NEWS RELEASE (online at https://goo.gl/AUgWAO)
(Ashland, Ore.) — Craig Howard, the head football coach who raised the bar at Southern Oregon University and earned the love of his team for the family culture he instilled, passed away Thursday night in his home. He was 64.
The Howard family has asked for privacy but will announce services in the coming days. Grief counseling is available on campus today for students and for faculty and staff.
Coach Howard joined SOU as head football coach six years ago, coming home to Southern Oregon following a successful career as a high school coach in Florida. He grew up in Grants Pass and played high school football there, then played at the collegiate level at Linfield College in McMinnville.
He was hired in February 2011 to take over a team that averaged three wins per year in the eight seasons prior to his arrival, and predicted he would bring the university its first NAIA national championship. He did that in 2014, when he was also named the Rawlings NAIA Coach of the Year. He took the Raiders back to the championship game in 2015, falling just short of back-to-back championships.
SOU President Linda Schott referred to Howard as “a terrific leader for our university and its Athletic Department” in a memo to campus.
“In both of those runs through the NAIA playoffs, Coach Howard instilled confidence in his players that allowed them to overcome others’ expectations of them,” the president said. “His teams were underdogs in six of their eight playoff games during those two years.”
After his team won SOU’s first NAIA football title in Daytona Beach, Fla., Howard stripped down with his team and for a triumphant plunge into the Atlantic Ocean – delivering on a promise he’d made at the beginning of that week.
“Coach Howard was energized, passionate and as full of love as ever,” SOU Director of Athletics Matt Sayre said Friday. “He loved his team, his coaches, the recruits he and his staff were talking with and signing, and – above all – his family.
“He was an amazing man,” Sayre said. “He was an inspiration to all those who knew him. He molded men of character, strength and honor and always placed that above winning football games. We will miss him dearly, but are thankful to have had him as our friend, mentor, coach and role model. We are all better people for having Coach Craig Howard in our lives.”
He compiled a record of 50-23 with the Raiders, giving him the best win percentage (.685) in school history.
Prior to winning the 2014 championship, the Raiders had never been past the second round of the 16-team playoff.
Howard’s previous college coaching experience included two stints as defensive coordinator for Oregon Institute of Technology in the late 1970s and 1980s, two years in the same position at Portland State University and two years as Oregon Tech’s head coach from 1991 to 1992.
As a high school coach in Florida, his teams went 76-23 from 2003 through 2010, went to the state championship game three times and won the state title in 2005. His high school athletes included eventual Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
Howard spent his final hours Thursday doing what he loved: recruiting, and familiarizing future Raiders with the “Character, Strength and Honor” mantra he popularized at SOU.
He is survived his wife, Valerie; daughters Amy and Emily; sons Bo, Jordan and Ryan; and five grandchildren. Bo Howard is an assistant football coach at SOU.
About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees, and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power. It is the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.