Bob Fitch

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Bob Fitch
Bob Fitch 1940.jpg
Fitch in 1940
Personal information
Birth nameRobert Fitch
BornJuly 28, 1919[1]
Audubon, Iowa, United States
DiedApril 15, 2003(2003-04-15) (aged 83)
Bloomington, Indiana, United States
Height6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
SportAmerican football, discus throw, golf
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)DT – 54.93 m (1946)[1]

Robert E. Fitch (July 28, 1919 – April 15, 2003) was an American athlete and coach. He broke the world record in the discus throw in 1946 with a mark of 54.93 m (180 ft 2+34 in). He developed a rotational technique referred to as the "Minnesota Whip" and delivered a masters thesis on the subject. His training mate Fortune Gordien went on to break world records and win Olympic medals.

Fitch was a two-time American champion in the discus (1942 and 1946) and was the winner of the 1942 NCAA Championships. He was also part of the University of Minnesota championship-winning college football. He later became golf coach for Indiana University and developed the team into a top level NCAA side, winning six Big Ten Conference titles during his tenure from 1957 to 1989 – a record for an Indiana coach.


Born in Audubon, Iowa, Fitch was the son of a veterinarian and spent the first ten years of his life in Audubon before moving with his family to Minneapolis. He went on to study at the University of Minnesota. He was part of the college football team as an end for the Minnesota Golden Gophers at a time when the team ranked first in the nation and overseen by coach Bernie Bierman. Greater success came in the discus throw with the track and field team.[2] He won the NCAA Championship title in 1942 – Minnesota's first such champion.[3] He also won the AAU national championship meet that year.[4] After graduating college, he was drafted in the seventh round of the 1942 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, but chose not to pursue professional football.

After graduating, he worked for the United States Coast Guard for several years before returning to education at Minnesota, starting a master's degree in physiology. It was in this second stint at the university that his discus throwing reached its peak. Under the guidance of Jim Kelly, Minnesota's track coach, he began experimenting with technique to find a better way of throwing the discus. Kelly credited Fitch with inventing a method of throwing called the "Minnesota Whip", which is now the accepted style worldwide.[2] This was a development for the sport, which frequently still had rough earth in throwing circles. It was Fitch that mastered the technique first – on June 8, 1946 he threw a discus throw world record of 54.93 m (180 ft 2+34 in), bettering the mark of Adolfo Consolini by more than half a meter.[5][6] He secured the United States discus title for a second time that year.[7]

Gordien went on to follow in Fitch's footsteps by winning the NCAA title, and had three straight wins at the competition from 1946 to 1948. Fitch was unable to start international competition – amateur athletes were self-funded at the time and he needed a job to live[8] – but Gordien went on to win the Pan American Games title in 1955 and two Olympic Games medals in 1948 and 1956.[9] The younger Gordien became the more decorated of the two, winning seven national titles between 1947 and 1954,[7] and broke the world record on four occasions, his best being 59.28 m (194 ft 5+34 in) in 1953.[5]

Working with Gordien while continuing his studies, Fitch produced his masters thesis Mechanical analysis of the discus throw in 1951.[10] He also served as an assistant college football coach for Indiana University. He asked the Indiana athletic director if he could stop coaching to focus on his doctoral studies. The director instead offered him a position to reorganise the school's golf course, which was becoming a financial drain. Fitch accepted the position, becoming the Indiana Hoosiers head coach for golf in the process.[8]

As the head of Hoosiers golf, he transformed both the team and turned the course into a profitable venture.[8] He led the Hoosiers to the Big Ten Conference runner-up spot in 1958 and they won the title for the first time in 1962, then again in 1968. The team topped the Big Ten championships four times in the 1970s. On top of his six conference titles, he also led the Hoosiers to the runner-up spot ten times between 1958 and 1984. He took the previously undecorated Hoosiers into NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championships competition on twelve occasions, with the team's best placing being sixth in 1974.[11] Despite strong results in sporting achievements, Fitch emphasised academics first and foremost for student-athletes. His charges remembered Fitch pushing them hard both physically and academically, in the style of his previous coach Bernie Bierman. After his retirement in 1989, Fitch later reflected "I'm mighty proud that for 10 straight years my golf team led all athletic teams on campus in grade-point average and only three players didn't graduate in the 34 years I coached golf".[8] His 32 years as Hoosiers golf head coach made him the longest-tenured coach in Indiana University history.[11]

On August 29, 1942 Fitch married Helen Dichensheets.[12] He died on April 5, 2003 in Bloomington, Indiana.[11]

Head coaching record[edit]


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Augustana (South Dakota) Vikings (North Central Conference) (1947)
1947 Augustana 3–5 2–3 5th
Augustana: 3–5 2–3
Total: 3–5


  1. ^ a b Robert Fitch.
  2. ^ a b Bob Fitch. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Retrieved on November 8, 2014.
  3. ^ NCAA DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIPS (MEN). GBR Athletics. Retrieved on November 8, 2014.
  4. ^ UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIPS (MEN 1876–1942). GBR Athletics. Retrieved on November 8, 2014.
  5. ^ a b "13th IAAF World Championships In Athletics: IAAF Statistics Handbook. Berlin 2011" (PDF). Monte Carlo: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. 2011. pp. 606, 607. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 1, 2012. Retrieved August 10, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "New Discus Mark Set At 180' 2". Nevada State Journal. June 9, 1946. Retrieved November 17, 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ a b UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIPS (MEN 1943–). GBR Athletics. Retrieved on November 8, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d White, Maury (June 26, 2005). Bob Fitch, Audubon, 1991. Des Moines Register. Retrieved on November 8, 2014.
  9. ^ Fotune Gordien. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Retrieved on November 8, 2014.
  10. ^ Mechanical analysis of the discus throw. WorldCat. Retrieved on November 8, 2014.
  11. ^ a b c Hoosier Athletics Mourns Loss of Former Coach Archived November 8, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Indiana Hoosiers (May 9, 2009). Retrieved on November 8, 2014.
  12. ^ File:Bob Fitch marriage 1942.jpg
Preceded by
Adolfo Consolini
Men's discus throw world record holder
June 8, 1946 – October 10, 1948
Succeeded by
Adolfo Consolini