Women’s soccer announces new head coach
Marsha Harper to become first African American head coach at AU since 2004
The University named Marsha Harper as the next head coach for women’s soccer on Dec. 29. Harper is the first African American head coach of American’s women’s soccer program, and the first African American head coach of any AU team since 2004.
The news comes months after a discrimination lawsuit filed by prospective men’s soccer coach David Nakhid.
Harper is the fourth African American woman with a head coaching position among the 324 jobs across Division I programs (1.2 percent).The Eagles finished at the bottom of the Patriot League in 2019 at 1-4-4 and will look to turn over a new leaf with Harper at the helm.
“Being one of the first in anything is really important," said Harper. "My job as a coach is to be a role model. I’m here to be a resource, to be visible and available. I understand the type of image and role that I have and hope to portray it well to African American women, young girls – those who identify with me. It’s great to be in the role that I am and I don’t take that for granted.”
This will be Harper’s first head coaching job and her sixth collegiate stint on the sidelines. Harper spent two seasons as the assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she helped lead the team to third place in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Before coaching, Harper played at the University of Florida and later the University of Southern Florida, where she served as team captain under assistant coach and AU soccer alum Chris Brown.
Despite AU’s record this past season, Harper said she is optimistic as to what the future holds for the program. Once arriving at AU, the decision to step in became a no-brainer, she said.
“One thing to know about me is that I really value relationships,” said Harper. “When you develop people and care about people, you’re going to have a really special atmosphere. It was clear to me right away these were great people I wanted to work with, and when I got on campus, it just felt right.”
The Eagles closed out the season with just one in-conference win. In October, head coach Anabel Hering signed a contract extension through 2021 but announced in late November she would step down to pursue other opportunities. Herring spent seven seasons with the Eagles, during which the team went 10-40-13 (.262 percent).
Harper said she plans to immediately start recruiting when she gets to AU, but she also stressed that she wants the players to know that they have a coach that is on their side.
“They have to know I care for them, learn who I am as a person and how I operate,” said Harper. “I can’t give away my secrets clearly – I can expose them to some new formations and movement patterns and that sort of thing – but ultimately it all comes down to developing them as players, and as individuals.”
The Eagles will lose eight seniors heading into the 2020 season and will look for their first in-conference winning season since 2012. The program will finish out the decade at 18-48-18.