BELTON – For the past two decades, Larry Harmon has been tasked with building one of the fiercest defenses in the country. Now, he’s in charge of the NCAA’s most successful Division III program in recent years, and he’s responsible for keeping it that way.
He believes he is up to the challenge.
“We will continue as usual,” he said.
Harmon was named the second head coach in Mary Hardin-Baylor history on Friday in a ceremony that began with Pete Fredenburg announcing his retirement after 24 years at the helm of the Crusaders.
In a packed hall inside Crusader Stadium, Harmon has been given the keys to an all-time 231-39 schedule and has two national championships (2018 and 2021). As UMHB assistant coach from 1999-2001 and defensive coordinator every year, Harmon experienced what it takes to make the Crusaders a national powerhouse.
He also knows the high expectations that come with his first head coaching job and has said he’s ready to go.
“There are two rules in football. You don’t take a program at the top, and you don’t follow a legend. I do both. I’m excited about it, however, ”he said. “Coach Fred says all the time that when you are at the top there is no place to sit. When Cortes found America, the first thing he did was burn his ships because it motivated his men to work.
“After (Fredenburg) and having the best program in Division III, I am motivated to work. We will keep Mary Hardin-Baylor alive and well.
The search for a new head coach was never considered, according to UMHB sporting director Mickey Kerr, who said officials “knew absolutely we had the right person for the job.”
Harmon thanked the school administrators – as well as many family and friends – for their support.
All I heard from the administration was, ‘We’re here to help you with whatever we can to help you be the best performing guy and have the most successful football program. that we can have, “” he said. “The belief and the absolute absence of negotiations on how we’re going to run business is going to stay here. It has been proven to work for 24 years.
Harmon’s first agendas will be to appoint a defensive coordinator and hire a new offensive coordinator to replace Stephen Lee, who had already decided to take the same position at Abilene Christian before Fredenburg’s decision to retire.
With new coordinators, nine starters back on offense and six on defense, Harmon is committed to delivering a quality product next fall.
“What you can expect to see is a team that’s going to be physical. This is what you’ve seen every Saturday for 20 years,” he said. “We’re going to be physical. We are going to prepare ourselves. We are going to create big plays in attack and in the special teams, and we will limit the big plays in defense.
Harmon became very emotional when he thanked his family and again when he spoke about Fredenburg, who hired the four-year-old former letterer in the state of South Dakota after a season as an assistant in his alma mater and two others in the state of northwest Missouri.
Along the way, Fredenburg prepared him to be his successor.
“One of the greatest blessings of my life has been working for Pete. He saw something in me where he took me under his wing, ”Harmon said. “He was demanding. He held me responsible. There were days when I didn’t like her, but there was never a day when I didn’t like her.
“Over the years Coach has added more to me. I knew then that he was adding responsibilities that his ultimate plan when he walked away was to do whatever he could to promote me. And that’s exactly how it turned out. I feel extremely prepared.
There are bound to be changes, which always happen when a different personality becomes the directing voice of an entity. Harmon however believes in the UMHB master plan and will not rewrite the script that led the Crusaders to the national summit.
“I’m not coming here to change something to be Larry Harmon.” It’s not about me, ”he said. “I want to have the opportunity to be the next leader of this program because I care about the (Fredenburg) legacy, the Mary Hardin-Baylor legacy and what it stands for.
“I believe in what we have done. My life’s work is here. It is the house.”