E.A. Sports Today

Harmon tapped

AHSAA announces hiring of Oxford principal Harmon as sixth executive director, replaces retiring Briggs as surround states adopt NIL models

Cover photo: New AHSAA executive director Heath Harmon talks during Wednesday’s news conference to announce his hiring. (Photo by Joe Medley)

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

Heath Harmon, current principal for Oxford High School, has been hired as the Alabama High School Athletics Association’s sixth executive director, the AHSAA announced today.

He will replace the retiring Alvin Briggs, who attended Thursday’s news conference in Montgomery along with former AHSAA executive directors Steve Savarese and Dan Washburn.

“He has proven to be an effective leader, and we are confident in his ability and excited about his enthusiasm and are looking forward for to lead our association in the future,” AHSAA Central Board president Mike Welsh said.

Harmon’s work in athletics includes stints as head football coach at Cordova, Munford, White Plains and Andalusia high schools.

Harmon said he expects to start his new job in early July. Long-time Oxford athletics director Larry Davidson called Harmon “a privilege” and described Harmon as “a man of integrity and strong moral character.”

“Many times we talked about ‘Best’ is the standard and what it takes to get there,” Davidson said. “He has passion for all students and wants to ensure the best high school athletic experience and academic experience. (He) listens to understand, and is thoughtful and strategic in his planning. (He’s) not afraid to ask for input, but then takes all input under advisement — but makes own decision as he feels is best.

“He takes a look at the current reality.  I witnessed this first hand when he came to Oxford. He first took time to learn what was working and then took on the challenges needing to be addressed.” 

Harmon thanked God and said he “prayerfully entered each step of this process” to becoming the AHSAA’s next executive director. He called the opportunity “an honor.”

“From the time I began coaching through to being a principal, I’ve had the opportunity to work with AHSAA, which is one of the best organizations in the country,” he said. “The AHSAA’s long-standing tradition of serving member schools in support of education-based athletics is recognized locally as well as nationally.

“We are certainly proud of our past, and we are preparing for our future.”

Harmon comes at a time when states around Alabama are adopting NIL models for high school athletics. The AHSAA has also announced a limited implementation of a shot clock in basketball.

As for NIL, he sees Alabama in a “transition period.”

“What I need to do is see where we are in that work and making sure that we’re moving quickly enough to where we have a solid plan, but not too quickly to be reckless with that,” he said. “Definitely, that’s one of those big items that we’ll be looking at.”

Harmon sent a message about upholding the integrity of high school sports.

“If we have a rule, we’re going to enforce the rule,” he said. “If you don’t want that rule to be enforced, then there’s ways that you can change the rule, but we have the rules for a reason.

“For me, if I was to tell you the type of leader that I am … but I do consider myself to be a transformational leader. I like to build capacity of everyone involved and be united in what we’re doing, but also the evolution of leadership is integrity. It is the ability to consistently focus on during the right work, and that takes some stamina. It takes some courage, and that’s what I’m committed to doing.”

Harmon went 52-74 in 12 seasons as a head football coach, including six at White Plains (2008-13). He led Cordova to one playoff appearance in two seasons and Munford to one playoff appearance in three seasons.

Andalusia made the Class 4A quarterfinals during his one season three before he came back to coach White Plains. The Wildcats, which have made one playoff berth in their history (1994), went 5-5 in each of his last two seasons.

White Plains has not had a .500-or-better season since then but came within one win of the playoffs in 2023.

Harmon has served as Oxford’s principal since 2017. His time there saw the 2019 Oxford football team win the school’s first state title in that sport in 26 years. The baseball team won its second state title, in 2023.

The school also built and opened its new 63,000-square-foot Champions Athletic Center, which includes an indoor practice field for football.

“I love my time at Oxford, the people that I’ve worked for there,” he said, “but when you have an opportunity to be the executive director of the AHSAA, that is just impact.

“If you walk into Oxford High School right now, when you walk in the area of our campus we call The Connection, you’re going to see the word ‘impact’ huge on a wall. That’s very important to me. You’ll here me say that a lot.

“To be able to impact an entire state, I feel the weight of that, but I feel like that I have the strength and integrity to hold that weight.”

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