I taught PE classes and took on the assistant track job at Loyola in 1988, glad to get back into coaching after Arnold Weber's debacle at Northwestern. After a year away I was anxious to resume my track career. Head coach Gordon Thomson had developed a strong running program and I looked forward to being a part of it.
Located on the lakefront near the northern border of Chicago, Loyola University was a small school desperate for greenspace, the two block by three block Rogers Park campus squeezed into an area that needed twice as much acreage. Finding an area for my PE classes, along with practices in soccer, softball, and track was like trying to button jeans after too much food at Thanksgiving.
The men's soccer team had the smallest dimensions permitted by the NCAA for a field (70yds x 115yds), the odds that ours was slightly smaller pretty good. There was no diamond for our women's softball team so they were forced to use an off-campus park for a place to practice and play, no area on the school grounds even remotely safe for their needed work.
But at least our track team had a three lane 400 meter oval around the grass soccer field, the Mondo surface quite adequate for our workout needs. We couldn't have meets, but who was I to complain - at least we didn't have to leave campus for interval sessions.
The summer before I began my eight-year stint for the Ramblers I noticed construction just east of Alumni Gymnasium, a fence surrounding a small area on the north side of the track. Apparently they were expanding the faculty/staff parking lot. Not good timing...whatever.
I just hoped they finished before school started.
During my time at Loyola I discovered the university came up with one hair-brained idea after another - my belief that if there was a crazier way to do things, they would find the way. Example. Mertz Hall, the 19 floor dormitory on the Lakeshore campus housed over 800 students and had only 3 elevators...hmmm. What could possibly go wrong?
Think fire alarms. Or classes. You know...rare occurrences.
Walking through campus before school began in August the whites of my eyes doubled in size when I saw an asphalt paving machine going through an area I was certain held the north end of our track. I rushed over to the site and found a hole in the canvas covering the temporary fence - the second curve of our track gone!
My immediate thought was that the oval would be reduced in size and the curve refashioned...but it wasn't that simple. We still had to deal with the soccer field which was less than ideal and already at the minimum size. The options were clear. Administration had to decide between finding funding for a new off-campus soccer facility or giving the track a "flat top" - a solution which made our oval almost unusable.