Emporia State track and field/cross country coach Dave Harris has accepted the position of head cross country coach and assistant track and field coach at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He will be leaving ESU after 19 years as the Hornets head coach. He is the second longest tenured head track and field coach at ESU behind Hall of Famer Fran Welch.
“I appreciate what this university and community has done for my wife Kathy and me over these 19 years,” said Harris. “There are many people in Emporia that have meant so much to our program. I personally have invested myself for almost two decades in running a respected program in the MIAA and NCAA Division II and I feel good about what we have done.”
Harris is an 11-time MIAA Coach of the Year. Under his guidance, the Hornets have established themselves as a nationally prominent NCAA Division II power in both track and cross country most recently finishing fourth in the men’s competition at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships. His women’s track teams have scored at every NCAA Outdoor Championships since 1994 while his men’s team’s have scored at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 17 of the last 18 seasons. His athletes have earned All-American honors 200 times, including 18 NCAA individual championships since 1995.
“Since I worked at the University of Nebraska for seven years before coming to ESU I am aware of the challenge it presents. It is a first class athletic program with high standards but it all still comes down to working hard to recruit quality student athletes and coaching them to be their best,” said Harris. “I am appreciative that head track and field coach Gary Pepin and Athletic Director Tom Osborne want me to return to Nebraska.”
Harris coached middle distance runners and men’s sprinters and hurdlers at UNL from 1985-92 prior to being named head coach at ESU. In his seven-year stint as an assistant coach for the Cornhuskers, Harris coached 31 All-Americans and three Olympians.
“Dr. Bill Quayle gave me the opportunity to become a college head coach and between him and current Athletic Director Kent Weiser they have supported me the best they can,” said Harris. “Many times when funds were tight they helped in other ways to position us in a way to help coach the student athletes in our program and get them to great competitions.”
“Coach Harris has proven himself as one of the finest track coaches in the country,” said Wesier. “In my nearly 30 years of work in collegiate athletics, Dave Harris is one of the most finest men I have ever met.”
ESU won ten MIAA team championships under Harris and had 20 runner-up finishes. In 1999 he became only the third coach to lead both the men’s and women’s teams to MIAA outdoor titles in the same season. The ESU women swept both the indoor and outdoor MIAA championships in 2001 and 2002. The ESU women earned the school’s first top four finish nationally with a fourth place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Emporia in 1999. It was the second of three national championship meets at Witten Track/Welch Stadium held under Harris’ leadership.
“Directing the three national championships was a big challenge and really nice events for Emporia and the University. I think it gave ESU respect within NCAA Division II that we were able to conduct first class championships,” said Harris. “Of course we have had so many great home meets throughout the years that have brought Olympians, national class, collegiate and high school athletes to our facility.”
The leadership and direction of Harris was essential in bringing the NCAA Outdoor Championships to the Flint Hills in 1995, 1999 and again in 2006. ESU also served as the host school for the 1998 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan. In addition to the three national meets, ESU hosted the MIAA Outdoor Track Championships in 1997, 2002, 2006 and 2011 and are scheduled to host again in 2012.
“I feel most proud of all the athletes that intrusted themselves to our program,” said Harris. “I like to refer to our ESU program as a developmental program, and throughout the years it has been so rewarding to see how good high school athletes became stars at the collegiate level. Most were just trying to perform their best for the team and in the process became conference and national champions.”
In addition to the 200 All-American honors and 18 national champions, the ESU program has had seven NCAA Post Graduate Scholars, three NCAA Woman of the Year national nominees, three Ken B. Jones winners as the MIAA Student-Athlete of the Year, and eight CoSIDA Academic All-Americans. His athletes have won 218 MIAA event championships, including six individual cross country championships.
“As sad and difficult as it is to see Coach Harris leave Emporia State, we are excited for him with this new opportunity at Nebraska,” said Weiser. “His teams have been great representatives of Hornet Athletics, and I’m grateful to have had the chance to work with him for the past 12 years.”