Freshman history major Ace Finch keeps track of stats during ESU’s home game Saturday evening in White Auditorium. Finch was excited as men’s basketball team was victorious against the Central Missouri Mules, winning 74-72. Julie Thephachan/The Bulletin
Never missing a KU basketball game, Ace Finch, freshman history major, parks his wheel chair in the lobby, the only place that has cable TV in his dorm.
From the small town of Council Grove, Finch dreams of following in the footsteps of his father, Daryl Finch, who teaches science and coaches football and basketball at Council Grove High School.
“He is the type of kid that doesn’t like being told he can’t do something,” Daryl said. “I remember how angry he was at me when I wouldn’t let him play football. Like any parent, you only want the best for your child and going off to college has always been his goal, and unlike football, college was in his physical ability.”
Finch said that coaching basketball and teaching history at the high school or college level would be his dream job, “since playing is out of the question.”
Born with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination, Finch is limited to a wheel chair, which he uses to get around campus, and a walker he uses when he is in the dorms.
Finch could never play sports, but he said he has always done his best to stay active. Since sports were such a large part of his life during high school, taking stats for the football and basketball teams and running the 100 meter dash and throwing discus, Finch said that getting involved in ESU athletics was a major priority for him. This inspired him to contact head basketball coach Shaun Vandiver.
“I enjoy stat taking and that is what I do for the basketball team here,” Finch said. “It is what I have always done, besides running my mouth to officials during the games. I do what I can help out.”
Not being able to travel with the team upsets him, but Vandiver said that by next year arrangements will be made for him to attend away games.
“I enjoy it because it’s a challenge for me to keep up,” Finch said. “I had never been to an Emporia State basketball game before, and then here I am taking stats.”
Finch said that the teams both in high school and in college have made him feel like such a part of the team that not being able to play has never bothered him too much.
“There have always been times that I wish I could play, but the times when we are down by 30 points, I feel bad for the guys that are stuck on the field,” Finch said. “I have always known my role on the team – keep kids positive and take my stats.”
With only the help of his stepsister, Taylor Morgan, who is also a freshman at ESU, Ace now lives independently in the Towers Residence Hall. Morgan helps him put his shoes on in the morning and does his laundry for him, a job that Finch pays her $50 a month to do.
“Not adapting well was what I worried about most,” Finch said. “It wasn’t really the school work or not making friends because I knew I was going to do that – it was all the physical challenges. The first night I got here, it was hard. It took me like two hours to take a shower because the seat in the shower was higher than anything I have ever used before.”
Finch said he wanted to have the real college experience, and this motivated him to join the Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity. Finch’s residential assistant, Jordan Yulich, junior elementary education major, is also a member and encouraged him to join.
“I think Ace is the reason the floor is so close,” Yulich said. “During the first few days they seemed to bond around him, doing the little things like pushing him to lunch. I wasn’t told I was going to have a resident with a disability, but the only thing that worried me was coming up with programs he could participate in.”
Being in a wheel chair did not stop residential life from putting him on the fifth floor of the Towers. Finch said the only thing that he worries about is both elevators malfunctioning. In the case of a fire, Finch is supposed to wait in the stairwell for firemen to come get him.
“For the most part, the campus is handicap accessible,” Finch said. “I know if I do need anything, all I have to do is ask. No one is going to turn me down because they would feel like a jerk. I want to try to maintain my independence, but for some reason my wheel chair battery always dies whenever a cute girl walks by.”
Rocky Robinson/The Bulletin