BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Ken McDonald has been released as WKU’s head men’s basketball coach, Director of Athletics Ross Bjork announced Friday.

Ray Harper, who has served as an assistant coach during McDonald’s tenure, has been named interim head coach and will assume all program responsibilities. Harper spent 12 seasons as head coach at Kentucky Wesleyan College and Oklahoma City University before coming to WKU as an assistant coach prior to the 2008-09 season. He compiled a 342-63 record in those 12 seasons, good for an .844 winning percentage, and his teams won four national championships while reaching the title game on five other occasions.

The Bremen, Ky., native was named the Division II National Coach of the Year at Kentucky Wesleyan three times in nine seasons, and he earned NAIA Coach of the Year honors at Oklahoma City after leading the Stars to the 2007-08 national championship.

Bjork and Harper will be available to the media this afternoon at 2:00 PM (CT) in the E.A. Diddle Arena media room.

Statement from Director of Athletics Ross Bjork

“I have recommended to President Gary Ransdell that Ken McDonald no longer serve as our head men’s basketball coach, and he has agreed and supports my decision. President Ransdell and I met with Coach McDonald this morning to inform him of the decision, and then we met with and informed the entire men’s basketball staff. I also met with our student-athletes and discussed the reasons for our conclusion and told them that we are committed to all of them as students and athletes here at WKU, and we owe them the ‘great program’ they signed up for. All of our student-athletes are the number one priority for WKU Athletics.

“I want to thank Coach McDonald for his efforts during the eight-and-a-half years he served as our assistant and head men’s basketball coach. We all appreciate the time he has given to WKU, and we wish him well.

“Last spring, I felt Coach McDonald deserved the opportunity to begin positive trends with a new season, and we witnessed some encouraging elements during the summer and fall under his direction. Unfortunately, as this season has progressed, the plan has not worked out. We have a 5-11 record and do not rank in the nation’s top 200 in virtually any statistical category. This is not what the WKU basketball program should represent. While we pride ourselves on having an energetic and exciting atmosphere in Diddle Arena, our attendance levels are reaching historic lows. These disturbing facts are unacceptable, and we can no longer continue on this troubling course. Confidence, respect – locally and nationally, public support and an overall positive perception of the WKU men’s basketball program is lacking. Our historic program is too strong to be in this position. Simply put, WKU men’s basketball needs a new voice.

“Coach Harper has had proven success as a head coach, and we are excited to see how our team responds under his direction. Let me be clear, we are not giving up on this season. We have 13 conference games remaining, and we still believe this year’s team has much to achieve.”

Statement from President Gary Ransdell

“Ken McDonald has served WKU as both an assistant and head coach, and I would like to thank him for the time he has devoted to our university. Unfortunately, the current state of our program is both disappointing and unacceptable, and we can longer allow this to continue. This decision is about the welfare of the young men in our program. I want to challenge our fans to be in Diddle Arena tomorrow and the remainder of the season to support these young men and help rebuild this proud basketball program.”

Statement from Interim Head Coach Ray Harper

“I want to thank Coach McDonald for the opportunity to serve on his staff the last four seasons. I would not be here today if Coach McDonald had not hired me in 2008. Our season thus far has not gone the way we had hoped it would. I appreciate the confidence Ross Bjork and President Ransdell have shown me, and I will approach my new role with unrelenting persistence, energy and dedication. I ask the Hilltopper Nation to come together and support this team tomorrow against Troy and for the remainder of this season. We have a lot of basketball ahead of us.”