PINE BLUFF, Ark. (News release) – In a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander announced Chris Peterson as the next vice chancellor and director of athletics at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). Peterson, who ushered in a new era in Trojan athletics with the opening of the Jack Stephens Center, served as athletics director at UA-Little Rock for fourteen years before leaving in 2014. He will officially begin at UAPB Jan. 23.
Alexander thanked the seven-member search committee, comprised of UAPB faculty, staff and executive cabinet, a member of the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees, Pine Bluff business and community leaders and the president of the UAPB/AM&N National Alumni Association.
“After a national search, I am appointing Chris Peterson as UAPB Vice Chancellor and Athletics Director,” Chancellor Alexander told the crowd of about 200 Golden Lions fans. “Mr. Peterson is no stranger to UAPB… During his time there (UA-Little Rock), he was known for his commitment to academic integrity and compliance, student-athlete welfare, and for his leadership in fundraising, planning and construction of athletic facilities.”
“I’m the son of a college football coach and athletic director,” Peterson said. “I have grown up on a field, court and in the locker room. I was a college athlete, football coach and have worked my way up in the ranks of athletic administration over the past 40 years… My goal as your director of athletics is to do everything in my power to enhance the experience of the student athlete, with the ultimate goal being a college degree and employment. I want to uphold the rich tradition of Arkansas AM&N and UAPB while continuing to move the athletic department forward.”
Peterson’s commitment to academic and athletic excellence was recognized in 2010 when he was named Under Armour Central Region Athletic Director of the Year by NACDA. He served on the Division I NCAA Recruiting and Personnel Issues Cabinet from 2008-2010. NCAA Division I Administrative Cabinet 2010-2014.Twice, UA-Little Rock’s Faculty Senate awarded Peterson and student-athletes for commitment to academic achievement and outstanding academic performance. During his tenure, UA-Little Rock posted the highest Cumulative Academic Progress Rate in the state of Arkansas for four straight years. In the fall of 2003, UALR was recognized as the top Division I-AAA university in the nation for improving the graduation rates of its student-athletes by 33 percent from the previous academic year. And the school’s four Sun Belt Academic Awards in 2011-12 placed it second behind the University of Denver for the most team academic awards in the conference.
Peterson presided over arguably the greatest season in UA-Little Rock’s history in 2010-11 as it was one of just 12 Division I institutions out of 347 to have its men’s basketball, women’s basketball and baseball programs reach the NCAA Tournament. All three teams captured Sun Belt Conference Tournament championships for the first time in each program’s respective history, in addition to the men’s cross country team’s Sun Belt championship the following school year.
It was Peterson’s relationship with the late Little Rock philanthropist Jack Stephens that led to the $22.4 million gift—the largest in UA-Little Rock’s history—for the construction of the Center named in his honor. In addition to his impact on UA-Little Rock, Peterson was instrumental in bringing the 2008 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship to central Arkansas. UALR hosted First- and Second-Round games at Verizon Arena in March of 2008, which marked the first NCAA Tournament games ever played in the state of Arkansas. In March of 2012, the Jack Stephens Center hosted two rounds of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament.