Wood to Return Friday, Feb. 24

Courtesy of Clint Often

Last week, The University of Mary Washington’s men’s head basketball coach Rod Wood was placed on administrative leave following a DUI arrest that occurred on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Wood spoke with the Bullet earlier this week in his first public comments since the Feb. 15 incident and said that he had a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21, with UMW Athletic Director Ed Hegmann and Vice President for Student Affairs Doug Searcy, to discuss his future with the university. In that meeting, Wood said it was determined that his administrative leave would be officially lifted on Friday, Feb. 24, at noon.

That means that Wood will not be patrolling the sidelines Feb. 23 when his Eagles host Hood College in the semifinals of the Capital Athletic Conference Tournament. Wood said that associate head coach Dan Bairley will act as the head coach in his stay.

Wood, 44, was cited by Fredericksburg police for reckless driving in the 300 block of Amaret St. following the Eagles’ 94-59 senior night victory over Stevenson University. According to the police report, Wood refused to take a blood or breath test once he was pulled over. Wood was released last Thursday and has a court date set for mid-March.

According to city police spokesperson Natatia Bledsoe, a police officer can make a DUI arrest based on observed characteristics of the person in suspicion, including the odor of an alcoholic beverage on the breath, the impaired ability to walk and speak, and other physical signs that are indicative of alcohol consumption.

Wood has already missed one game as a result of his administrative leave, as he did not coach the Eagles’ regular season finale last Saturday against Wesley College. The men’s basketball team went on to lose that game 73-70 and thus had to settle for second place in the CAC standings.

Wood declined to comment on the particulars of the DUI case on the advice of his attorney, as it is still an ongoing investigation. However, the 16-year Eagles’ head coach did express sadness that he became a distraction to his team.

“I feel horrible,” Wood said. “I’m embarrassed. I feel that I let my team down, and I told them that. Regardless of what happens in court, it won’t fix that. I’m paying a very heavy price, both physically and emotionally.”

Wood went on to say that these trying times have shown him who is really in his corner.

“People who know me have been very supportive,” Wood said. “The University has been very supportive. When things are going well, you don’t see things in the light they may actually be in. But when put under duress, you find out who your real support system is.”

In a phone interview last Saturday, Hegmann expressed regret that the situation occurred.

“Everybody makes mistakes; we are all human,” Hegmann said. “Rod made a mistake and it’s unfortunate timing but that’s how life is. You can’t plan when these things will occur. Hopefully he’ll just learn from this mistake and become a better person from it.”

In an in-person interview on Tuesday, Hegmann confirmed his meeting earlier that day with Wood and Searcy and said that a personnel decision had been reached. However, the longtime AD said that he was directed by the human resources department not to comment on the details of what was said in the meeting.

Hegmann did divulge that the University conducted a detailed investigation before coming to a decision on Wood’s future.

“The details and depth of that investigation was as thorough as we could possibly make it,” Hegmann said. “We’re satisfied that we have just about every detail that’s possible to get without going out and playing lawyer and calling in witnesses and subpoenaing people, because we don’t have that power.”

Wood, the four-time conference coach of the year who has manned the men’s basketball program since 1996, had his team one win away from being crowned regular season CAC champions before he was temporarily stripped of his coaching duties.

Wood said he talked with his team last Friday, Feb. 17, in a brief, 15-minute meeting in which Hegmann was also present at to inform them that he was being put on administrative leave. Wood said that he has not met with his team since.

The men’s basketball players all declined to comment on the issue.

Bairley said when he heard the news of Wood’s arrest that he was strictly concerned for his colleague’s well-being.

“My immediate concern was for coach Wood, his wife Amy and their kids,” Bairley said. “That was my first thought; just genuine concern for coach. I’ve been here 13 years and he and I are very close.”

If the men’s basketball team is victorious Thursday night, they will advance to the conference championship game on Saturday and Wood will be eligible to return for that contest.

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