FAIRFIELD — A new challenge awaits Mark Harden right down the road.
Harden, Fairfield High School’s athletic director for the last 10 years, has accepted the same position at Sycamore and is expected to receive school-board approval Wednesday.
“I don’t want to make it sound like I was looking,” Harden said. “I loved my job. Fairfield’s a great place. I just feel Sycamore is an extremely unique opportunity in a world-class school system.
“Fairfield’s been wonderful to me, and I certainly feel like I’ve given them my heart and soul for the last 10 years. There’s a lot about it I’m going to miss. It’s bittersweet in a lot of ways.”
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Harden, 47, is set to replace Phil Poggi at Sycamore on July 1. Poggi is stepping down to pursue a career outside education.
This is Harden’s 25th year in education. He’s had prep stops at Vandalia Butler, Tipp City Bethel and Lakota East. He was also the associate athletic director at Cincinnati Christian University.
“Mark brings an incredible passion for student-athletes to Aviator Nation. His work is rooted in developing positive relationships with our athletes, coaches, parents and community,” Sycamore superintendent Frank Forsthoefel said in a release. “It will be an honor to work with Mark and the high school staff to continue to raise Aviator athletics to elite levels.”
According to the Greater Miami Conference website, Fairfield has won 17 conference championships during Harden’s tenure, and he also oversaw a $3.8 million stadium renovation. The Indians have finished between fourth and sixth place in the GMC All-Sport standings the last 10 years.
“It’s been a tremendous 10 years and a period of stability,” Harden said. “I worked with some of my favorite people in the world, and we’ve made some changes at Fairfield that I think will last the next 20 or 30 years.
“Obviously I’m very proud of the facilities. They’ve gone from some of the worst to the best in my 10 years there. Of the coaches I was fortunate enough to hire, I think eight of them have gone on to win league Coach of the Year. A couple won state Coach of the Year. Whether it be through our Captain’s Council or the ESPYs, I’ve tried to be very much student-centered and kid-centered.”
Asked if he had any regrets or unfulfilled goals at Fairfield, Harden replied, “Absolutely zero. Not a one.”
He conceded the move to another GMC school might be a little awkward at first.
“There’s a lot of friendships on both sides,” Harden said. “The weirdest thing will be putting on different colors for the first time in a long time.”
He said the situation at Sycamore reminds him of what he found at Fairfield a decade ago.
“Facility-wise, they’re in very much the same place we were when I got to Fairfield,” Harden said. “There’s some needs there and plans there, and facilities and fund-raising are things I have some good experience in.”
He’s hoping that Sycamore will be his final destination in education.
“Ten years in the athletic director business is a long time, and we’ve accomplished a lot at Fairfield,” said Harden, who lives in West Chester Township. “I think this move represents a chance for me to get a reboot if you will. I don’t really feel like I needed one, but this opportunity kind of piqued my interest. It’s a chance to kind of revitalize and help Sycamore make some changes.”