FORT SMITH, Ark. – UAFS baseball coach Dale Harpenau announced his resignation on Wednesday after 16 seasons as head coach of the Lions, according to UAFS director of athletics Dr. Dustin Smith.
Smith said Harpenau resigned to pursue other career opportunities and that his resignation would be effective June 30.
“Dale Harpenau has served our athletic program and our baseball program admirably for 16 years. I certainly wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” Smith said.
The Lions are 24-22 overall and are in fifth place in the Heartland Conference with a 13-14 record with one three-game series remaining at Newman University beginning on Friday. The top four teams from the regular season advance to the conference tournament.
“Dale has made a lasting impact on our program, our university and our community,” Smith said. “Dale is well-respected in his profession for a multitude of reasons. Whether it be as a player for the Lions, the head coach, the athletic director or whatever other roles he has had over the years, Dale has been a great ambassador for our university.”
Harpenau succeeded his former college coach, Bill Crowder, as head baseball coach at UAFS in late spring of 1998. He has since compiled a 526-273 win-loss record during his 16 seasons, including one NJCAA Region II tournament championship (2007) and one appearance in the NJCAA South-Central District tournament (2007).
The Lions have averaged 33 wins per season under Harpenau’s guidance and have posted a winning season in 14 of his 16 seasons. Harpenau is the Lions’ second all-time winningest coach behind Crowder, who compiled a 1,003-559 win-loss record during his 33 seasons as Lions coach.
Harpenau helped guide the Lions from NJCAA to NCAA Division II. During their first two seasons as active members of the Heartland Conference, the Lions qualified for the conference tournament, finishing as tournament runner-up in 2012.
During his time at UAFS, Harpenau was named NJCAA Region II Coach of the Year (2007) and American Baseball Coaches Association NJCAA Division I Region Coach of the Year (2007). He has had more than 30 former Lions sign professional baseball contracts.
Harpenau also served as director of athletics for five seasons, succeeding former men’s basketball coach Doc Sadler as director of athletics in the summer of 2003. While Harpenau was director of athletics, the athletic program expanded to eight sports with the addition of men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s golf in summer of 2005.
He relinquished his director of athletics duties on July 1, 2008 to focus exclusively on his baseball duties.
“I am thankful for everything Dale has done for our program through the years,” Smith said. “I cannot thank him enough for his countless contributions to Lions athletics.”
A native of Remsen, Iowa, Harpenau is a 1981 graduate of St. Mary’s High School. He attended Westark College (now UAFS), where he played catcher for the Lions for two seasons (1982, 1983). He went on to play baseball at Arkansas Tech University for two seasons (1984, 1985).
Harpenau was a graduate assistant coach under former Wonder Boys head baseball coach Jim Franks for two seasons (1986, 1987) before succeeding Franks as head coach in 1988 at the young age of 23.
During his 11-year stint at Tech, Harpenau was twice voted Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference Coach of the Year (1988, 1992). He helped the Wonder Boys make the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II, and in 1998, he guided the Wonder Boys to their first and only Gulf South Conference West Division championship.
Harpenau is Tech’s all-time winningest baseball coach with a win-loss record of 302-185-4 and his three conference championships are the most by any coach in school history. He is second all-time in winning percentage behind former Wonder Boys coach Randy Burnett, who won 77 percent (44-13) of his games during a brief four-year stint.