Longtime Harding University men’s basketball coach Jeff Morgan of Searcy will add another title to his resume — athletic director.
Morgan, who is entering his 25th season as head coach for the Bisons, was recently named the successor for longtime athletic director Greg Harnden, who recently announced his retirement. Morgan will assume his new role in August 2018.
“This is something that I’ve always thought about — the possibility of moving in that direction,” Morgan said. “I wish Coach Harnden would go forever. I’d be good with that. He’s been a great mentor and a great athletic director and a great friend to a lot of us coaches. He’s done a great job. I hate to see him retire, but I also understand, too.
“[Coach Harnden] and I have had such a close working relationship, even when he was the women’s basketball coach. I think that will be a pretty smooth transition. Thankfully, he is going to be around to be able to bounce ideas off of.”
Harding University president Bruce McLarty expressed similar sentiments.
“I often told Coach Harnden that he couldn’t retire until after I did,” McLarty said. “He has been an incredible athletic director for Harding. A coach himself for many years, he has been here long enough now that he has hired all of our coaches and has become a father figure to the coaches and their families.
“He fully embraces the Christian mission of the university and has built a tremendously successful program here. In addition to all this, I count him as a great friend.”
Morgan said he will continue to coach the men’s basketball team while starting his duties as athletic director.
“I’m looking forward to making that move and also getting to coach,” he said. “I’m not ready to hang that up. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do both for a while and see how that goes.”
Morgan, 51, is a 1984 graduate of Corning High School. He played two years at York College in York, Nebraska, then played two years at West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M) in Canyon, Texas.
After graduation, Morgan was an assistant coach there for four years and was head coach for one before coming home to Arkansas and becoming head men’s coach at Harding.
For the past 12 years, Morgan has served as the NCAA compliance coordinator for Harding, so he’s had experience working with other coaches in the athletic department.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of coaches in a different way other than a coach-coach relationship,” Morgan said. “We have a great group of coaches, and I look forward to working with them and our student-athletes.”
Morgan said he is proud of the student-athletes at Harding and what they all do, academically and athletically.
“They do a great job, considering the schedules they are under and the time they put into their craft and their sport at the same time, doing an awesome job in the classroom and with the things they are involved with in the community,” he said. “I look forward to working with our student-athletes on a bigger scale, maybe, and being more involved.”
Morgan said he loves Harding and what it stands for, despite not having attended school there, like his four other siblings did.
“I was the only one in my family who didn’t go to Harding,” he said. “I always felt like this would be an awesome place to be a part of, to be a part of the mission of Harding, to be a part of this campus and what it’s all about.”
McLarty said Morgan will do a great job as Harnden’s replacement.
“Jeff Morgan comes to the AD position with a great preparation in a wide number of areas,” McLarty said. “For many years, he has been our compliance coordinator, so he understands the workings of the NCAA. He has also been an amazingly successful men’s basketball coach and is a very gifted promoter of athletics among the student body.
“Everyone respects the way he reflects the mission of the university, the way he leads and the way he cares for his players. We are excited to see where Coach Morgan will lead the Harding sports program in the years ahead.”
Morgan said he attended basketball camp every summer at Harding and attended church camp at Camp Wyldewood in Searcy.
“When I decided to coach, I thought this would be a great place to be a part of and to coach,” Morgan said of Harding. “You look up, and it’s 25 years later.”
Prior to this season, Morgan had an overall coaching record of 412-275 at Harding, making him the winningest coach in Bisons history. He’s coached the Bisons in six NCAA Division II tournaments and one NAIA national tournament appearance.
Morgan said he’s had opportunities to coach at other schools but doesn’t want to leave Harding.
“We’ve had some chances to move to some other places, but this is a great place to be,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of friends at the Division I level who would trade places with us in a heartbeat.”
Morgan and his wife, Christy, have three children: son Davis and daughters Emma and Ellie.
“Our family loves it here. … It is a great place to be,” Morgan said.
Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.