Bethel College went to the high school ranks in naming a new head football coach, selecting Terry Harrison from Wichita Heights.
Harrison led Heights from 2013 to 2017 before making the jump to the college ranks as Bethel’s 23rd head coach.
Harrison was introduced as the new Thresher coach at a press conference Monday. He succeeds Morris Lolar, who resigned at the end of the season after three years.
“Leaving Heights High School is a hard decision to make, but every person I met while on my visit to this campus, I just felt home,” Harrison said. “I’m humbled and ready to get to work. I’m looking forward to helping Bethel College football.”
“Wichita Heights is a very prestigious program,” Bethel athletic director Tony Hoops said. “They have high expectations every year. He was city league coach of the year at one time. He has won numerous awards. He has coached a number of outstanding athletes. If there is anything close to a college program from a high school, Wichita Heights is it.”
Harrison went 38-16 while at Heights, winning the Greater Wichita Athletic League title in 2016. His team won a district title in 2014 and regional titles in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Heights finished 6-4 this season, falling in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs to Maize.
Harrison played at Sterling College, where he was a three-year team captain. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health from Sterling. As a senior, he played in seven games, catching seven passes for 51 yards and two touchdowns. Sterling finished 5-5 that season.
Harrison holds a master’s degree in school leadership from Baker University.
He was an assistant coach at Valley Center from 2006 to 2012. He then spent a season as an assistant at Wichita Heights before taking the head position.
“We began this process with many quality candidates,” Hoops said. “It was a difficult process to narrow that down. It’s finding the right fit for what we want to do. Our football program is a key component of this institution, and we know that. The process of choosing our next leader is something we did not take lightly. We wanted to be quick with the process, but we also wanted to do our due diligence to find the right fit to what we wanted to do.”
Harrison said Bethel is in a similar situation that he faced when he went to Sterling.
“I’ve heard a lot of people talking about a lot of hurdles,” Harrison said. “That’s just not in my make-up. I’m more interested in people doing things the right way with what we do have. Bethel has a lot of things to offer that other schools don’t. That’s what’s going to be our focus. I’d like as many (players) as possible. Our roster was in the 90s last year. It shrunk down a little bit. We’re going to try and find as many kids who fit at Bethel as possible. If that’s 90, that’s 90. If that’s 190, that’s 190.”
“When you get the quality of coach as Terry Harrison, he believes in what Bethel College is doing in terms of the alignment being correct,” Hoops said. “From the administration to the athletic director to the football coach. That gives me a feeling that we will be successful. He has the support he needs, now we have to put the product on the field.”
Harrison said that he’s used a number of different styles and formations at Heights and he will try to match the team’s style of play to the personnel.
Bethel had about 90 players last season and graduates about 14 seniors.
Harrison inherits a team that finished 1-9, 1-8 in KCAC play. Despite the record, Bethel was close in about half those games. The Threshers closed out the season with a 13-0 win over Friends.
“Your culture is going to help you win games like that,” Harrison said. “Being accountable throughout the year gives you the right to win games like that.”
Harrison said he’d like to focus on recruiting more in-state players, a job made easier since the state junior colleges lifted a lid on out-of-state players.
“The degree you can get from Bethel College is valuable,” Harrison said. “It’s something that can improve kids’ lives. Kids are going to have visit the campus. We have a beautiful campus. We have a degree that can help you raise a family. Those are things our program can offer.”
Also named to the staff were offensive coordinator Paul Kempf, who served as an assistant at Heights; and defensive coordinator A.B. Stokes, who previously coached at Sterling College before becoming the head coach at Larned High School.
“These two guys are going to prove why they’ve been successful,” Harrison said. “They are going to be great examples as husbands and fathers to these young men at Bethel College. That was a big selling point for me. I told Tony the only way I could come is if I could bring two guys like this with me.”