Columbus State University

Columbus State coach moves on from NCAA Division II to Division I

A Columbus State University coach has moved from NCAA Division II to Division I.

Anita Howard, who led the CSU women’s basketball team to a 66-25 record in three years, was introduced Monday at a news conference in Statesboro as Georgia Southern’s new coach.

Howard took over the CSU program in June 2016 after Jonathan Norton resigned to become principal of Wynnbrook Christian School and chief administrative officer of Wynnbrook Baptist Church in Columbus. The Cougars went 141-60 in seven seasons under Norton, including three NCAA Tournament berths, two Peach Belt Conference regular-season titles and two PBC tournament championships.

In her first year at CSU, Howard led the Cougars to a 31-2 record, matching the program’s most wins in a season. They also won the PBC regular-season and tournament championships and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight. She was named the 2016-17 PBC Coach of the Year and the Georgia College Women’s Coach of the Year.

After losing all five starters from that team, the Cougars went 19-10 in 2017-18 but still made their fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. This past season, the Cougars went 16-13 and reached the PBC tournament final game.

“CSU will always hold a special place in my heart,” Howard said in Columbus State’s news release.

“I will never forget the way that the community embraced me when I arrived. Thanks to President (Chris) Markwood, Athletic Director Todd Reeser and Athletic Fund Board members John Walden and John Shinkle for being so supportive of women’s basketball. I could name many others who were extremely supportive. We have achieved great things together. I’ll miss everyone here and will always be built coug-tough.”

Reeser said in the news release, “while we are disappointed to lose coach Anita Howard, we are excited for her bright future at Georgia Southern University. She has built upon the rich history of success in our women’s basketball program, and though she will be missed. I am confident we are well positioned to attract a dynamic leader that can continue to move our outstanding program forward.”

Howard came to Columbus from Division II Livingstone in Salisbury, North Carolina, where in two seasons the Blue Bears went 41-14 and earned the program’s first top-five ranking.

During her first head coaching stint in college, Howard went 39-16 in two seasons at Division III Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, including the program’s first Great South Athletic Conference championship and first NCAA Tournament berth.

Now, she will try to improve a Georgia Southern program that went 32-86 in four seasons under Kip Drown, who was fired March 10.

Mark Rice, 706-341-2577, @MarkRiceLE.