Challenges of recruiting
Bison harriers paced by Cheruiyot
Women runners 17th at nationals
Football attains winning campaign
Huckeba new head football coach
Sports Hall to induct Prock
Men's soccer makes tourney
Women's soccer led by Washburn
Volleyball takes West Division title
Compiled by Scott Goode, sports information directorAsk almost any college coach what it is about the job that causes him or her to lose the most sleep, and you might be surprised by the answer. While game strategy, player conduct, playing time and media criticism may cause worry, the most difficult, time-consuming aspect of coaching college athletes is recruiting.
Recruiting has evolved into a national phenomenon. Most large newspapers employ a staff member whose sole responsibility is to track which schools the region's top student-athletes are considering. Sports news networks dedicate complete shows to following the nation's top recruits in their college decision-making. Fans swarm Internet chat rooms and message boards to find out the latest scoop on potential newcomers to their favorite programs.
Likewise, the success of the University's athletics programs heavily depends on recruiting. Here eight of our head coaches share goals and challenges of the recruiting process in their own words.
General recruiting philosophy
To recruit the best possible person and player I can find — in that order.
— David Elliott ('69), men's and women's tennis
To find an athlete who will fit in with the team — one who will contribute to the chemistry of our team and represent Harding with class and character.
— Steve Guymon, men's and women's cross country and track
First and foremost, to go out and find players who will grow spiritually, academically and athletically at Harding. The next goal is to find student-athletes who are going to make us better.
— Greg Harris ('96), men's and women's soccer
Our philosophy is to recruit young men who will help us fulfill our mission to honor God with our football program and who are athletic and competitive enough to help us win the Gulf South Conference.
— Ronnie Huckeba ('78), football
We target women who will fit Harding, our team and our community first. We will then see what our specific needs are for the following year or beyond. We try to recruit the best players from Arkansas, but it doesn't matter where someone is from if she is the right student-athlete.
— Tim Kirby, women's basketball
I want to recruit quality student-athletes who will be positive influences on our campus. I believe that if our players handle social and academic issues properly, they will be better players on the field. I try to never recruit talent over character. Character with a little less talent will win in the end over talented kids with questionable character. As for specific sports skills, we place a huge emphasis on pitching. Without good pitching, you cannot win in the GSC. I also recruit a lot of shortstops because they are usually very talented athletes who can play multiple positions at the college level.
— Pat McGaha ('91), baseball
We have to work extremely hard at recruiting. It is a 12-month deal. Our philosophy is to get the best players possible who will have a chance to be successful in our atmosphere — spiritually, socially, academically and athletically.
— Jeff Morgan, men's basketball
Importance of recruiting to a program's overall success
Our program is what is it because of the athletes. Who we recruit makes up the program and its future, and likely our future successes and failures.
— Keith Giboney, volleyball
We have been fortunate to have a history of success at the University in cross country and track. To keep this tradition going, I must recruit the caliber of athletes who will continue this. They don't always line up at your doorstep.
Recruiting is a big part of the program's success. I would say it is about half. It is important to bring in the right people who are going to be positive influences on and off the field.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of your program. You must be able to identify quality talent, and then you must be able to sell the positives of your program and university. We are lucky at Harding to have a great product to offer our student-athletes from the spiritual, academic and athletic side of things. It makes recruiting much easier.
What attracts student-athletes to Harding
The safe environment and protection provided by our University is very appealing. Church is a key ingredient, as well as strong academics and great facilities.
Harding stands for the good things in life, and most of the athletes we get want to be part of the Christian atmosphere. They also see teachers who care about students and an athletic department that is one unit — helping each other succeed.
The people! There are many beautiful campuses and all kinds of great academic programs, but the relationships that we have here among students, faculty and staff make Harding distinct.
If we are seeking out the right kind of young men for our football program, everything about Harding will make it attractive: the spiritual emphasis on campus, diverse academic offerings, family atmosphere, outstanding facilities, and caring faculty and staff.
The great Christian and family atmosphere, strong academic programs, and our crowds and support we get from all over campus. Kids like to go where game days are special.
Difficulties faced when recruiting
Some quality athletes who would do well in Division 2 will choose a larger Division 1 school.
At times we have to weed out people who would be great athletes at this level but do not particularly fit into the Harding environment. I believe that we as coaches have to be a bit picky in who we recruit and decide to bring in.
People often have inaccurate ideas about what Harding is like because of what someone has told them. This keeps some from even visiting. But we think that if we can get them to campus, we have a good chance of keeping them.
With baseball, scholarships are limited, and you need a lot of players to fill a roster. Most of our scholarship offers are only a small percentage of a student-athlete's total cost of education. This can be a big hurdle to overcome with some recruits. Additionally, some of the behavior rules, Bible class, and chapel can be issues for some recruits who do not come from a church background. As a coach, you realize what a positive influence Harding could have on a recruit such as this, so you try hard to help them see this as a positive opportunity rather than a set of rules.
Many people use our Christian priorities against us in recruiting. They try to make chapel, Bible class, curfews and our code of conduct negatives. We always see them as positives and tell students up front how things are. If we can get them to come see campus for themselves, they will often see the positive as well. Our pool is also smaller than most programs because of this, and we have to research our kids very well.
I watch a particular athlete, not the team or outcome. I watch for general athleticism, fundamental skills, and many intangible traits such as interaction with teammates, response to coaching, poise and coming off mistakes. It all matters. I also try to evaluate them regarding current skill level and possible future level of play.
We are lucky that Harding has such a strong network of alumni. We receive a lot of leads from alumni regarding potential student-athletes. We also go out and watch a lot of junior college and high school games, showcases, and tournaments.
I spend a lot of time on the road watching people play. Our camps and the relationships we have developed with high school coaches and junior college coaches help us identify who can be successful.
Students interested in playing intercollegiate athletics at Harding must become eligible through the NCAA Eligibility Center. For more information, go to web1.ncaa.org/eligibilitycenter/common/. You may also visit www.hardingsports.com and click on the "NCAA Compliance" link.
Junior James Cheruiyot placed 19th at the NCAA II National Cross Country Meet in Joplin, Mo., to earn his second All-America honor. While the Bisons placed fourth at the South Region Meet — just missing a chance to compete as a team at nationals — Cheruiyot finished second and earned his spot. The team took second at the GSC Meet, snapping a streak of seven-straight championships, with Cheruiyot winning the individual title.
Ronnie Huckeba was named head football coach Oct. 15. The former offensive coordinator had served as interim head coach for four games following the resignation of Randy Tribble Sept. 11. "I've known coach Huckeba for a long time, and it is encouraging and satisfying to see the way he has taken over the program. He has given it the direction and leadership we need at this time," said Athletic Director Greg Harnden.
Huckeba announced the hiring of Tim Perry ('80) Dec. 10 as an offensive assistant. He was previously the head coach at Central Arkansas Christian in North Little Rock.
The men's soccer team advanced to its first-ever Gulf South Conference Tournament, earning the fourth seed but losing 1-0 to nationally ranked University of West Florida in the semifinals. Freshman Eric Swierc and junior Carter Truax tied as team leaders with four goals each. Junior midfielder Odie Guzman earned Second-Team All-GSC honors. The Bisons finished 5-11 with a 2-4 conference record.
The Lady Bison soccer team compiled a 9-9-1 record with a 4-3-1 mark in Gulf South Conference play. The team placed fourth in regular season standings to earn its fourth GSC tournament appearance in five years but fell 1-0 to nationally ranked University of West Florida in the semifinals. Senior forward Kendyl Washburn led the team with 17 goals and three assists to earn GSC Player of the Year honors. Washburn also became the third Lady Bison in the last three seasons to earn ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America honors.
The volleyball team won its sixth-straight Gulf South Conference West Division championship with an 11-1 conference record and a 25-9 overall mark. The team hosted the GSC Tournament, losing in the quarterfinals to University of West Georgia, the eventual champion. Senior libero Meredith Rosenbaum and sophomore outside hitter Manuela Nesheva earned First-Team All-Region honors, and junior setter Leah Tepe was named second team. Nesheva led the nation in kills per game at 5.61, Tepe was fourth in assists per game, and Rosenbaum was ninth in digs per game. Head coach Keith Giboney won his fifth GSC Coach of the Year award.
For the latest sports information, visit www.hardingsports.com