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Mike Harris photo

Michael Harris, who was named Madison Memorial's football coach on Tuesday, coached at Madison La Follette from 2008 to '14.

Madison Memorial has turned to a former Big Eight Conference football coach to lead its program.

The school has named Michael Harris as coach, school athletic director Jeremy Schlitz said Tuesday.

Harris, who coached at Madison La Follette from 2008 until January 2014, is a Madison Memorial graduate who teaches English at the school, Schlitz said.

“The interview group really liked the passion and energy coach Harris conveyed to connect with and support our student athletes in the classroom, out in the community and on the football field,” Schlitz said. “He has had success in the Big Eight previously and understands what it takes to be successful supporting all aspects of a high school and youth feeder football program.”

There were 14 applicants for the job, Schlitz said. Harris replaces Adam Smith.

“I can’t begin to express how proud my family and I are that I was named the head football coach for James Madison Memorial High School,” Harris said in a statement. “I am extremely honored to be selected to lead our student-athletes on the gridiron. I feel the vision that the administration desires for our program meshes very well with the vision that I plan to lay out for our players. I am eager to begin working with our group of athletes and to begin fostering our relationships within the school community.”

Harris resigned as La Follette’s coach in January 2014 to spend more time with his family, and was replaced the next month by Scott Swanson. Harris led the Lancers to a runner-up finish in the Big Eight and a 7-3 overall record in 2013, falling to Mukwonago 25-0 in the first round of the WIAA Division 1 playoffs. Harris had a 20-35 record in six seasons at La Follette.

Harris had coached football at various levels in the Madison school district, including Madison Memorial, after playing at UW-Whitewater. He was the Spartans’ head track and field coach from 2004 to ’08. Football teams under Harris’ direction were City champions twice and he was named All-City and the Big Eight’s football coach of the year in 2013, and directed the Memorial track and field team to the 2007 Big Eight title, Schlitz said.

Schlitz said last month that Adam Smith would not return as Madison Memorial’s football coach.

Smith compiled a 15-15 record in three seasons, including two trips to the Division 1 playoffs. The Spartans reached the second round in 2015 and played in the first round this past season. The Spartans were 8-3 his first season, 3-6 in 2016 and 4-6 this past season.

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.