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Aaron Bessey

By Jonathan Hudson

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — Aaron Bessey has been hard at work over the past few weeks as he wrapped up his position as Associate Athletic Director for External Relations at UNC Asheville, while also shifting into his new role as Athletic Director for Young Harris.

President Dr. Drew Van Horn announced Bessey would be the next Athletic Director for Young Harris College on May 9. Before that, Bessey went through a comprehensive interview process, including a visit to YHC where he met with administration, staff, coaches, and student-athletes. After hiring Bessey, it was announced that his official start date would be July 1.

While concluding his work at UNC Asheville, Bessey has driven back and forth to begin meeting with people on campus and in the community to forge relationships and learn what the Enchanted Valley has to offer. Stay tuned for more information to follow on a Meet & Greet with Aaron and the rest of the Athletics team in August.

View Aaron Bessey’s original press release.

Q&A With Aaron Bessey:

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Michigan but grew up not too far away in Greensboro, NC. I am the oldest of four boys with two amazing parents and attended the great NC State University in Raleigh, NC for college, where I was a men’s basketball student manager.

Since graduating, I have worked in college athletics at Appalachian State, Georgia State, Lenoir-Rhyne, and UNC Asheville most recently. I am married to the beautiful Caroline (Wainright) Bessey, who will be starting as a primary care doctor at Chatuge Family Practice in Hayesville in mid-August.

We are blessed to have an 8-month-old baby girl, Sophie Marie Bessey. Speaking of being blessed, I am extremely proud, grateful, and excited to be the new Athletic Director at your beloved Young Harris College and join the Mountain Lion family!

Why Young Harris?

I have close friends and mentors within the industry who have either previously worked at Young Harris or worked with Dr. Drew Van Horn and everyone had nothing but positive things to say about both. After my first conversation with Dr. Van Horn and then my first visit to campus, I knew this position was the perfect fit for me and my family. The people we have on campus and in our athletic department are exceptional, which is not the case everywhere I’ve been, and that made this opportunity all the more enticing. YHC has great values and is rich with history and tradition.

I believe we can build on the foundation here and take this place to the next level. It also doesn’t hurt that Young Harris is set in such a beautiful location. I see why it’s earned the nickname, the Enchanted Valley! What a great place to raise a family!

What are your initial impressions of Young Harris?

That this campus and community truly is a family. Every single person I’ve met so far has been welcoming and supportive. In getting to know the staff and coaches in our athletic department to this point, we have high-quality, hard-working, genuine people who are here to support and better our student-athletes first and foremost. We have a lot of positives to work with here at YHC already in place, but there is an incredible amount of opportunity out there for us. That is very exciting to me because capitalizing on those opportunities is what will allow us to put YHC Athletics on the map not only regionally, but nationally.

What will be your plan for the first 90 days?

Meet as many of you as possible! First and foremost, I will be out in the community, region, and beyond to visit with our supportive Mountain Lion family members. To get where we have the potential to go, we must increase our fundraising, attendance, brand identity, and brand visibility. In addition, we will develop a strong sense of identity and culture within our athletic department, and that starts at the top with me.

I’ve also already begun assessing our current situation as it pertains to budgets, scholarships, facilities, staffing, and more, in comparison to our peers in Conference Carolinas and the rest of the region. Based on that information, we’re going to develop a prioritized plan to make improvements to our staffing, program resources, and facilities until all seventeen sports are competing at a national level annually.

What are ways that our alumni, community, and campus can support you and our athletic department?

Engage with us! Come visit campus, attend an athletic event, or simply even follow @yhcathletics on social media. Learn about what’s going on with Young Harris athletics and keep up with us, that’s the first thing we’d ask. There are so many ways to get involved at YH through game attendance, student-athlete mentorship, joining our Mountain Lion Club, being a business sponsor, or serving on our newly formed athletic board and much more. If you want to be involved, let me know, and I’ll find a way to plug you in.

Of course, we also need increased financial support to get to where we want to go, that is obvious. Without more financial resources, we will not achieve our potential as a department, so we do ask you continue donating or begin donating if you haven’t already to support our student-athletes. You can do this individually through our Mountain Lion Club or as a business through our corporate sponsorship offerings.

What is the Mountain Lion Club and how can someone join?

The Mountain Lion Club is the official fundraising arm of YHC Athletics. Its purpose is to support student-athlete scholarships and program costs for Young Harris’ 17 men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletic teams. Donations to the Mountain Lion Club allow for the overall strategic improvement of our entire athletic department and is our most vital annual fund. Gifts to specific sports are also impactful, but we’d encourage even our sport-specific alumni and parents to consider a general athletic fund annual gift in priority of, or in addition to, a gift to their sport of choice. Contributions to this fund is what will allow us to ascend in the DII landscape the quickest.

In addition to the fund’s importance to our success, joining the Mountain Lion Club provides you with access to exclusive benefits including but not limited to…

  • Men’s and Women’s Basketball Season Tickets (VIP & General Admission options)
  • Hospitality Passes for Basketball Season (includes food, alcohol, and other beverages)
  • VIP Parking for Basketball Season
  • Exclusive YHC Adidas Apparel
  • 1886 Society Membership
  • Named Annual Scholarship

To join, stay tuned for a brochure that will be mailed out to everyone in late August/early September. That will have all the details surrounding giving levels and benefits, along with a form for CC information and a return envelope for checks. In the meantime, the easiest way to check out those giving levels and join is by visiting and making your donation on-line.

Closing message to the Mountain Lion faithful.

I truly believe YHC is a sleeping giant in DII athletics, and that we are about to wake that sleeping giant. To do so, we need YOU. Whether you’ve been consistently involved for years, used to be involved and lost interest, or have yet to get involved since graduating, there’s no better time to step up than now. We’re about to experience an unprecedented period of success in the Enchanted Valley, and you don’t want to miss being a part of it! I am truly grateful to all of you who have supported, are supporting, or will support our inspiring student-athletes. Your generosity will not go unnoticed or unappreciated and we will put it to good use in providing our student-athletes with a first-class college experience. I cannot wait to meet all of you and please do not hesitate to reach out [email protected] or 828-406-6833 (cell). As I mentioned earlier, I am deeply honored to be the leader of your athletic department and to join the Mountain Lion family. We’re going to make you proud! Go Mountain Lions!

About Young Harris College 

Young Harris College is a private baccalaureate and master’s degree-granting institution located in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Founded in 1886 and historically affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Young Harris College educates, inspires, and empowers students through an education that purposefully integrates the liberal arts and professional studies. The College has four academic divisions: Fine Arts; Humanities; Mathematics, Science, and Technology; and Professional Studies. Approximately 1,400 students are enrolled in its residential and Early College programs. The College is an active member of the NCAA Division II and remains a fierce competitor in the Conference Carolinas. For more information, visit