Greenbrier athletic director receives statewide honor

by Donna Lampkin Stephens

Greenbrier’s Stephen Wood has been named Arkansas Athletic Director of the Year for 2012-13.

Wood, 37, in his sixth year of athletic administration — all at Greenbrier — will receive the award given by the Arkansas High School Athletic Administrators Association during the Arkansas High School All-Star Week activities in Conway the third week of June.

"We’re excited about it," Wood said. "It’s a neat honor, especially at my age. I don’t know this for sure, but from what I know, I’m probably the youngest ever."

He agreed that the award was the pinnacle of his young athletic administrative career.

"To be picked by my peers as athletic director of the year for the state is definitely the highlight," he said.

Wood is from Charleston, graduating from Charleston High School in 1993. He played football for the University of Central Arkansas and served as a student coach under Mike Isom, graduating in 1998. He spent two years as head football coach at Bob Courtway Middle School in Conway, went to Russellville as head junior high coach for two more and returned to Faulkner County as offensive coordinator under Scott Schwartz at Greenbrier High School.

He returned home to Charleston as head coach in 2004, taking the Tigers to the state championship game for the first time. Although they lost, they returned to War Memorial Stadium in 2005 and won.

In April 2007, at 31, he was hired as Greenbrier’s athletic director.

"I didn’t think I had a real good shot with no administrative experience, but I did the interview for experience, and for some reason they took a chance on a young guy," he said.

Although he was not ready to leave coaching, he was savvy enough to look far down the road.

"My longer-term goal was to be an athletic director, and not that many jobs come open in the state for those slots," he said. "I had good relationships at Greenbrier. It was probably the only AD job I could’ve gotten an interview for in the state."

At Greenbrier in the last four years, Wood planned and oversaw the building of a new turf field, junior high gym, senior high weight room and new football field entrance. GHS teams won their first softball state championship in 2009, first state tennis title in 2010, first conference cross country championship in 2010 and first undefeated conference football title in 2012.

Each January, principals from each conference vote for their athletic director of the year. Wood won the honor from the 5A-West, as he had in 2010-11. From there, the state’s athletic directors choose one for each classification; Wood was chosen as the Class 5A winner this spring. From the classification winners (Class 1A-7A), an overall Athletic Director of the Year is chosen, and again his peers picked him.

"I’m relieved, excited and really shocked by it," Wood said. "It’s a pretty big deal."

The inaugural award was given in 1982. The most recent winners include Phillip Lansdell of El Dorado in 2012, Johnny White of Cabot in 2011, Buzz Bolding of Conway in 2010, Dick Johnson of Fayetteville in 2009, Doug Killgore of Central Arkansas Christian in 2008 and Johnny Johnson, then of Little Rock, in 2007.