If you’ve been keeping up with the Hustle Hall of Fame over the last few weeks, you are aware of what’s happening. Fan voting has decided the first of two entrants for each MAC member to craft an inaugural Class of 2017 for the Hustle Hall of Fame. Next up to be inducted to the Hustle Hall of Fame is former coach of the Eastern Michigan Eagles, Jim Harkema.
The Mid-American Conference has had a long lasting legacy of coaches getting their starts or making their names at the helm of one of the member institutions. Our next inductee to the Hustle Hall of Fame isn’t known for what happened after he left his MAC home, but rather what happened while he was there, and more importantly, what happened before and after he arrived.
Harkema was named the head coach of the EMU football program in 1983 after 22 consecutive losses. After three years at the helm, Harkema would rattle off four consecutive winning seasons, including the program’s only 10-win season and MAC Championship.
And that’s where the story takes a turn to the odd and the passionate, as EMU’s trajectory changed. It happened at the same time that the school changed the team names from the Hurons to the Eagles, a move which alumni and fans are passionate and charged about to this very day. After the change, Harkema and the Eagles would go 5-20-1, and he would resign after 10 seasons in charge and an 0-4 start to 1992.
It’s a case study to be sure of what ifs and revisionist history, as perhaps there is no bigger question that haunts the fans of EMU and the MAC than “What if the mascot didn’t change and Harkema continued winning?” Would Eastern Michigan be a top tier football factory? Would they still be in the MAC? Would they have been Boise State before Boise State existed?
It’s all folly, but it’s worth thinking about. Because if it wasn’t for Jim Harkema, the question and the issue is moot in the first place. Welcome Coach Harkema to the Hustle Hall of Fame!