Now entering his second season at Tennessee, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Aric Thomas arrived on Rocky Top following his second stint at Oklahoma, his alma mater. In 13 years as both a player and a coach with the Sooners, Thomas helped lead them 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 development, with back-to-back consecutive Top-15 recruiting classes for the Vols. The 2014 class was named 13th in the country by Perfect Game before the most-recent 2015 signing class was ranked No. 12 by the same outlet. Thomas has helped bring Tennessee’s program back into the ranks of a National Top-25 status and now looks to maintain it.
The Riverside, Calif., native spent the two years prior to coming to Knoxville 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.
During his coaching tenure, Thomas has coached or worked with several players that are currently listed on Major League Baseball rosters, including Chase Utley (Phillies), Reed Johnson (Braves) and Greg Dobbs (Marlins).
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.
In 2011, Thomas led the Mountaineers to the program’s second consecutive Region II Championship, a first in the program’s history, as EOSC finished the campaign at 38-22 and appeared in the top 25 polls for the sixth consecutive season. In 2010, the Mountaineers won their first region title since 2001 after they posted a 37-22 mark. He was named the Region II Coach of the Year following both campaigns.
During his tenure, EOSC baseball evolved into one of the nation’s top programs and became a catalyst for helping players move on to four-year universities and professional baseball. 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 has 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 has also extended 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 2004, Thomas was unanimously named Alaska Baseball League coach of the Year with the Peninsula Oilers.
His coaching career started as a volunteer assistant on the OU staff in 1996 following a successful two-year stint as a player for the Sooners. Thomas helped guide OU to four NCAA Tournament appearances and the program’s first conference tournament championship in 18 years with the 1997 Big 12 Conference Tournament title. During his young coaching career, Thomas had a hand in instructing nine All-Americans, eight all-district honorees, 13 first team all-conference selections and more than 20 players who signed professional contracts.
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, the sixth-best total in OU history, and 113 runs scored. 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 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 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.