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Harvard Athletics Begins National Search for New Football Head Coach

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Harvard Athletics has begun a “national search” for the 31st head football coach in the team’s history following the retirement of longtime Head Coach Tim Murphy last week.

Former Harvard Crimson football standouts Eion Hu ’97, Ryan J. Fitzpatrick ’05, and Andrew J. Berry ’09 have been appointed to lead the search committee for Harvard football’s next head coach, according to players with knowledge of the hiring process.

Fitzpatrick is known for his 17-season career across numerous NFL teams, while Berry currently serves as the general manager for the Cleveland Browns.

In a press conference on Thursday, Athletic Director Erin McDermott said that the roster of potential candidates is expanding, noting, “We had a little bit of a shortlist, but that’s growing a bit.”

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Harvard Athletics has not appointed an interim head coach and does not plan to do so during the ongoing search, according to a player familiar with the hiring process.

McDermott said that the new appointee should serve as both a coach and an educator and that winning shouldn’t come “at the expense” of coaches acting as mentors for athletes.

“We really need someone who understands and really believes in the Ivy model — who truly believes in being what we call an ‘educator coach,’” McDermott said.

At the same time, the new coach must be experienced and qualified, McDermott said.

“Of course, we want someone who knows the game, is able to teach, has proven themselves effective on the field with players,” she said.

Murphy said during the press conference that coaching college football can be difficult given frequent transfers of players and the influence of more prominent football programs.

“College football is changing dramatically and certainly not for the better,” Murphy said. “When people ask my opinion of what’s going on in college football, I give them a very simple explanation. It absolutely — positively — is professional football, only without any rules whatsoever.”

Austin A. Gentle ’25, who played as a center last season, told The Crimson that many players wish for an assistant coach to be hired, as opposed to an external hire with less connection to the team.

“You want to stay with the guy that you build a relationship with, your position coach who recruited you here, who's been coaching you for years,” Gentle said. “And so that's why a lot of times guys think internal would be preferable to external.”

Nate C. Leskovec ’24, the outgoing captain of the team and a defensive lineman, and Thor G.C. Griffith ’24, a defensive tackle, both posted on X to support the hiring of Scott A. Larkee ’99, an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator on the team.

“#HireLarkee He’s the best of us. Most committed coach I’ve ever had. Leader of men and a great example to us all… and simply a badass,” wrote Leskovoc.

Griffith also said he preferred that an internal successor lead the football program.

“I would definitely want a coach that has been in the program before, whether that be as a coach or a former player,” he said, adding that this candidate would inherently understand “the expectations of not only the players and the coaching staff, but the Harvard community and Harvard fans, as well.”

“They would know and understand the history, the culture, and the traditions behind everything that we do,” Griffith added.

Leskovec attested to the team’s underlying support for Larkee.

“The very same day coach Murphy retired, there’s been a total outcry of support behind Coach Larkee,” he said. “Obviously, you have to understand that the athletic department is going to do their due diligence and try to hire the best possible candidate.”

Tyler J. Neville ’24, a senior tight end, expressed respect for the defensive coordinator and said he thought his fellow offensive players would support Larkee.

“Scott Larkee is one of the greatest minds of football. He’s really one of the smartest guys who I think I’ve ever met,” Neville said. “And he demands a certain level of respect that I hadn’t seen elsewhere.”

Neville mentioned another potential candidate for the head coach position, who he said had done an “amazing job” with the team’s offense: Mickey Fein.

“Coach Fein is also a guy you want to impress and a guy who can get you going,” Neville said. “There were times where Coach Fein would come in at halftime to the locker room and say a few words that get you ready to run through a brick wall.”

Several players expressed concern that the nationwide scope of the search would result in an outside hire. They said an internal candidate would be more likely to bring success.

“I understand the nationwide search because they said they’re trying to find someone like Tim Murphy,” Neville said. “I don’t think there’s another Tim Murphy, but I think if you want to get a guy close you got to stay in-house.”

—Staff writer Jo B. Lemann can be reached at jo.lemann@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @Jo_Lemann.

—Staff writer Tyler J.H. Ory can be reached at tyler.ory@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X at @tyler_ory.

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