at first.
Upon graduation from high school, Farmer elected to attend Georgia Southern. “I was looking at a school that would prepare me for coaching. Georgia Southern really had what I was looking for. And, they offered me a pretty decent scholarship as a swimmer and that certainly helped.”
The athletics program at Georgia Southern was undergoing a transition when Farmer arrived. “They were starting up football and were pretty strapped financially and manpower-wise as well. So Farmer volunteered in the athletics department while a student and a member of the swim team. It was at that time he met Dr. David “Bucky” Wagner, who was the athletics director at GSU. “Along with my dad, Dr. Wagner probably had the biggest influence on my career. He was my mentor. Still is.”
Scott continued as a student and graduated from GSU in 1986. By that time, he had lettered four years on the swim team, set six school records and was named male student-athlete of the year at GSU in 1985. After graduation, he was named the women’s swimming coach. In the meantime, he continued to work under Dr. Wagner. Farmer earned his Masters degree a year later. “I took two courses under Dr. Wagner: Administration and Fund Raising. In addition to being a great AD, he was also a great professor.”
In July of 1988, Farmer was named as Assistant Athletic Director while continuing as women’s swim coach. In nine seasons as women’s swim coach, his teams won eight conference championships. In the meantime, he wore several hats in the athletics department. He was in charge of fund-raising in counties outside of Statesboro, and then was named the first Director of Compliance. He ran that department for a year, and then was put in charge of all women’s sports as their Primary Administrator. And, still, he continued to coach, adding the men’s team to his duties in 1993.
By that time, Farmer was a married man. Jackie Davis hailed from just outside Jacksonville and was a record-holder on the swim team. They were married in 1991.
In 1994, life changed for the Farmers with the birth of their daughter Kaitlin. And for Scott, it was time to make a decision where his career was headed.
“It wasn’t that long after Kaitlin was born that I realized I couldn’t keep working 80 hour weeks. I loved coaching, but I loved being an administrator as well. It took a while to decide, but finally I made the decision that my long-term career would be as an administrator. He left coaching in 1996, the year before son Kyle was born.
Now a full-time assistant AD, Farmer was charged with developing the newly formed office of Student-Athlete Services. He taught life-skills, oversaw the drug-testing and ran the student-athlete center. By this time, he was one of the longest-tenured people in the department. Dr. Wagner retired as athletics director in 1995. Scott did not apply for the vacant position, which went to Sam Baker. Farmer was now the #2 man in the athletics department.
From the time Farmer arrived at GSU until his departure in 1999, Georgia Southern athletics flourished. Georgia Southern won four 1-AA football national championships and went to the NCAA basketball tournament three times. Baseball was the College World Series in 1991 and golf has several post-season appearances as well.
Farmer continued as the director of student-athlete services, but began to feel detached. His office was not in the athletic complex and he was away from a lot of the day-to-day operations. In the fall of 1998, he got a call from Johnny Williams, the athletics director at Troy University. Williams told Farmer Troy was ready to make the transition from Division 1-AA to Division 1-A. Williams needed an Associate AD to oversee the transition. He interviewed with Williams the weekend of Thanksgiving. In January, 1999, Scott, Jackie, Kaitlin and Kyle made the move to Troy, Alabama.
The Troy Years
Troy’s plan was to sell 16,000 tickets for four years to move up to division 1-A. They played in the Southland Football league for three years and then spent a transition year. Then the Trojans played as a Division I independent before joining the Sun Belt for the 2004 season.
Troy was going to Division 1-A. But they had Division II facilities.
The years of independence were interesting.
“We were playing seven big boys a year,” Farmer said. Every week when we went on the road, I made arrangements with the opposing associate AD to get a tour of their facilities. I asked questions, took notes. I saw some things I wanted to implement, and some I didn’t. But getting the information was so valuable.”
Farmer put together a plan for massive renovations. Williams, the athletic director, handled the external fund-raising. Farmer built softball, track, tennis and women’s soccer. Renovations were done to the basketball arena. And the two massive undertakings, football and baseball, were done as well. By the time fall of 2003 rolled around, Troy had Division 1-A facilities.
Meanwhile, however, Farmer suffered a devastating personal loss.
In July of 2002, Farmer received a phone call from his brother, Mike. It was 8:15 in the morning. Scott’s dad, Edgar “Bud” Farmer, whose career path Scott Farmer chose to emulate, died suddenly. “He was 72, but he was a young 72,” Scott said. He didn’t smoke, didn’t drink. He was in great physical shape. And, in an instant, he was gone. And, since then, everything I’ve done in my career has been dedicated to my dad. He was such an inspiration to me.”
In the fall of 2004, Troy joined the Sun Belt Conference in football. One month into the season, Williams announced his resignation to become the Senior Associate AD at the University of Alabama. One month later, Troy accepted a bid to play in the Silicon Valley Bowl against Northern Illinois, the first Sun Belt team ever to earn an at-large bid to a bowl game. Now the interim AD, Farmer travelled with the Trojans football team and made his first visit to Cajun Field.
Virtually everyone, including Farmer himself, believed he would finally be the head man.
It didn’t happen.
In the spring of 2005, Steve Dennis, who was involved in the fund-raising department at Auburn University, was the choice to replace Williams. Dennis and Troy football coach Larry Blakeney had both been on Pat Dye’s staff at Auburn back in the ‘80s. Naturally, Farmer was deeply disappointed. “Troy made it clear they wanted me to stay by awarding me a very nice financial package.” Dennis continued in Williams duties of handling external affairs and fund raising. Farmer continued to handle a lot of the day to day duties of the athletics department.
Just four months after Dennis took over as the AD at Troy, Nelson Schexnayder resigned as Athletics Director at the University of Louisiana. Farmer decided to apply. He did a phone interview with the search committee and was named one of three finalists.
Then Hurricane Katrina hit. There was a hiring freeze around the state of Louisiana. David Walker, who had served the University for over 30 years as Director of Auxiliary Services, was named interim AD.
Farmer came back to Lafayette in the fall of 2005 for a football game. While he was there, he had an unofficial face-to-face interview with the search committee, which included Walker.
Walker liked what he saw and heard that day.
Former University President Dr. Ray Authement did not want to hire an athletic director in 2006, since the men’s basketball program had to meet with the NCAA Committee on Infractions. Once that was resolved, it appeared the school was ready to move forward.
But it was at that time that Dr. Authement was ready to announce his pending retirement. And, he wanted his most trusted employee to continue as athletics director. Walker agreed to become the permanent AD and signed a contract. But he did it on one condition.
He wanted Scott Farmer.
“When David called me, I was pretty excited,” Famer said. “I saw this as a great opportunity for me and my family. I knew David wasn’t going to stay in the position forever and thought I’d have a good chance to succeed him. I gave him a price. He called and hired me the next day.”
It was 2007. Scott Farmer was now a Ragin’ Cajun.
Farmer’s relationship with Walker was a solid one. “David handled the budgets. But he gave me a lot of authority and a lot of responsibility. And, I thought we got a lot of things done working together. I learned a lot from David, especially when it came to how things work at UL and in the state of Louisiana. I don’t think there’s any doubt that David was the perfect choice to lead the department during those important years.”
Walker and Farmer got the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation formed. Plans were made for facility improvements. The Leon Moncla indoor facility was built. New turf was installed at Cajun Field and M. L. “Tigue” Moore Field. Renovations were done at historic Earl K. Long Gym and plans were made for a massive upgrade to Alfred and Helen Lamson Ragin’ Cajuns Softball Park. Walker and Farmer went through a transition to a new University President, Dr. Joe Savoie.
In late March of 2010, Walker and Farmer hired Bob Marlin to be UL’s new men’s basketball coach. Farmer identified the candidates and he and Walker did the interviews. Then in October of 2010, Walker announced his impending retirement. But there was one more hire to be made. In late November the search began for a new head football coach. Again, Walker and Farmer worked together. In the end, they decided on Mark Hudspeth, who Farmer had identified early in the process. In December, Hudspeth was introduced to an enthusiastic crowd.
In late January of 2011, Farmer moved into Walker’s old office and began the task of continuing to move the department forward. He was officially named the interim director of athletics. There would be no announcement forthcoming anytime soon. “We just went to work,” Farmer said. It was tough because it wasn’t a two person operation anymore. I had to ask even more of our staff than they were already giving…and they were already giving a lot. We had to make sure we didn’t take a step backward in any facet of the department. And our folks simply worked harder than ever.”
So, with a new Director of Athletics, what’s next for UL?
“We have a lot of work to do. We’ll hire a new senior associate AD whose major responsibility will be in fund raising. We have to increase our operating budget. We have to increase our staff. We have one of the smallest athletic staffs in the FBS. We have to continue to grow the RCAF and start a capital campaign for facilities improvements. We’re on pace to get the track/soccer locker room and the renovations to “Tigue” Moore Field done, as well as the new weight room. And, we need to put ourselves in a position to start looking at Cajun Field renovations.”
Farmer says it’s going to take a lot of hard work…and a lot of cooperation.
“If we’re going to be where we want to be as an athletics department, if we’re going to make ourselves attractive to other conferences, if we’re going to be what our fans want us to be, we’re all going to have to work together. We have to be willing to change things. And, we can only change things if people are willing to embrace change. We have to do things differently, and that includes our fan base. There will be some changes coming that will affect them as well. But it’s all about the big picture and getting better. If we’ll all work together—the administration, the athletics staff and the fan base, we can get it done.”
Getting it done. Farmer’s been doing that for a quarter of a century.
He’s ready to get it done at the University of Louisiana.