Since 1982, Harry Mullins has been a part of the University of Kentucky rifle program. Mullins has been a fixture in the athletics department at Kentucky for over 30 years, first as a skilled student-athlete and then since 1987 as the leader of the nationally prominent rifle program.
Mullins arguably did his best coaching in 2023, leading a shorthanded group of Wildcats to a podium finish at the championships. Competing without its top performance on the season due to international obligations, UK still shined at the national championships, finishing third overall. The top-five finish was the 22nd in program history with all of those coming under Mullins’ guidance.
Mullins became the second Kentucky head coach ever to win four national championships, earning his fourth in 2022. Mullins also led UK to national titles in 2011 and 2018 and 2021. The four-time Great American Rifle Coach of the Year is the longest-tenured UK head coach, having just completed his 35th season. The 2021 and 2022 titles made the rifle program the only UK sports program since the 1940s to win back-to-back national titles.
UK’s title run in 2022 was historic for many reasons. UK has won three of the last five titles and were the undefeated favorites in 2020 when the championships were canceled due to COVID-19. UK’s four national titles is third most in NCAA history. Kentucky is the first program to win back-to-back national titles since West Virginia won five straight from 2013-2017.
The 2022 title came as UK scored a 4739 team score, which is the best team score at the NCAA Championships in the 60-shot era. The previous best was UK’s 4731 it scored to win the title in 2021. The Wildcats were in a great position to earn the title after a 2360 smallbore team score on day one. The Wildcats shot a 2379 air rifle to claim the win.
The 2021 national championship run by Mullins and Co. was one of the most impressive in NCAA history. Kentucky earned the team championship after posting a 4731 overall team score with a 2352 in smallbore and 2379 in air rifle. Kentucky’s team score was the highest in championship history before it was bested by the 2022 squad the following year. The medals didn’t stop after Kentucky earned the team crown as two Wildcats finished first and second, respectively, in the NCAA air rifle individual championship.
Mullins was a standout for the rifle team before graduating in 1987, the same year he took the helm as head coach. Student-athletes coached by Mullins have received dozens of All-America honors, with Will Shaner, Nancy Napolinski and Henri Junghänel going on to eventually win Olympic gold. In 2020, Mullins helped Mary Tucker and Will Shaner earn two of the four national spots on Team USA to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in air rifle. Shaner became the first American male to win gold in men’s 10m air rifle, setting an Olympic record score (251.6) in Tokyo.
Mullins, Great American Rifle Conference Coach of the Year in 1994, 2001 and 2007 and 2009, brought Kentucky its first NCAA Rifle Championship in 2011 and has led the rifle program to nearly two dozen top-five national finishes. In his time at Kentucky, Mullins has established the rifle program into a perennial national contender winning his second NCAA Championship in 2018 and then back-to-back titles in 2021 and 2022.
The 2020 season for Kentucky was one for the record books as the Wildcats were set to host the NCAA Rifle Championships for the first time in school history inside Memorial Coliseum before the event was canceled due to the Covid-19 public-health threat. UK was perfect throughout the season, never losing a match while it set a new school record team score of 4734 at Army behind a school-record air rifle score 2390. The Wildcats won the regular-season GARC Championship and the GARC Tournament Championship. The team entered the NCAA Rifle Championships with the top qualifying score while five players earned All-America honors at the conclusion of the season.
A native of Burgau, Germany, Mullins grew up an “army brat”. His father was a sergeant in the military, allowing the family to move repeatedly. The Mullins family spent 11 years in Germany before coming to the United States in 1976 and settling in Indianapolis and Georgia . Mullins began shooting when he joined a shooting club for Army teens. He continued shooting into high school at the nationally prominent Fort Benning Junior Club along with Spencer High School .
Mullins, who did not learn to speak English until the age of eight, became a U.S. citizen at the age of 18. He enrolled at UK and became a commanding smallbore competitor from 1982-86. Mullins claimed the Southeastern Conference smallbore Championship in 1983, 1984, and 1986 before taking the helm of the UK rifle program in 1987. He graduated with a degree in business administration in 1987.
Mullins has coached several great shooters, including 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist Nancy Napoliski and former NCAA Woman Athlete of the Year nominee, Taryn Lewis. Mullins has also helped mentor outstanding young shooters Mary Elsas, a four-time first-team All American in both smallbore and air rifle, and Bradley Whelldon a silver medalist in the 2003 Pan American Games. The rifle program is also perennially one of the most successful academic programs in the nation, as numerous rifle shooters have been honored with academic All-American honors.
Mullins says one of the highlights of his career is the opportunity to help develop student-athletes at his alma matter.
“I enjoy the opportunity to coach at my alma matter,” Mullins detailed. “From a coaches’ perspective that is a dream come true. As a competitor you establish a bond and pride for the University and to have the opportunity to help develop that pride in student-athletes is an amazing responsibility”, Mullins said.
Mullins has two children Taylor and Ethan, who is a sophomore at Kentucky and works with the baseball program.