June 20, 2002 11:00 pm

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Wayne Herron has graduated from high school football and is going to college.

The former Union High School football coach — his resignation was approved last week — will coach linebackers at Eastern Oregon University this fall.

"I'm excited," Herron said. "The pieces have fallen together very nicely. It's close enough to home that I can continue to teach here."

Herron teaches in the Union School District and will remain the high school's girls basketball coach. Union has a four-day school week, and that will allow Herron to join the team on the road and spend Friday coaching at the college.

Herron, who was a star linebacker for Elgin in the late-1970s, coached football at Union since 1988 and had a 47-75 record. He returned to coaching girls basketball this past season; he coached that team from 1989 to 1993.

"This will work out very well. I will be able to test the waters a little bit at that level," he said.

Herron played linebacker at Eastern from 1979 to 1982 and had been interested in coaching at the college level.

Eastern head coach Jim Fenwick is pleased that Herron is joining the coaching team.

"Ever since I've been here I've gotten to know him through our camps and stayed in touch with him," Fenwick said. "He used to play here and he's got a passion for the school and an identity to the area.

"That's important to our program. An addition like that can really, hopefully, pave the path to some credibility to our program. It's just one of those pieces of the puzzle that can help us."

Herron said he likes the direction of the EOU program.

"Coach Fenwick is really going to work hard at building a good, solid base as far as area players are concerned," he said. "That's important to the program, to get as many local talents as possible."

Herron was the last major piece in Fenwick's coaching staff. Fenwick had already hired defensive coordinator Travis Baker and offensive line coach John Keller, and Wes McAllaster, the school's baseball coach, will remain a football assistant.

Fenwick is still looking for other assistants to help out with a roster that will number about 140 when players report to camp Aug. 16. That will be whittled down to 105 in uniform, although less than 80 will be active.

Herron was concerned about the impact the move would have on his family. His wife, Patty, is Union High's volleyball coach, his daughter Chelsea will be a freshman and his son Jaden will be a seventh-grader. Both children are involved in sports, "so they're going to be busy on the weekends."