Track team members react to removal of Coach Finch

Amy Sandquist

After Lawrence track head coach Vic Finch was fired over somewhat ambiguous allegations of budget mismanagement in late April, members of the track team reflected on a frustrating and emotional end to their season. Finch was terminated only a couple weeks before the Midwest Conference Championships, the most important track meet of the season.
For the track team, Finch’s dismissal came as a tremendous shock. The team was notified about the coach’s termination after practice one day. Sophomore Dan Moeller recalls that the “athletic directors hovered over our practice and then hurried us into a room and told us that [Finch] would no longer be our coach.”
The athletic directors were only able to tell the athletes that Finch had failed to fulfill his obligations as the head track coach, and they were unable to field the track team’s many questions about the specifics of his removal.
Due to protocol, the athletic directors told the students that they were not allowed to attempt or receive communication with Finch for the rest of the track season.
The track team relied on an official statement released a few days later by the athletic directors to inform them that Finch was fired due to his gross mismanagement of the track team budget and his failure to recruit.
Members of the team still did not understand the urgency of Finch’s removal, and junior Mark Sprtel noted that he found the information provided “ambiguous at best” and “highly unsatisfying.”
Finch’s sudden, virtually unexplained disappearance prompted an anger that still lingers among members of the track team. Rumors about Finch’s termination began to circulate around campus; both Moeller and David Zane expressed their frustration about the way the information about Finch was disseminated.
Moeller describes being approached by a softball player living in his residence hall whose coach had apparently shared information with the team about the circumstances surrounding Finch’s dismissal. Similarly, Zane reflected that hearing rumors about his coach from athletes on different teams was “not the ideal way of being informed.”
Helpless to do anything to change Finch’s fate, the track team prepared for the last three weeks of the season without a head coach. Sprtel commented that Finch’s firing “certainly damaged morale.”
The team’s distance runners were particularly affected by Finch’s absence and, according to Moeller, had to design their own workouts for the end of the season.
Though it is difficult to determine how Finch’s job loss affected the team’s performance at conference, Sprtel believes that he would have benefited from Finch’s “confidence-boosting advice” during the meet.
Finch was Lawrence’s third track coach in four years. Sprtel explained the importance of consistency in athletic training, particularly for runners, and lamented that constant change in training method hinders runners’ ability to succeed.
For Zane, Finch’s training methods were top-notch. “I personally can’t deny the fact that [Finch] made me a better runner,” Zane noted. “He really made me believe that I could improve significantly – and I did. I’m disappointed to see him go.

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