Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Q&A with Eric Wood: Tech AD discusses football, decision to keep Cumbie

Sunday, December 3, 2023
Article Image Alt Text

Louisiana Tech Athletic Director Eric Wood had a conversation with the Ruston Daily Leader regarding the status of the football program and head coach Sonny Cumbie. Leader file photo

The 2023 Louisiana Tech football season was frustrating for all involved.

Another 3-9 finish — the program’s third straight year with less than four wins — marred by an inability to win close games or compete with the top of the league kept the Bulldogs from turning the corner in year two under head coach Sonny Cumbie.

The Bulldogs lost their final six games of the year by an average of 16 points and have gone a combined 6-18 in Conference USA play since the 2021 season, with their last winning season coming in 2019.

And after the firings of defensive coordinator Scott Power, cornerbacks coach Myles Carelock, and safeties coach Nate Johnson, Tech has another big offseason on its hands to get the program turned in the right direction.

The Leader spoke one-on-one with Tech Athletic Director Eric Wood to discuss the 2023 season, the growing call from fans for drastic change, and why he trusts Sonny Cumbie to lead the Bulldogs into 2024.

RDL: What was your assessment of the 2023 football season?

Wood: “I think like everyone we were disappointed. That’s not the standard we want in our program. And Sonny was frustrated. I was frustrated. Our fanbase is very much frustrated. It’s frustrating because it didn’t reflect the work put in week after week in preparation for games. And I don’t want to make excuses. There were five one-score games that we didn’t figure out how to close out. At the end of the day we’re a resultsdriven industry, and I get that. But last season is in the past, and we’re moving forward to next season and improving.”

RDL: What led to your decision to keep Sonny Cumbie as head coach?

Wood: “I think we had the number one class in our league last year and I feel like the past two seasons, Sonny has grown in his head coaching role, just like me in my role as athletic director. I would say number one his confidence, number two his work ethic and number three his energy on a day-to-day basis. He still has confidence this thing can get turned around. And I try to help him when it comes to stuff off the field as it relates to facilities, budget, NIL, and help him be the best fit for Louisiana Tech football. At the end of every game we talked, even after that last game. And we’ve already made some changes on the staff to address some of the pressing issues we had.

“And what I love about Sonny is he doesn’t make excuses. Whether publicly or privately he’s never said reasons why we’re not winning. He’s never said, ‘if only we had an indoor facility’ or ‘if we had this nutrition or training table setup.’ He doesn’t do that. When we, or any of our donors, ask him about what he needs, he’ll share some priorities but he hasn’t used those as a reason why we haven’t turned the corner after year two. And I think you want a coach that wants to be here at this place and is a good fit from a community standpoint and as an ambassador for our department and university and someone that wants to maximize everything that we do have. When you start hearing people complaining as to why they aren’t successful, that’s when you get worried and I have not seen that from him at all.”

RDL: Entering year three for Coach Cumbie, are there specific benchmarks you need to see for the 2024 season to indicate progress?

Wood: “Yeah, there’s no specific number. But every year, the minimum floor for the program is a bowl game here. But the ultimate goal is to win a conference championship obviously. But I don’t think there’s really a threshold of what we’re going to look at and say this was or wasn’t a good season. We’re looking for significant progress. And a bowl game is what we see as a minimum every year. I know we had a string of bowl game appearances in the past, but before Sonny took over, we went 5-6 and 3-9 so it’s not as quick of a turnaround as we would have liked. But there’s no question we need to get better. But I’ll also say when it comes to a bowl game, it’s not the line of whether not it’s a success or not, but that’s the standard we shoot for as the floor every year. But again, we have to get better, no question.”

RDL: Conference USA announced on Tuesday that Delaware will join the league for the 2025-26 season. Have there been any discussions of specific future scheduling models for next year with 10 teams and when there’s 11 teams in 2025?

Wood: “That’s something that’s more in the commissioner’s end of things. We haven’t, as ADs, had any of those in-depth discussions yet. But we’re excited about adding Delaware to the league in 2025 and Kennesaw next year. And I think there’s always been a desire to try and get back to 12 if there’s a right fit but as of now, we haven’t talked about potential new members or future scheduling.”