Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
On this date in Razorback history, April 16
Arkansas coach Lance Harter talks with DeeDee Brown during the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Friday, May 14, 1999, in Athens, Ga.
April 16, 1990
Near the height of Arkansas’ dominance in men’s track and field, the women’s program took a major step toward becoming a national player, too, 30 years ago today.
That’s when Lance Harter was hired to replace Bev Lewis as the Razorbacks’ coach in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field. Lewis, then known by her maiden name Bev Rouse, had been hired as Arkansas’ athletics director for women’s sports a year earlier but continued to coach.
Lewis had been coaching at Arkansas since 1981. She coached the Razorbacks to their first conference championship during the 1988 cross country season.
“I was having trouble juggling the two things,” she said at the time. “We want to be competitive on a national level and the most important thing is hiring a good coach.”
Prior to coming to Arkansas, Harter won 14 NCAA Division II championships - a Division II record at the time - coaching three sports at Cal Poly. Harter’s cross country teams won eight consecutive national championships before he left for Fayetteville.
He also brought him with him a lucrative apparel contract with Nike, one of just six coaches in the women’s sport with such a deal. By the time he was hired, Harter had also already been announced as a coach for the U.S. Olympics team in 1992.
Harter was hired over more than 100 applicants for the job.
“We’re determined to build a nationally-competitive program,” Harter said when he was hired, the day after his 40th birthday.
Harter has delivered on that promise. His Arkansas teams have combined to win 38 conference championships and five national championships, including three consecutive NCAA titles in 2019. His teams have included 38 individual national champions and 17 Olympians.
In 2014, Harter was inducted into the hall of fame for the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
“Lance is the best of the best,” Lewis said when announcing Harter as her replacement. “I feel like I couldn’t have gotten a better coach anywhere. I feel I’ll be able to step back from the track program without any worries.”
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