A graduate of Lawrence High and an employee at the school since 1973, LHS athletic director Ron Commons will retire at the end of the school year.
Nothing in particular led to the decision when Commons came to it this past summer. The LHS mainstay said the timing just felt natural.
“It’s a good time to retire, while you can still enjoy things,” he said.
Commons, 63, became Lawrence’s athletic director in the fall of 1994. Before that, he taught, worked on the football staff for 20 years, spent two seasons as a basketball assistant and coached boys golf for 29 years.
He has spent so much time around LHS athletics, Commons has seen it all. However, that hasn’t made his latest years dull.
“With all the things that seem to be new and situations coming up with kids and parents and teams and facilities and all those things, surprisingly there’s always something brand-spankin’ new that seems to come down the pipe,” he said.
This week, in fact, Commons will witness something that hasn’t happened in his 39 years of working at the school.
“Every year, you think, ‘Gosh, there’s nothing new that could seem to come up,’ and now in football we’re going to play Kansas City (Kan.) Wyandotte, and in all my years, we have never played at Wyandotte,” Commons said.
Wyandotte and Lawrence have met in the playoffs, but those were Lions home games, back when LHS played at Haskell Stadium.
This is Commons’ 19th year as Lawrence athletic director. He has enjoyed the variety that position brings, which wasn’t the case when he coached football.
“I never had the opportunity (as a football coach) to go to a cross country meet. And to be able to go to Rim Rock and see that festival that goes on, not only the Jayhawk Invitational but the state meet we hosted for numerous years when I first started as an AD,” Commons said, “it’s a big deal for a lot of kids and a lot of parents, and it’s quite a show that goes on.”
Another significant benefit of the job has been getting a chance to watch student-athletes from various sports perform and improve over time.
“I go to a lot of freshman football games now,” Commons said. “And to be able to think I saw them when they played their first game and three or four years later to see them graduate and all the things that they’ve accomplished is special.”
Not every part of the job has been as pleasant, though.
“It’s always difficult to please every coach,” Commons said, “especially when it comes to budget things. That wants-and-needs list each year seems to be pretty substantial, and to be able to only provide some of the things that we need for our programs has always been challenging and frustrating at times.”
Still, LHS principal Matt Brungardt said Commons has meant a lot to the school and its athletic department.
“Ron’s an institution,” Brungardt said. “He’s somebody who has put a lot of time and dedication into athletes at the high school.”
Commons’ last day on the job won’t come until the summer, so Brungardt said the search for Commons’ replacement has yet to begin.
When that last day comes, Commons said he will be completely retired and has no plans to work at LHS in another capacity.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to some events and things like that,” he said, “but when I finish in June, it’s gonna be somebody else’s baby.”