Laura Herron already was a veteran athletics administrator last July when then-chancellor Roger Brown named her the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's interim athletic director. As a senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator, she had stature, authority and significant responsibilities.
For the next nine months, as the Mocs went without a full-time athletic director following Rick Hart's departure for Southern Methodist University, Herron kept the department on course. Normally most comfortable behind the scenes, Herron had to step forward and lead.
"I'm not going to pat myself on the back that I did anything except keep us from sinking," she said Saturday, "but I will congratulate myself for that."
She also credited her fellow senior associate ADs -- specifically Matt Pope, Andrew Horton and Jay and Emily Blackman -- for a great deal of help. Interim chancellor Grady Bogue, on the job since Brown stepped down in September, gave Herron far more credit than she gave herself.
"She's been a really splendid acting director," Bogue said.
Herron's interim stint is now over. Tennessee senior associate athletic director David Blackburn has been hired as the new AD -- he will be introduced at a reception in the University Center at 3 p.m. today -- and Herron will go back happily to her old position, overseeing compliance and student-athlete welfare and serving as the administrator for five sports.
"I'm just really looking forward to us being able to move forward now," she said. "I think that's what we've lacked the last nine months, the ability to plan and move forward. I'm really looking forward to that next phase."
In performing well and rising to the occasion as the interim AD, which included participating in the decision to let go men's basketball coach John Shulman, as well as representing UTC in some critical Southern Conference meetings, the course of Herron's career might have changed.
Herron, a former UTC trainer who is in her 19th year with the athletic department, said the interim AD experience was educational and potentially life-changing.
"I think with the learning curve that I'm experiencing, one day I definitely will consider an athletic directorship if I'm fortunate enough to be approached with the opportunity," she said.
When she feels she's ready, Bogue said, "she can put me down as a reference any time."
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...