NCAA tournament

As head coach, Vanessa Blair-Lewis led Bethune-Cookman University’s women basketball team in its first NCAA tournament appearance – against Notre Dame – in 2019. COURTESY OF B-CU ATHLETICS

SPECIAL TO THE DAYTONA TIMES

Bethune-Cookman University has announced the departure of Vanessa Blair-Lewis, head women’s basketball coach. She is leaving to accept the head women’s basketball coach position at George Mason University.

Blair-Lewis, hired in 2008, posted an overall 196-168 record in 13 seasons as head coach (All B-CU athletics were suspended for the 2020-21 academic year due to the pandemic).

Blair-Lewis’ 117-75 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) record places her atop the women’s basketball record books as the Wildcat coach with the highest conference winning percentage and best career MEAC conference record for Bethune-Cookman in its Division I era.

Under Blair-Lewis, the Lady Wildcats won four MEAC regular season championships and one MEAC Tourney title with postseason appearances in the WNIT in 2016 at Florida Gulf Coast, 2017 versus Wake Forest and 2018 at Georgia Tech. 

‘Phenomenal person’

Bethune-Cookman’s first NCAA tourney appearance was at Notre Dame in 2019.

The Lady Wildcats also were ranked in the College Insider.com Mid-Major Top 25 Poll in 2017-18 and 2019-20 under BlairLewis› leadership,  finishing the 2019-20 season 25th.

“Vanessa Blair-Lewis  is simply a phenomenal person who happens to be a great coach. She brought comprehensive success back to our program in a manner we had not seen in several years. I want to thank her for the phenomenal leadership she provided as our head coach. She is the shining example of what Bethune-Cookman University is about, whether on the sidelines coaching, in the home recruiting, or in the community as a servant leader,” said Lynn W. Thompson, B-CU’s vice president for Intercollegiate Athletics. 

“Coaching basketball was not her career,  it was her ministry, and she has managed to transform our student-athletes into champions as she built a perennial championship program of academic and athletic excellence.

“She is a Hall of Fame mother, wife and team member and we are so proud of what she has accomplished and pray for nothing but success for her and the family on the next step in their journey. Once a Wildcat…always a Wildcat.”

Replacement search

The program has already launched a search for Blair-Lewis’ replacement.

During the transition, Sandra L. Booker, senior associate director and a former head women’s basketball coach, will serve as the administrator of the women’s basketball program.

Ryan Ridder, former head men’s basketball coach, resigned last month to become the head men’s coach at the University of Tennessee at Martin.

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