Lamar Director of Athletics Jason Henderson announced on Nov. 21 that head football coach Ray Woodard will not return for the 2017 season. Woodard has been head coach since the program returned in 2010, and was the longest-tenured head coach in the Southland Conference.

“We would like to thank Coach Woodard for all that he has done for the Lamar University football program,” Henderson said. “It still remains our goal to compete for championships and to put our student-athletes in a position to be successful on the field and in the classroom.”

Lamar’s 35-10 Loss to Nicholls State, Nov. 3, secured Lamar’s sixth losing season in seven under Woodard.

“I don’t agree with the decision, but I respect it,” Woodard said in the press conference Nov. 21. “We should have been competing for a Southland title, and we had opportunities but we didn’t do it.”

Cards have a 34-46 record since 2010. Lamar is 17-30 in Southland Conference games. This season’s record was 3-8 after the loss to McNeese, giving the Cards their worst season since the program’s revival.  The team was picked to finish fourth in the Southland Conference this season, but finished in ninth after the loss.

Players showed their support for the coach on Twitter after the news broke.

“Thank you Coach Woodard for allowing me to live out my dream and play college football when no one else did,” injured running back Kade Harrington tweeted.

Average attendance at games has dropped from 16,078 in 2010 to 7,429 this season. Lamar’s loss to Incarnate Word, Nov. 12, saw 5,566 fans in attendance, the lowest since the program was brought back.

“We felt like we needed to take the program in a different direction,” Henderson said.

Woodard will be paid a buyout of $100,000 because his contract was terminated a year early. He had previously signed a three-year contract extension in December 2014 with a base salary of $175,000.

Woodard faced the media with good grace.

“I would like to personally thank Dr. Jimmy Simmons and Billy Tubbs for giving me the great opportunity to be the head coach at Lamar,” he said. “It’s been an honor to coach here and I’m proud of what we accomplished. I only want good things for Lamar University and this program.

“I received my doctorate degree during my time here. I would also like to thank all the people in the Educational Leadership program, who helped me along the way.”

Lamar will conduct a nationwide search for a new head coach starting this week, Harrington said, adding that all Lamar football assistants are still under contract and will have the opportunity to interview under the new head coach.

Elisabeth Tatum

UP contributor

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