The University of West Georgia has turned to one of the nation’s premier head coaches to lead its softball program, as UWG Athletic Director Daryl Dickey announced Tuesday the appointment of Al Thomas as the sixth head softball coach in program history. Thomas comes to UWG following a long career as head coach at GSC rival Shorter.
“We are extremely excited about the addition of Coach Thomas,” said Dickey. “This is an outstanding opportunity for West Georgia softball, given his history of championship-level play combined with the stability of a program that is coming off of a 30-win season.”
Thomas is also excited about challenge of his new position. “It’s an honor to lead the softball program at West Georgia,” says the Wolves’ new head coach. He adds, “I am impressed with every aspect of West Georgia including the campus, the facilities, the support from the community, and especially the athletic department and its leadership. Everyone is energetic and hard-working, and it feels like family.”
Thomas brings overwhelming credentials to his new post at UWG. His 12-season record on the staff at Shorter boasts a record of 512 wins and only 109 losses. Also, Thomas’ four-year record vs. GSC competition is 151-51, giving his Shorter program the second-best winning percentage of any school in the history of softball in the Gulf South Conference.
Thomas’ resume includes a pair of national titles at Shorter. His 2012 team won the NAIA crown in the program’s final season before moving to NCAA Division II and the Gulf South Conference. Also, during their two-season transition period, the Hawks captured the 2014 NCCAA (Christian College) national title.
Thomas’ squad continued to win big as the Hawks became full members of the Gulf South Conference. Though not eligible for the league title, Shorter enjoyed big years in 2013 and 2014, posting records of 25-7 and 22-5 against GSC competition. The latter was the best record of any team in the conference that season.
In 2015, Thomas’ team capitalized on its first season of eligibility for postseason play in Division II. The Hawks won the GSC Tournament title, and then captured both NCAA Division II Regional and Super Region crowns. Shorter advanced to the finals of the Division II Softball World Series in Oklahoma City before their postseason run was halted.
Beyond his teams’ success, Thomas has also received many individual honors. He has twice won National Coach of the Year honors, is a four-time Southeast Regional Coach of the Year, and has won three separate conference coach of the year awards. Thomas was also honored for his meritorious service as a 2016 inductee into the Rome-Floyd Sports Hall of Fame.
Before his long run at Shorter, Thomas’ background was in baseball. He worked many years with a variety of Major League Baseball teams in both scouting and player development. This includes affiliations with World Series championship teams from the New York Yankees, Florida Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks, and St. Louis Cardinals.
Thomas’ appointment fills the vacancy created when former coach Mandy Morgan stepped down at the end of the 2016 season. Dickey said that the program’s progress under Morgan have helped set the stage for the program’s future success. Thomas agrees, “Coach Morgan has laid a great foundation here at UWG to build upon.”
UWG teams last year won GSC titles in three sports: football, men’s basketball, and women’s track-and-field. Dickey believes that run of success was a key in attracting a coach of Thomas’ credentials to the vacancy at West Georgia.
Thomas, says, “It is clear that UWG athletics is committed to excellence, and offers the ability to achieve success and attain goals. I am excited to meet the team and begin the process of building a championship culture together.”
“I’m thrilled to be a Wolf and ready to hit the ground running.”
Thomas is a native of Rome and a 1983 graduate of Berry College. He and wife Elizabeth have two children: daughter Haley and son Auston.