Herron takes Washburn job
Plans call for teacher to complete school year at junior high
Chris Herron has built two volleyball programs in northeast Kansas in the last 15 years.
Now he'll try for a third.
Herron, who spent 13 years as Tonganoxie's volleyball coach and three at Benedictine, was named Washburn University's coach Monday. The 44-year-old will be at the NCAA Division II level after leading Benedictine in the NAIA and Tonganoxie at the high school level.
Washburn has never finished higher than fourth place in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association and went 12-22 last season.
But Herron sees potential in Topeka.
"They have great facilities," Herron said. "The gym is awesome. They have so many things to offer an athlete you have to see it to believe it."
The ninth-grade science teacher debated taking the job during the last two weeks. At one point, he decided he wasn't interested, but after Washburn contacted him again, he accepted the position.
Athletics director Loren Ferrmpressed Herron, and Ferras ready for Herron to join Washburn.
"I'm very excited to have Chris on board," said Ferr"He has been successful at both the high school and collegiate level and brings extensive knowledge and experience to our program."
Herron said it was a tough decision heading to Topeka, especially leaving his 13-year-old son, Jordan, who he sees every day in school.
Some parts of the decision weren't difficult to make. He's looking forward to a better schedule. He's traveled 130 miles each day living in Lawrence, teaching in Tonganoxie and coaching in Atchison.
But Herron said it will be tough leaving Benedictine, where he compiled a 75-29 record in three seasons, including 30-8 and 32-6 records the last two seasons. Last year, the Ravens won the Heart of America Athletic Conference title and finished the season ranked No. 23, both firsts for the NAIA program.
"One of things that was difficult about it was the fact that I had a great relationship with the Benedictine kids," Herron said. "It's tough to leave a team that could win 35 matches next year and has a chance to go to the national tournament."
Overall, the former Tonganoxie coach decided it was time to be a coach full time.
"You just put it on a piece of paper, weigh what's good, live with the bad and make a decision," Herron said.
The HAAC's coach of the year the last two seasons, Herron also guided Tonganoxie to four state tournaments.
THS was also named Program of the Year in 1989 and 1996 by the Kansas Volleyball Coaches' Association. Herron was 366-88 in 13 seasons with the Chieftains, and he coached USAV junior teams the last 14 winters, leading the 14-year-old division teams to national tournaments in 1993, 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Now, though, Herron has a new project, taking the helm at Washburn, where he replaces Allison Jones, who was fired in January after five years.
"You've got to recruit," Herron said. "There's no substitute for that."
He plans to recruit Topeka, Lawrence, Kansas City and Wichita, and branch out from there.
Herron, his wife, Julie, and 1-month-old daughter, Elizabeth, will stay in Lawrence through the summer. He's unsure if they'll move to Topeka after that, but he will finish out the school year at Tonganoxie. In the meantime, he's also working at Washburn after the Tonganoxie school day to prepare for the upcoming season. A teacher for 20 years and a coach for 17, Herron said the move would be an adjustment.
"It's a life change," he said. "The biggest thing is that when you've taught for 20 years, you're a little apprehensive of change.
"I need to get acclimated to NCAA rules. It's definitely a full-time job."