In Oct. 8 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
Former Russell County Head Football Coach Ron Finley, 76, who had 195 wins as both a high school and college coach, died Monday afternoon at a Greensburg rehabilitation center while recovering from various ailments.
Finley, who lived in Jamestown with his wife, Phyllis, first came to the area in 1976 and coached the Mighty Lakers through the 1986 season before taking the head coaching job at Campbellsville University.
Finley, who recently had the football field at Russell County High School named in his honor was interviewed by the Russell County News just over a year ago.
"I have had a great life in coaching," he said at the time. "Rarely in life does someone get the chance, or does the Lord allow them a chance to do what he wants to do for 45 years. I look back on my life and career with no regrets."
Finley's road to Russell County made many stops before finally landing here more than three decades ago.
Finley, an Eastern Kentucky University alum, began coaching in 1954 to start a 45-year run as an athletic coach of some sort.
Beginning at Kingston High School in Madison County, Finley went on to coach sports such as basketball, baseball, wrestling, track and football in Manchester, Ohio; Paris, Ky.; Nashville, Mich.; Irvine, Ky. and in Louisville at his alma mater, Male High School.
After leaving Male in 1966, Finley quit coaching for four years, moved to Saginaw, Mich. and started a dry-cleaning business, but his love for the game brought him back to Kentucky.
"In 1970 I came to Henderson County, Kentucky," he said during the 2008 interview. He was the head football coach there before being fired in 1975.
Finley then heard about the Russell County opening, applied and came in for a visit.
Upon being hired, Finley went on to coach 11 seasons for the Lakers, winning district titles in 1979, 1983 and 1984.
Finley, who also taught several social studies, history and government classes, got his 100th win at Russell County, a victory over longtime rival Adair County.
In 1987, Finley accepted the head coach position at Campbellsville College, where he re-started the program.
He coached until the 2002 season and garnered a record of 80-79-1 at the college. During his time there, he had eight winning seasons; including a season-high 10 wins in 2001.
Under his guidance, the Tigers won Mid-South Conference titles in both 1992 and 1997 and participated in post-season play three times while he was coach. Finley had a tendency to recruit back to this area for talent.
"Coach Finley was a man who believed in possibilities," said University President Michael V. Carter in a press release on Finley's passing. "He believed every young man who came to play for him had great potential in the game of life. He lived and taught that life is a gift from God. He had a depth of character that inspired those around him."
Finley had said the father figure role was something he chose to portray, hoping that its discipline would help his players and students as they developed into young adults.
Finley continued his role as a father figure and mentor at Campbellsville, instituting the Lord's Supper on Thursday nights and having "family" gatherings with his players around holidays to make the team more close-knit and to provide a safe haven to avoid potential problems.
Finley meant so much to the college that they named their stadium Finley Stadium after him in 2006 and just this year the football field in Russell County was re-named Finley Field in his honor.
Between Finley - who is once-divorced - and his wife, they have six children, five girls and one boy. The two did not have any children together but considered all their children as their own.
Their children - Ruth Crone, Becky Thomas, Seronia Hudson, Ronda Harmon-Harp, Samantha Brock and David Gleisner - all have very successful careers in a variety of different fields.
"I truly believe that there isn't anyone who knew him that didn't know he was into developing young men to their full potential," said Dr. Ken Winters, CU president for 11 of Finley's 15 years.
"Campbellsville University has lost one of the great ones who helped to make today's accomplishments a reality. We will miss him, but we will remember his determined spirit and belief that the possible can become a reality with faith, hard work, and commitment to see a job done well," he said.