Asmussen: Longer title but similar mission for Hood

Asmussen: Longer title but similar mission for Hood

When Tom Michael took the Eastern Illinois AD job, it left a hole in the Illinois athletic administration. One the size of a basketball arena.

It took about a second to realize the right person for the job was already in place, and the school came to the same logical conclusion.

Warren Hood was promoted Wednesday to senior associate athletic director for capital projects and facility operations. Long titles equal long days at the office.

His primary job is being the point man for State Farm Center renovation.

Hood knows all about unique fixer-uppers. He was in charge of renovations at Memorial Stadium earlier in the century, helping to modernize the historic but aging building.

He will now do the same at the former Assembly Hall. He still has a hard hat from his Memorial Stadium days.

“The construction manager we have is different from the one we had at the stadium, so I’m going to have to get a new helmet,” Hood said.

Hood spent part of Wednesday meeting with Michael, who will be leaving soon to start at Eastern Illinois on Aug. 11.

Michael’s Illinois time is limited, but he has offered to help Hood with the transition.
“Tom is the best,” Hood said. “He is loyal to this school. I can’t say enough about Tom.”

Hood isn’t new to the State Farm Center project. He worked with Michael on it for the last two years. He’s got knowledge.

“I’m pretty much up to speed with that,” Hood said. “Tom definitely was the point guy on the construction and knows all the ins and outs of the day-to-day.”

Hood had been overseeing external operations. Now, he shifts his attention to capital projects.

There are more on the way. A feasibility study is being done for a master plan for all facilities, and another study is looking at renovations of Memorial Stadium’s south and east sides.

“There are some major, major projects that are coming down the pike,” Hood said.

The 49-year-old Hood went to school at Illinois, graduating in 1987. He did a graduate assistantship immediately after that before joining the program full time in 1990.

“I’ve been around a long time,” said Hood, an Urbana High School graduate.
“It’s really special. It’s emotional for me. With the stadium as well. I have vivid memories of going to football games and basketball games with my dad when I was 6, 7 years old. I’ve got great memories at both of those facilities.”

Hood’s work at Memorial Stadium drew rave reviews. It was his first major facility project.

“It probably would have been better if I had started with a shed,” Hood said. “I learned so much. It put me in a position where I am very comfortable with all of the pieces and parts of a major construction project.”

Not all went perfect at Memorial Stadium.

There was a shortage of union labor because there were so many other projects in the community. That’s a concern this time, too.

At the start of the Memorial Stadium project, structural issues were discovered that delayed the work for six weeks.

There were also issues with the old press box. Loren Tate wasn’t eager to go upstairs for fear the structure might give way.

“It was a little scary,” Hood said.

Before the start of the 2007 season, consideration was given to not using the press box. Maybe the media could have sat out in the stands.

“Luckily, it didn’t come to fruition, and we managed to solve the other problems,” Hood said. “Those are things that come up, and you have to be prepared for them.”

The greatest challenge at State Farm Center will be next offseason (known as Phase Four).

“We’ve got so much work that needs to be completed during that time period,” Hood said. “Some of the things we originally planned for next year, we are trying to do those now so we can get a jumpstart on it. It is a very, very aggressive work schedule.”

Unlike the Memorial Stadium renovation, all of the work in the State Farm Center will be done inside. That’s a plus.

“That was the one major factor with the stadium that you could never control,” Hood said.

Illinois knows it needs a temporary home for both basketball teams early in the 2015-16 season. Five games will be played away from State Farm Center.

Where are they going to be?

“I don’t think we’re going to release that now,” Hood said. “I think there will be some information on that shortly.”

Can’t trick the veteran into giving us a scoop.

Bob Asmussen writes three columns a week for The News-Gazette. He can reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

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