On Dec. 21, John McNichols, head coach of Indiana State University Track and Field, passed away at age 66 from complications from a stroke. With a 34-year tenure, McNichols held a coaching position longer than any other in Indiana State history. Throughout his time here at Indiana State, McNichols established a legacy of excellence and forged lifelong bonds with students and faculty.
“I worked closely with John McNichols from 1988,” said John Gartland, former track and field assistant coach and women’s cross country head coach. “We combined the men’s and women’s programs 29 years ago, and have built the success of the program a step at a time, working together for one goal.”
With McNichols’ guidance, the men’s teams have won nine Missouri Valley Conference championships, and the combined men’s and women’s program has won 37 MVC titles.
“He was the greatest ever at this university,” Gartland said. “No one will come close the number of conference titles his team has obtained or the number of All-Americans developed during this time span.”
McNichols’ influence has impacted the lives of his athletes, sometimes even altering the professional trajectory of their lives. Angela Martin, interim director of Indiana State men’s and women’s cross country and track and field, is such an example. Martin has known McNichols for a long time as well.
“He and his staff recruited me out of high school in 1997, where I ran for four and half years here,” Martin said.
Martin did not always plan to be involved with coaching, but changed her mind after working with coach McNichols.
“I wanted to be a graphic designer and he suggested that I should be a teacher and a coach, and I took his advice,” Martin said. “I wouldn’t be here today doing what I do if it weren’t for him.”
Martin had a special relationship with McNichols, having worked with him as a student and a coach.
“He was like a second dad; he was patient, and a very good listener,” Martin said. “He always tried to push you and make you make decisions for yourself.”
McNichols also impacted members of the Terre Haute community.
“He knew so many of the professors and everyone around the city,” Martin said. “You can go to a store in town and someone will recognize us from ISU and ask if we knew John McNichols.”
The alumni from the track and field teams of McNichols have dispersed all throughout the nation, and with them his influence.
“He had a special way about him, and he touched a lot of people,” Martin said. “He’s always going to be with us.”