Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2002

Football coach Barnett resigns

February 21, 2002

Aaron Barnett is leaving the Eudora High School football team he built into a state power to try to do the same at a Topeka school.

Next season, the two-time Lawrence Journal-World Coach of the Year will try to restore glory to the struggling 6A Topeka Washburn Rural football team.

"It was definitely a tough decision. I have nothing but great things to say about Eudora the community and the high school," Barnett said. "I like challenges and this is another one just like four years ago at Eudora."

Barnett said he saw the potential for the Junior Blues to return to their winning ways. As a youngster, Barnett admired the coaching style of former Rural Coach Ron Bowen from afar and recognized the potential to rebuild a strong football program. Rural fans had their share of headaches over the past four years as the team struggled to a 6-39 record under coach Nick McGrain.

"There is a lot of potential at Washburn Rural," Barnett said. "I think the four things that you need for a successful football program are a strong administration, good assistant coaches, a supportive community and good players. Washburn Rural has that, and Eudora will continue to have that."

Barnett said he would take fond memories from his coaching days at Eudora, but making the playoffs for the first time and defeating Baldwin in 2000 for the first league title stand out in his mind.

"I will miss the kids because I have developed strong relationships," Barnett said. "My wife (high school teacher Erin Barnett) and I have made lifelong friends here in Eudora."

Athletic Director Larry McPherson was a bit surprised to find out Barnett was leaving the program.

"He did a heck of a good job for us," McPherson said. "We'll miss him, but that's life."

McPherson said Eudora High School will begin a search for a new coach but he doesn't expect one to be named for at least a month. McPherson also said assistant coaches on the Cardinal staff would get an opportunity for the head position.

Barnett compiled a 30-10 record from 1998-2001 with the Cardinals. His 2000 team won the first Frontier League championship in any sport for Eudora High School.

The Cardinals were bi-district champions in 2000 and 2001 and defeated every team in the Frontier League except Gardner-Edgerton during Barnett's reign. Eudora won 32 football games from 1980-97.

Barnett, who will teach physical education next year at Washburn Rural, is the second Eudora coach to take another position in the capital city. Former basketball coach and Topeka native Chad Eshbaugh left the Cards for Topeka West last June.

Washburn Rural Athletic Director Chris Ridley said Barnett was chosen over six candidates.

"I think he will give us a tremendous amount of leadership and motivation," Ridley said. "He'll be a good draw for kids to our program."

Washburn Rural was a state powerhouse in the 1980s under Coach Ron Bowen. During his 23 years at the school, the Junior Blues won three state 5A championships (1985, 1986, 1989). The school made the 6A state finals in 1992 and lost to Lawrence. They play in the Centennial League.

Barnett's Junior Blues will be in the area to face Lawrence High and Free State during district play in October.

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