By Jordan Alves, sports information director
Finley Standard Time…. Football team members know what that means. Anyone who played for the Tigers from 1987 until 2002 knows the late football coach Ron Finley always gave a time for his players they would remember.
With the 30th anniversary of Fighting Tiger football on the horizon, Vice President for Athletics Rusty Hollingsworth has announced the Homecoming kickoff vs. Georgetown College on Oct. 28 has been moved to 2:01 p.m. FST.
Hence 2:01 p.m. not 2:00 p.m. You remembered that time and were there at the right moment.
Coach Finley started the program in 1987, and he was a stickler for the motto,
“If you are early, you’re on time and if you are on time, you are late.” He used this reverse psychology on his players and never started a practice at the top or bottom of the hour.
“With this football season being our 30th Anniversary, we are looking for ways to engage alumni and honor Coach Ron Finley,” said Hollingsworth. “Coach Finley always used odd times so his players would remember it and this philosophy always worked.
“He made such an impact on his players that many of their weddings were scheduled on Finley Standard Time – 6:01 or 6:31. This is a way to honor Coach Finley and the program’s history.”
Coach Finley’s legacy:
The Tiger football program was dormant for 50 years until athletic director Don Bishop, the Athletics Boosters’ Club and athletics committee worked to restore the program in 1987. With the approval of then-President Dr. W.R. Davenport, former Russell County High School coach Ron Finley was hired to lead the program’s rebirth.
The first four-year varsity program began in 1988 with no scholarships, one full-time assistant coach, five part-time assistants and only a part-time trainer. At the time, few people realized how successful the football program would become, with more than 100 football players enrolling each fall – an increased enrollment that helped offset the original expenses in setting up the program. Dr. Davenport said that the addition of the program “changed the course of the institution.”
CU played five junior varsity games in 1987 and the team went 1-4 with a 30-20 win over Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands) on Oct. 10.
Campbellsville hosted Centre College for the first varsity game on Sept. 10, 1988 at what is now known as Finley Stadium. While the ’88 season ended with a 0-11 record, the Tigers captured their first victory on Sept. 9, 1989 with a 20-16 record win over University of Evansville. CU scored with 21 seconds remaining to pull off the historic win in front of the home crowd.
The following year was Finley’s first winning season with the Tigers (8-2) earning the program’s first national ranking and Finley a Coach of the Year honor. The ’90s became the Tigers’ best decade, as they rose to a No. 2 national ranking in the sixth week of the 1991 season.
The Tigers narrowly missed the postseason after falling at Georgetown College to end the year. However, the 1992 season ended on a different note. The Fighting Tigers knocked off Georgetown College, 29-27, at home on Nov. 14 to clinch the program’s first Mid-South Conference championship.
Campbellsville topped Georgetown again in 1996 and 1997, leading to an outright MSC title and the program’s first NAIA playoff appearance in ’97. The decade closed with a Tiger assistant coach being named the American Football League Assistant Coach of the Year for three consecutive years – Sam Wickliffe, Eric Graves and Haywood Riner.
CU returned to postseason play in 2000, playing Baker University in the KWTO Bowl. The following year, CU posted its best record in school history (10-3), hosted the NAIA Championship First Round for the first time in program history and advanced to the NAIA Quarterfinals against none other than Georgetown College.
Finley ended his college coaching career in 2002 with a 77-81-1 record. After the growing pain years of 1988 and 1989, Finley’s Tigers posted a 75-63 record and were 43-32 in his last seven seasons.
In 2012, Coach Finley and the 1987 and 1988 football teams were inducted into the Campbellsville University Athletics Hall of Fame.