COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Written by John Lester, Assistant Vice President for CSU Relations
Johnny Williams, former athletics director at Troy University and former University of Alabama senior associate athletic director for external operations, has signed on to become the interim athletic director at Columbus State University.
Williams will to take over for Jay Sparks, Columbus State's athletic director for six years. Sparks is moving to Francis Marion University near Florence, S.C. to become its head women's basketball coach.
"We are very thankful for Jay's service as a coach, administrator and friend to this university," said Columbus State University President Tim Mescon. "We wish him the best in the future, as we look forward to working with Johnny Williams and starting a national search to begin the next phase of our athletics program history."
Williams is chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Creative Marketing Management in Tuscaloosa, a sports business consulting agency that is managing the new Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in Montgomery. Williams started that role in 2007, three years after joining the University of Alabama.
Williams began his athletic career at Troy as a graduate assistant football coach under Rick Rhoades. During his coaching tenure with the Trojans, Williams also held several administrative positions within the department. In 1986 and 1987, he coordinated the football program's marketing and development efforts as a special assistant to the athletics director, in addition to his coaching duties. In 1988, he coordinated travel and ticket sales. Under Williams' watch as athletic director at Troy, the athletic department moved to Division I-A, completing a change from Division II in all sports. In January 2002, Williams was honored for his progressive leadership by the All-American Football Foundation with its prestigious Gen. Robert Neyland Athletics Director Award.
Earlier, Williams was the head football coach and athletic director at Pickens County High School in Reform, Ala., in 1984. He also served as an assistant coach at his alma mater, the University of North Alabama, from 1979-1983. A 1980 graduate of UNA with a degree in health/physical education, Williams was a four-year defensive starter for the Lions, earning Defensive Lineman of the Year honors in 1978. He was selected to the UNA Team of the Decade for the 1970s.
He will take over for Sparks, who leaves after 25 years at Columbus State University.
Sparks was named Columbus State's athletic director in April of 2008 after spending nine years as the top assistant to former Athletic Director Herbert Greene. During his tenure, Sparks has seen the department grow and add five sports. He also helped bring to Columbus the 2011 NCAA Rifle Championship, which was the first-ever national championship that Columbus State has hosted.
Under Sparks' tenure as athletic director, CSU won two Peach Belt Conference Commissioner's Cups while finishing as the runner-up two other years. The award is presented annually to the best overall athletic department in the PBC.
"I am very proud of everything that we accomplished here at Columbus State from the moment I stepped foot on this campus," Sparks said. "Whether I was the athletic director or the head women's basketball coach, I think we found success in many different areas, and I want to again thank everyone who contributed to that."
Over Sparks' 20-year stint at coach of the Lady Cougars basketball program, Columbus State was 367-231 leading CSU to two NCAA Tournament Final Four appearances. He coached 21 All-PBC players and two All-Americans.
"I would first like to thank everyone at Columbus State for supporting me over my tenure here," Sparks said. "I will miss Columbus State and the Columbus area, especially all of the great friends in this wonderful community.
"Coaching is my passion and I have missed the highs and lows that it brings and the daily impact that I can make in lives of the student-athletes."