RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Amber Bowman, who guided the University of Rio Grande softball program to a Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship and the school’s second NAIA National Tournament berth this spring, has announced her resignation as head coach of the RedStorm.
Bowman, who informed Rio Grande athletic officials, her players and assistant coaches of her decision late last week, is leaving to become an assistant coach at NCAA Division I Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne.
“Absolutely, it’s tough to leave. It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Bowman said. “Not everyone gets the opportunity to say that they had the chance to coach at their alma mater. I can’t thank (Rio Grande athletic director) Jeff (Lanham) and everyone here at Rio enough for the opportunity to come back. I definitely enjoyed every minute of my time here, but at the same time, this is a step in the right direction for me.”
Bowman, a native of Hebron, Ohio who received a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree from Rio Grande in 2011 and 2013, respectively, returned to lead the RedStorm in July 2014 after former head coach Kristen Bradshaw had resigned the position two months earlier.
Bowman, who served as a graduate assistant coach under Bradshaw in 2012 and 2013 before taking an assistant coaching position at the University of Northwestern Ohio in 2014, led the RedStorm to a 32-16 finish – the most victories in a single season since 2004, when the program won a school-record 40 games and reached the NAIA Tournament for the first time.
Rio Grande reached the national tourney again this spring in its first year as a member of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, ousting Indiana University-Southeast, which had won four straight KIAC regular season titles and three straight KIAC tournament titles. The RedStorm beat the Grenadiers twice in the KIAC tourney after being swept in a four-game series by IU-S just two weeks earlier.
In the national tournament, Rio upset No. 7-ranked Campbellsville before being eliminated by losses to regional site host – and 16th-ranked – University of South Carolina-Beaufort in the winner’s bracket final and to Campbellsville in the loser’s bracket final.
“Amber spent four years as a player, two years as an assistant coach and one year as the head coach at Rio and her enthusiasm and work ethic is second to none. She will be missed, but we are excited for her in her new adventure,” Lanham said. “She has had the goal of coaching at the NCAA DI level and now she has the opportunity. She’s leaving the Rio softball program in a position to have much success.”
Bowman, a two-time All-Mid-South Conference selection during her playing days at Rio Grande, admitted that the success enjoyed by the RedStorm this Spring – and the prospects for continued success in the future – was the most difficult hurdle in making the decision to leave.
“Trust me, there was a lot of thought processing that went into making my decision and that weighed heavy on my mind. There’s definitely a lot to look forward to at Rio in the coming years,” she said. “But coaching at the DI level has always been my goal – I just never thought it would come this soon. When an opportunity like this knocks, though, you really have to go for it.”
Lanham said the process of finding a new coach will begin immediately.
“Coach Bowman is moving on and we wish her all the luck in her new endeavor. Her knowledge of softball will carry her a long way in the coaching field,” Lanham added. “But we live in a world where constant change creates challenges. I’m sure our team will respond to these challenges with a new leader, whomever that might be.”
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande and can be reached at (740)245-7213.