By Chris L. Wallace
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
Experience and leadership really are vital parts to success and because of that combination, the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) has never had to look back on its decision to select their current MEAC Commissioner.
In the waning moments of the 1996 announcement of Charles S. Harris as the MEAC's second full-time Commissioner, he stood there elated, his eyes burning like headlights, ready and willing to step up to the challenges before him.
"I am proud to have the opportunity to serve college athletics in the role of Conference Commissioner of the MEAC," said Harris. "I feel this collection of institutions represents an under appreciated asset in college athletics. I am convinced the commitment goals of the CEO's of these institutions are both realistic and achievable."
Harris' fierce determination and uncanny ability to get the job done is apparent in every aspect of his being. With over 25 years of experience in athletics administration, he has more than held his own. He served as the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Arizona State University from 1985 to 1995 where he was accountable for 600 student-athletes in 21 varsity sports. Prior to that, Harris served as the Director of Athletics at the University of Pennsylvania and shortly thereafter, he was appointed Assistant Director of Athletics at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) from 1973 to 1979.
"I've been on college campuses for 30 years and I believe in using what I've learned and apply it to the MEAC," said Harris. "This is a great, great job. It, in a lot of ways, is built on experiences from past jobs, but there's no comparison. However, there are no shortages of challenges."
Harris, who earned his Bachelor's degree in Mass Media Arts from Hampton University and Master's in Business from University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), is regarded by many people around him as businesslike and seems to fit neatly into that genre.
"He seems very professional and very helpful," said Codie Sanders, a senior public relations major. "He'll make sure that you're okay and be very understanding to your needs.
"Besides that, I feel that he should incorporate things that black colleges are known for such as step shows and little attractions like that during the Conference Tournament. Other conferences such as the CIAA have events that will attract a crowd even if you're not a sports fan, and the CIAA is the third most attended conference tournament in the United States."
Harris' career wasn't always easy as it started inauspiciously with critics doubting his ability to lead. However, Harris remained content and continued to move along in his career. Through sheer determination, Harris beat the odds, refusing to accept the destiny life had presented him and nearly three decades later, Harris is no longer the talk of animated discussion but rather a resemblance of what hard work and faith will do for you.
"Mr. Harris seems to be a really laid back person," said Michelle Taylor, a senior business major. "I met him about two years ago and actually interviewed for a position, but I didn't think that I'd like it. However, he was really nice when talking to me and seemed all about business."
Flaunting a pair of slacks, white shirt, tie and sporting a short haircut, Harris epitomizes fashion. Though he thrives on looking his best, Harris has other things in mind during his spare time, something you may not expect from a person of his caliber.
"I like to farm," said Harris. "I am a farmer and as long as it has something to do with farming, then I like it. In fact, I grew up on a farm when I was a young man." Relying upon gained expertise and family support, Harris has continued to prove his worth as the Commissioner of the MEAC. Balancing family life and work are pivotal and Harris insists that an incredibly understanding family is the key.
"You don't have much time to balance out your career and personal life in this business," said Harris. "If you're going to be in college athletics, you don't have a life. You'll give up 40 to 50 weeks a year and sometimes more. Like I said previously, your family has to be very understanding."
Despite his careers' demand for time, the humble Harris finds motivation from any source possible.
"Motivation is all internal. Believing that I can make a difference motivates me, and I feel that everyday is a day of discovery," added Harris.
No matter what the situation is, you'll get what you see from the MEAC's second full-time Commissioner. Call him what you want but by all means, he's getting the job done.
NCAT Journalism Magazine
Copyright ©2002 Chris L. Wallace
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