Harper steps down as head coach of WKU men's basketball program

Harper steps down as head coach of WKU men's basketball program

WKU men's basketball is without a head coach.

After just over five years on the job, Ray Harper suddenly resigned as head coach of the Hilltoppers on Thursday.  The school announced his resignation via a statement released to the media.

“I would like to thank Ray Harper for his many contributions to our program over the past eight years,” WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart said. “Today is obviously a very difficult day. President Gary Ransdell and I met with our team a short while ago. We will begin the process of identifying and hiring our next head coach immediately.”

The school also announced the suspension of three players - Fredrick Edmond, Marlon Hunter and Chris McNeal - following the outcome of a hearing conducted by the University Disciplinary Committee Wednesday night. Citing federal law, the school did not provide any additional details behind the player suspensions, with the statement further detailing that "no information concerning the disciplinary charges or outcome will be released by the University."

Harper began his tenure on The Hill on a interim basis on January 6, 2012, when he was called on to fill in for the fired Ken McDonald. He was officially given the reigns of the tradition-rich program February 19, 2012.  WKU entered the 2015-16 season looking to rebuild following three consecutive 20+ win seasons and finished with an overall mark of 18-16 and finishing eighth in Conference USA.

Harper released the following statement via the school on Thursday:

“Earlier today, I informed Todd Stewart that I was resigning as WKU head men’s basketball coach. I feel this is in the best interests of the program; a program I care deeply about. It has been a true honor being a part of this historic program, as both a head coach and assistant coach. I want to thank my assistant coaches, our support staff and certainly our players for their efforts, dedication and sacrifices on behalf of me and our program. I also want to thank Gary Ransdell, Todd Stewart and our administrative staff for their support and dedication. WKU Athletics has an outstanding group of people, and there is no better place to work. Finally, I want to thank the Bowling Green community and the Hilltopper Nation for the tremendous support they provided my wife Shannon and I. We were proud to call WKU home, and I wish everyone all the best.”

While the opening is a surprise to most, its a position that will attract some of the game's best minds. Still to early to develop a list of potential candidates, especially with many likely candidates are focused on the current NCAA postseason. However, that doesn't stop the discussion from heating up quickly.

"Early names thrown around (include) John Pelphrey, Travis Ford, Travis Steele, Scott Davenport and Rick Stansbury," said WKU Insider publisher Jody Demling.

Scout.com Director of Basketball Recruiting Evan Daniels chimed in immediately as news of the opening surfaced.

"The Western Kentucky job will be heavily pursued," he said. "Great facilities/fan base for a mid-major program."

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