Now entering his fourth season at Tennessee, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Aric Thomas arrived on Rocky Top following two stints at Oklahoma, his alma mater. In 13 years as both a player and a coach, Thomas helped lead the Sooners to a national championship, two College World Series appearances, back-to-back Super Regionals, nine NCAA regionals and two Big 12 Conference Tournament titles. Additionally, he stands as the lone person to have been a part of both conference championships in Sooner program history.
Since Thomas arrived on campus, the Tennessee program has witnessed an ever-increasing emphasis on recruitment and player development, with four consecutive Top-20 recruiting classes for the Vols. Since Thomas arrived on campus, the Tennessee program has witnessed an ever-increasing emphasis on recruitment and player development, with four consecutive Top-20 recruiting classes for the Vols. By Perfect Game and D1Baseball.com reports, Tennessee's 2017 signing class ranks 14th in the nation. The Volunteers' newest class was also tabbed No. 18 in the country by Baseball America this fall. UT's 2016 class was ranked No. 15 and its 2015 class earned a No. 12 national ranking by PG, while the 2014 class was named No. 13 in the country by the same outlet.
Thomas' efforts have been critical to the success of the Volunteers not only on the recruiting front, but on the field. His work with Tennessee's outfielders and offense has resulted in three consecutive SEC Tournament appearances (2014-16). The tournament berth marked the first time for the Vols to appear in the league's postseason tournament in three straight seasons since 1995-97.
Prior to the team's SEC Tournament appearance in 2014, also Thomas' first season on Rocky Top, the Vols had not been to the postseason since 2007.
In 2016, Thomas' first year running the offense, he coached Tennessee to the top of the SEC leaderboard and into the national ranks. The Vols stole an SEC-leading 38 bases and turned an SEC-leading 58 double plays to finish the season 13th in the country in double plays per game. Tennessee was also the only SEC team to have three players record more than 50 RBI.
The Riverside, Calif., native spent the two years prior to his Knoxville arrival in Norman, guiding OU to Super Regional appearances both seasons. One of the top recruiters in college baseball, Thomas put together a stellar class in his final year at Oklahoma with 10 of his signees being drafted in the 2013 MLB Draft. In addition, he also played a key role in the recruitment of All-American pitcher Jonathan Gray, who signed with OU in 2012 before going on to be the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, as well as the 2013 College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year.
Thomas first recruited Gray in his final season at Eastern Oklahoma State College where he served as the head coach from 2005-11. That same year, he also signed three other recruits who were drafted, including Dylan Bundy, the top high school player in the nation and number four overall selection by the Baltimore Orioles.
Under Thomas' tutelage, former Vol outfielder Christin Stewart, who went undrafted out of high school, was selected 34th overall by the Detroit Tigers. While with Tennessee, Stewart became the 11th player in program history to win the "Triple Crown" title by leading the Vols with a .330 batting average, which included five homers and 39 RBI. As a junior in 2015, he hit .311 with eight doubles, two triples, 15 homers, 47 RBI and 39 runs scored. He produced career-best numbers, leading Tennessee's squad in homers, RBI and slugging percentage (.633). The junior also led the conference in times hit by a pitch (15), while he also held the most walks by a Volunteer with 28. Stewart became the first Volunteer to be named a First Team All-SEC player in consecutive years (2014-15) since Tennessee Hall of Famer Chris Burke (2000-01) did so following his record-setting campaigns on Rocky Top.
Most recently, Thomas assisted in the development of former Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel who was selected second overall by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2016 Major League First-Year Player Draft after going undrafted out of high school. During his junior campaign, Senzel led the Vols with 57 runs scored, 74 hits, 25 doubles, 59 RBI, 25 stolen bases and 152 assists. The Knoxville native garnered All-American accolades from four different outlets, was named a Golden Spikes Award Semifinalist and earned Second Team ALL-SEC and SEC All-Defensive Third Baseman honors in 2016.
During his coaching tenure, Thomas has coached or worked with over 20 players who are currently listed on Major League Baseball rosters.
In seven seasons at the Eastern helm, where he also served as the athletic director the last four years, Thomas posted a 237-159-1 (.598) overall record while guiding his offense to a .314 batting average in that span while also averaging 53 home runs and 134 stolen bases per season. From 2007-2009, the Mountaineers' hitters hit over .330 in each of the three seasons and the 2008 squad set the program record for wins with 41.
During his tenure, EOSC baseball evolved into one of the nation's top programs with a specialty in player development. While Eastern was nationally ranked in six of his seven seasons at the helm, including five squads ranked in the top 15 in the country, Thomas also coached 70 players that went on to sign at four-year universities or play professional baseball. That includes seven players that were drafted by Major League Baseball teams and 38 others that moved on to Division I programs.
As a player, Thomas was a key part of the Sooners' 1994 National Championship team and the program's return to the College World Series in 1995 when he was named a first team All-Big Eight outfielder. He was also part of Oklahoma's staff from 1996-2004, serving as a volunteer coach, assistant coach and coordinator of baseball operations.
Thomas' coaching experience also extends beyond Oklahoma's borders as he was an assistant for the Brewster White Caps in the prestigious Cape Cod League in the summers of 1998 and 1999. His team won the Eastern Division title during his first year with the club. In the summer of 2004 as the head coach of the Peninsula Oilers, Thomas was unanimously named Alaska Baseball League Coach of the Year with the Peninsula Oilers.
His coaching career began as a volunteer assistant on the OU staff in 1996 following a successful two-year stint as a player for the Sooners. While on OU's staff, Thomas helped guide the program to seven NCAA Tournament appearances, two super regionals, two Big 12 Conference Championships and the program's first conference tournament championship in 18 years with the 1997 Big 12 Conference Tournament title. During his coaching career in Oklahoma, Thomas had a hand in instructing 18 All-Americans, 11 all-district honorees and 20 first team all-conference selections.
In the two seasons he lettered for the Sooners, Thomas was a member of OU's back-to-back College World Series teams in 1994 and 1995 and hit .336 during his career with 61 stolen bases and 113 runs scored. In 1995, Thomas stole 38 bases, which ranks 4th on OU's single season record total. Additionally, his 61 career stolen bases ranks 6th despite only playing two years for the Oklahoma.
Thomas was a first team All-Big Eight Conference selection as a senior and was named to the NCAA All-Midwest II Regional Team in 1995 after helping the Sooners tear through the tournament field with a perfect 4-0 mark. In fact, the Sooners recorded an 8-0 record in NCAA Regional play and were 12-2 in NCAA postseason competition during Thomas' playing career. OU was 92-33 in his two seasons roaming the outfield.
Prior to arriving in Norman, Thomas played one year at Riverside Community College in California. One of the most talented players to emerge from the junior college powerhouse, Thomas captured junior college All-America honors in his only season and still appears among the RCC record books in a number of categories. Thomas continues to hold the school records for hits and stolen bases in a single game and the stolen bases recorded in a single season.
Thomas began his college career at the University of California at Riverside where he redshirted his first year and then spent his freshman season. He transferred to RCC following his freshman year.
Thomas earned his bachelor's degree in marketing from Oklahoma in 1995 and completed his Master's in professional studies in education from Capella University in 2007. Thomas and his wife, Julie, have two children, Chloe Elizabeth and Brett Nathan.