A member of the Brownwood High School coaching staff since 2009, Girls Athletic Coordinator and boys and girls cross country and track and field head coach Don Hood is headed back to the college ranks.

NCAA Division III LeTourneau University in Longview, a member of the American Southwest Conference, announced on Monday the creation of a men’s and women’s track and field program, and Hood was introduced as the head coach.

“I’m in my mid-50s and my coaching window is closing really fast,” Hood said in a Monday afternoon interview with the Bulletin. “This is an opportunity to lay the foundation of a program at the college level and really put your stamp on something and that’s pretty rare. It was hard to pass up.”

Moving to Longview also cuts in half the traveling distance between Hood and his oldest two daughters — Victoria and Julianne — who are attending college at Hardin University in Searcy, Ark., where both former Lady Lions earned cross country scholarships.

“Cutting that distance in half for the next seven or eight years is pretty important, and that did make a big difference,” Hood said.

The decision to leave Brownwood after guiding the track and field and cross country programs to a combined nine district championships, and leading the Lady Lions country team to state three of the past five years, was anything but easy.

“I don’t know that anything has been more difficult,” Hood said. “This is not just coach-speak, I promise my family and I have never been treated as well as we’ve been treated in Brownwood. Daily we would get an email or text or someone in church or the grocery store would say something about how much they appreciate me and my family and what we’re doing here. That’s pretty rare from a coach’s perspective. I knew a few people don’t like us but that happens everywhere. But the outpouring of support that we constantly received while we were here made it a really hard decision.”

Hood will remain in his capacity with Brownwood ISD through the end of the school year.

“There’s not much to do there right now but recruit, and it’s better to stay at the school now because I’ll be able to see some kids,” Hood said. “I also want to honor our Brownwood kids that have worked so hard. I want to give them this last season and make it a great one.”

As for the greatest achievements for Brownwood during his tenure, Hood pointed to the rise of entire girls athletic program.

“I haven’t run a single race, but I’ve watched a lot of kids do a lot of great things,” Hood said. “But what I’m most proud of is the girls program as a whole. I feel like in every sport we’ve gotten better. The programs are treated with more respect throughout the community and the district, whether it be volleyball, cross country, track and field, basketball, softball, or whatever it may be. We have a competitive team in every sport and in general, the girls have picked it up a few notches. When these girls leave Brownwood High School they will be able to be proud of what they’ve done.”

In a press release issued Monday, LeTourneau athletic director Terri Deike said, “We are very blessed to have Don Hood, a well-known Texas track and field coach, agree to head the new program. Don brings a wealth of knowledge after coaching at the high school level as well as four NCAA institutions. Don’s expertise will be invaluable in establishing a successful indoor and outdoor men’s and women’s track and field program. He has a proven record of teaching skills and helping student-athletes achieve success. Don’s character and integrity will make him a wonderful addition to the athletic department staff.”

Hood stated in the press release, “I am thrilled to be chosen to lead the beginning of the LeTourneau track and field program. It’s a rare opportunity to begin a program from scratch — to be able to lay the foundation of what will become a well-respected track and field program across the state of Texas and throughout the NCAA. It’s long been a desire of mine to have this type of opportunity. Being able to do it at a quality school like LeTourneau, where we can sell the combination of a great educational and spiritual experience, makes this a can’t miss opportunity.”

Prior to Brownwood, Hood spent four seasons as the head track and field coach at Abilene Christian University. During his tenure, Hood led the Wildcat men’s program to three straight NCAA Division II outdoor team championships (2006-08), and directed the women’s program to the 2008 outdoor team title, the program’s first team championship since winning the 2000 indoor championship. In 2008, he was voted the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association Men’s Coach of the Year.

Under Hood’s direction, the ACU men’s team won the Lone Star Conference team championship in each of his four seasons, while the ACU women’s team won the LSC title from 2006-08.

“I was blessed to grow up in the household of one of the greatest American track coaches — I saw first-hand how much desire and commitment it takes to build a championship team,” Hood said at the press conference. “Having spent my 29 years of coaching evenly split between high school and college has allowed me to keep in close contact with recruiting contacts and remain able to relate to the high school students we will recruit. Any success I’ve had is directly attributable to the work the athletes have put in. My job is to recruit quality people, then to motivate and instruct and watch the improvement come. Good kids that work hard can often find talent they didn’t know they had.”

Before his time at ACU, Hood served as an assistant to Wes Kittley at Texas Tech from 2002 to 2005. During that time, he coached men’s and women’s horizontal jumps and the pole vault. He helped coach the Tech men to the 2005 Big 12 outdoor team championship, the school’s first track and field conference title. He also helped coach the women to third place at the Big 12 outdoor championships for their best ever finish at the meet.

During his three seasons at Texas Tech, Hood coached five All-American athletics, two school record-holders and 14 NCAA Division I championship meet qualifiers.

From 1996 to 2002, Hood was the head cross country and track and field coach at Texas State (formerly Southwest Texas State), where he led the Bobcats to five Southland Conference championships and in the process earned five SLC Coach of the Year honors. He was honored in 2002 as the NCAA Regional Coach of the Year. During his time at Texas State, he coached three NCAA All-American athletes and more than half of the school’s track and field records were set during his tenure.

Hood accepted his first collegiate coaching position as the assistant track and field coach at Sam Houston State University from 1994 to 1996. While at SHSU, he was in charge of the sprints, relays, vaulting and throwing workouts. During his two years, the Bearkats set 15 school records in the events Hood coached.

Before his time coaching college athletes, Hood started as the head coach for the Temple High School cross country and track and field teams as well as an assistant coach for the Wildcats football team from 1988 until 1994. Under his guidance 13 school records were broken, nine athletes medaled at the state meet, three All-American honors were earned, the Wildcats placed third at the state meet in 1994 and won their first district title since 1966.

Prior to his coaching career, Hood was a six-time TAPPS State Champion in cross-country and track in high school before earning four letters at Abilene Christian University in both cross-country and track. He was also a member of the Wildcat cross-country teams that qualified for the Division II national meets. During his time at ACU, Hood was named to the Dean’s Honor Roll seven times and earned the Bud Clanton Award twice for having the highest GPA among track letter winners.

After finishing his undergrad degree, Hood earned his master’s of science at the United States Sports Academy in 1988.

Hood will make the transition to Longview with his wife, Rachel, and daughters, Victoria, Julianne, and Annabeth.