The University of Arkansas Athletics Department is recognizing current Razorback administrators and coaches as part of a series celebrating Black History Month on ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
Throughout the month of February, individuals will be featured on the web site for their contributions to the University of Arkansas, the Razorback program and society. This marks the fifth year Razorback Athletics has celebrated Black History Month with a special features series on ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
This year's list includes Razorback administrators Eric A. Wood, Bryon Hatch, Marcus Sedberry and Marvin Caston along with coaches Melvin Watkins (men's basketball), Tari Cummings (women's basketball), Chris Johnson (women's track and field and Randy Shannon (football).
Student-athletes are not only judged by what they can do on the field. Character, sportsmanship and off the field talents can take many athletes farther in life than their athletic abilities. One of the people in the University of Arkansas athletic department that lives his life to shape athletes off the field so that their future will be brighter when their playing days are over is Eric Wood.
Wood is the associate athletic director and he oversees academics and student-athlete development. Throughout his life he has picked up on various tools and lessons that he hopes to pass on to the young Razorbacks that he now mentors.
Wood started his journey at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., earning his degree in psychology. He was a three year starter at cornerback for the Pioneer football team earning the Medal of Merit, the athletic department's highest honor as the student-athlete of the year, in his senior year. Wood wanted to become a football coach and he wanted to continue his education. He ventured on to Clemson University, where he completed his master's degree in counseling and guidance services. After Clemson, Wood decided that coaching was not in his future and he wanted to start a career in athletics education and he set his goal of working in a Division I office.
“I realized that I wanted to work in higher education after college,” Wood said. “I was fortunate enough to get a graduate assistantship during my graduate years at Clemson and this led to a position at Wake Forest.”
The young man continued to Wake Forest and this started his life in compliance. He worked for a little over a year for the Demon Deacons in their compliance office and eventually ended up at the Atlantic Coast Conference, as the director for student-athlete programs and compliance. It was at the ACC that Wood found his desire to help student-athletes.
“When I got to the ACC, I started to evolve,” Wood said. “I found my passion for working with student-athletes one-on-one. When I got the opportunity to come to Arkansas, I jumped at it so that I could focus on just that part of the job.”
Wood took a position with the Razorbacks as the Assistant Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development in November 2009. He was responsible for the oversight of the life skills and career development programs that contribute to the personal growth and character development of our 460 Razorback student-athletes.
“I wanted to build on what Marvin Caston had started,” Wood said. “What I have found, is that when I live my life to empower other people, it always works.”
Normally, this would be enough of a challenge for anyone in Wood’s position, but he wanted to challenge himself even more. He applied for the NCAA's Leadership Institute for Ethnic Minority Males and Females, He graduated from the program in 2009 and is currently serving a 4 year term as the chair of the NCAA Student Athlete Affairs Group and a member of the Division I-A Athletic Director's Student Task Force.
“For me it was another way to grow professionally and personally,” Wood said. “My colleagues hold me accountable and we encourage each other. While I was there I got some great experience on budgeting, being a supervisor and managing conflicts.”
All of these issues will help Wood reach his ultimate goal of one day becoming an athletic director. Wood also wants to reach out to minority students as well as all students in his pursuit to better student-athletes.
“The way I can reach out to minority students is by the way I live my life,” Wood said. “While I am here for all student athletes, being a person of color myself, I make sure that I invest in them and empower them. That is how I ended up in this field.”
He is still challenging himself and is currently working on his Doctorate in Recreation and Sport Management at the University of Arkansas in the College of Education and Health Professions. He hopes to one day be an athletic director and would like to learn along the way.
“I have a passion for education,” Wood said. “For me it is a life-long learning process.”