MAN – Football has been very good to Chris Harvey.
And now, he’s giving back to the Man community where it all started.
Harvey, a 1999 Man High School graduate, has had quite a run in the sport he loves.
Following his days a member of the Man Hillbillies’ football team, Harvey went on to play four years at the University of Miami and was the team’s starting deep snapper during the Canes’ 2001 National Championship season.
Harvey had the distinction of playing in all four BCS bowls – the Sugar, the Rose, the Fiesta and the Orange – and later served as an assistant coach at Florida State under the legendary Bobby Bowden and current Seminoles’ coach Jimbo Fisher.
Now back home in West Virginia as a first-year assistant coach at in-state Division II team Fairmont State, Harvey was back in Man on Friday night, helping conduct the Billies of the Future Football camp at Man High School.
For his already distinctive grid career, Harvey will be inducted into the new class of the Man High School Athletic Hall of Fame this fall.
Harvey has seemed to do it all. He said he’s glad to give something back to the Man area youth.
“It’s very rewarding,” Harvey said. “When I was helping coach here at the high school I had a camp and we had some numbers like this. It was always fun because I was dealing with kids that I knew. Now, some of the kids have dads that I played with and it makes me feel a bit older now. It’s good to be back. The position that I’m in now allows me to be here a little bit more. It’s better because I’m closer to home now and I’m able to give back a little bit more.”
Harvey spent last season as an assistant coach at Walton High School in Florida. Before that, he was an assistant at Division II North Alabama. Now, it’s on to Fairmont State where he’ll be the co-defensive coordinator and also the defensive line coach and special teams coach. With the disbanding of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Fairmont joins the brand new Mountain East Conference this fall.
“We’ve got a good, young staff,” Harvey said of Fairmont State. “The oldest guy on the staff is 42 and he played in the NFL for 13 years, so he’s not too far removed from football himself. It’s been pretty fun. We’ve got a young team but we think that we’ll do some good things this season.”
Harvey was also a Glenville State assistant coach in 2005 and returned to Man High School for a couple of stints as an assistant coach under Harvey Arms. He also was head coach of the Man High School baseball team. His biggest coaching job, however, was at Florida State, where he was the team’s strength and conditioning coach from 2008-2011.
At Florida State, Harvey served under Bowden and Fisher before moving on.
Bowden coached the Seminoles for 34 seasons from 1976-2009 after a five-year stint at West Virginia from 1970-75. Only one Florida State team – his first in 1976 – had a losing record as the Noles were 5-6.
Bowden’s last game – on Jan. 1, 2010 – was a significant one as Florida State defeated WVU 33-21 in the Gator Bowl. The victory upped the Seminoles’ record to 7-6, thus avoiding a losing campaign.
“I was there in his last season. I was there with Coach Bowden in the 2008 and 2009 seasons and then Coach Fisher took over and I was with him for two seasons,” Harvey said. “I’ve been able to see some things as a player and a coach and work with some people that have done some good things. It’s been pretty exciting.”
Harvey said Bowden’s last game was very emotional.
“That was fitting because it was against WVU where he got his start in coaching,” Harvey said. “That was very good. I’d like to say that I sort of mimic the way that he coaches in the way that I coach but nobody can do it the way that Coach Bowden does. He can kill you with a smile. The guys that he had play for him adore him. He did some amazing things and I learned a lot from him. One of his big sayings that he would say is that if you coach the little things the big things will take care of itself.”
When Harvey was first hired at Florida State he was kidded being an old Miami guy. The Seminoles and the Hurricanes play one of the most intense rivalries in college football. The two teams met in many memorable clashes, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, as several games went down to the wire, often times with the Florida State kicker missing wide right in the closing seconds.
“To be a Miami Hurricane and to work at Florida State was definitely a change,” Harvey said. “When I played there we were rivals. We had some pretty good games with them. When I played Miami was never beat by them. And then when I was on the other side, Miami beat us twice. They still had us but it was still exciting.”
With college football doing away with the BCS system after the 2013 season and going to the four-team playoff format the next year, Harvey will go down in history as one of the few players to play in all four of the top bowl games.
After walking on at Miami and being redshirted in 1999 with the Canes winning 28-13 over Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl, Harvey gained the starting longsnapper job in the 2000 season as Miami, then coached by Butch Davis, beat Florida 37-20 in the Sugar Bowl at the SuperDome in New Orleans.
At season’s end, Harvey was the recipient of the Albert Bentley Award as the team’s walk-on MVP and was placed on full scholarship.
Then in the 2001 season came heartbreak as Harvey, playing on Miami’s special teams on a punt return, had his knee blown out in the Florida State game. He missed the rest of the season but the Canes went on to beat Nebraska 37-14 in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The game served as the BCS National Championship game, pitting the No. 1 Canes, led by head coach Larry Coker, and the No. 2 Cornhuskers.
Harvey battled back from injury, and after off-season reconstructive knee surgery on his torn ACL, was back as the Canes’ deep snapper in the 2002 season.
Miami went all the way to the BCS National Championship game in the Fiesta Bowl, but were beaten 31-24 by the Ohio State Buckeyes in double overtime.
The Fiesta Bowl, played on Jan. 3, 2003 in Tempe, Ariz., is one of the most controversial games in college football history. Facing a fourth-and-three at the Miami 5-yard-line and with the Canes leading 24-17 in the first overtime, Ohio State’s pass in the end zone fell incomplete. Miami thought they had secured back-to-back national titles as the players stormed the field. The back judge, however, tossed a flag after waiting four seconds, giving the Buckeyes new life.
After the pass interference flag, Ohio State scored a game-tying touchdown, sending the game into the second overtime and then winning it.
Harvey then returned one more season in 2003 as Miami won 16-14 over rival Florida State in the hometown Orange Bowl.
Harvey said it was a great experience to be part of Miami’s football resurgence in the early 2000s. The Canes rose to the top of the college football world in the 1980s under Howard Schnellenberger and Jimmy Johnson but had leveled off through much of the 1990s and were not the national powerhouse that they once were. The low point came in 1997 when Miami suffered a 5-6 record and were humiliated by Florida State, 47-0.
Harvey played most of his Miami home games at the historic Orange Bowl Stadium. The facility has since been torn down, making way for the new Miami Marlins Stadium, which stands on the same site.
“We were 46-4 in the four years I was at Miami,” Harvey said. “There hadn’t been a class since they started the BCS system that had played in all four BCS games. And with the end of the BCS there never will be. It was an experience as a player. When I went to Miami to play I never dreamed that I would be a coach. That seemed like the last thing that I wanted to do. But when I got there and saw how the guys that I played for handled themselves and the effect that they had on the players there’s nothing else that I would rather do.”
Harvey’s Canes might have been 47-3 had it not been for the phantom yellow hanky in the Fiesta Bowl.
“That’s true,” Harvey said, smiling. “People bring that up to me a lot.”
Incidentally, the line judge, standing only a few feet from the ball and with a good angle, ruled the pass play incomplete. He was overruled by the back judge who tossed the flag.
Harvey said he wished he had the chance to play in the Rose Bowl.
“When it was happening it was disappointing to be injured and not have a chance to play,” he said. “But there wasn’t a doubt in anybody’s mind that we were going to do the things that we did. To start off with it and then having to take a back seat when I got injured bothered me but at the same time it was a great season and a great win. It’s something that I will always remember.”
Harvey said he was honored when notified he would be enshrined into the Man Hall of Fame.
“A lot of the kids that we are working with today in the camp their dads were former Man High School players. I played in a lot of big games and coached in a lot of big games but if I had to name the 10 most important sports moments in my life I’d say 6 or 7 of them were right here at Man High School. To be voted into the Hall of Fame is very special. It means a lot to me and I’m very grateful for it.”
Harvey said opening the high school football season every year with the Man-Logan game was always very memorable. The Billies and the Wildcats play each other in one of the state’s top rivalries.
“I played in three of them and coached in three. (Logan) Coach (Gary) Mullins probably won’t like to hear this but I’m 5-1 against Logan,” Harvey quipped. “It is a very big game. When you travel around and go into these towns every town has a rivalry. I tease people all the time, but I say my rivalry, the Logan-Man game, even though it’s in southern West Virginia, is the biggest rivalry that I have ever been a part of. Maybe we can get them again this year.”
After his playing days at Man were over, Harvey was supposed to dress up one more time as a prep player for the 1999 Hatfield-McCoy Bowl. He was to be teammates for the first time with the football players from county rivals Logan and Chapmanville.
Harvey, though, was not allowed to play. He had just been invited to come to south Florida to walk on with the Miami Hurricanes and was soon going to be headed to the Sunshine State.
“I had to report to Miami the very next day,” Harvey said. “The game that I was supposed to play in two guys from Man High School, Chad Lusk and Timmy Boykins, were named as the offensive and defensive MVP’s.”
When he came to Miami, Harvey was the only player from the state of West Virginia on the Canes’ roster.
Following Miami’s 47-10 win over WVU in Morgantown during the 2000 season, Harvey was given the game ball by Coach Davis.