Until now, I have attempted to show neutrality on my postings where the next head football coach is concerned. I have felt that it would be best to keep these discussions on a back burner as I did not want to provide distractions to the players or anyone associated with Ferrum football during the season. As the season has ended, I think that this is an appropriate time to express my opinion on the next Ferrum coach.
Ferrum finds itself in a unique position. Searching for the 6th head coach in program history.The history of Ferrum football is steeped in the tradition of success. Success that can be measured in wins, or players that have gone on to be All Americans, and players that have gone on to play in the pro's, and also in National Championships. As the years have passed however, Ferrum finds itself farther and farther from the days of Bruce Gossett, Keith Gary, Al Lattimer, and Chris Warren. National Championships have not been a true possibility since Ferrum appeared in the D3 National semifinals in 1988, and 1989. ( the last one that was brought back to Ferrum was in 1977 at the Junior College level.)
The landscape has changed where Ferrum football is concerned. Ferrum's days as a Junior College are long gone, and the ability to secure the athletes necessary to compete on a National level is far more difficult. Ferrum's membership in the USA South conference puts it in direct recruiting competition with schools that only a few years ago did not have a football program.
Schools of the USA South and when their football programs began:
Averett University- 2000
Christopher Newport University 2000
Ferrum College 1955
Greensboro College 1997
Maryville College 1892
North Carolina Wesleyan 2004
Shenandoah University 2000* (This is the year that Shenandoah Re-Introduced football. They previously fielded a football team, but discontinued the program in the 1960's)
As a Junior College, Ferrum derived much of it's talent from large college programs that would direct recruits to Ferrum to improve their academic standings, as well as their football skills. Of course there were walk-ons, but Ferrum was fortunate in a lot of respects to have some very talented players sent to them. Recruiting was part of the process, as it is now, but in reality, there was very little competition for the JUCO type talent in Virginia and the surrounding states.
So now, Ferrum is in the ranks of D3, and the competition is far greater, and the recruiting is far more competitive. This, along with tuition costs (@ $32,000.00 per year) and the rural location of Ferrum makes recruiting more difficult. Who ever the coach is will have to be able to navigate all of these challenges to secure the best available athletes.
The next coach will have to have a proven record of success, and will have had to coach at the college level. This coach will too have to appreciate the rural lifestyle that Ferrum offers, and so will his family. This may be a limiting factor.
The next coach will have to appreciate the emphasis placed by the College of academics first, athletics second, and must be able to continue the tradition of guiding these athletes as they develop into not only outstanding football players, but also outstanding young men.
Lastly, it is very important that Ferrum field a competitive team. I believe that this coach, whoever it is, should try to rekindle the winning tradition that Ferrum was once known for. To strive for success in the USA South, and look to build a program that is ranked nationally, and competing nationally. I want to see Ferrum in the Stagg Bowl.
While there are 238 teams in D3 football, there are also 27 conferences. Ferrum began the season ranked 138th in the nation, and the USA South was ranked 22nd of those 27 conferences. (Rankings by d3football.com)
The tasks in front of the new coach provide a tall order, but the program has to be developed into a contender. It may take several years. In any case, Ferrum should hire a coach with his eye on the future, while remembering the glory of the past, and look at this as being a long term building process.
In my opinion, Coach David Harper is the perfect choice for Ferrum's sixth head coach. Coach Harper has everything that Ferrum is looking for in a head coach, and is well aware of the winning traditions of Ferrum's past. He knows what it takes to build a team, and has been a proven success as as player, offensive, and defensive coordinator. Under Coach Harper, I think Ferrum will take on a new image in the local and surrounding communities, and this will revitalize the interest in Ferrum football from a local area fan base. He will continue to influence and guide his players in a way that will benefit them well after leaving the campus. David Harper is a family man, and has a strong set of core values that are at the heart of how he deals with his players today. This will certainly be a positive carry over for the College and the players. I fully support David Harper, and believe that if he is chosen as the head coach, he will be an exemplary representative of the college, both on and off of the field, and he will be a winner, successfully forging the next chapter of Ferrum football.
I am expecting an announcement in December.