San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey set the all-time career rushing record on Saturday by eclipsing Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne in a victory over Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl. Or did he?
Pumphrey ended his career with an all-time total of 6,405 rushing yards, cementing himself in first place on the all-time rushing leaders list. Dayne finished his college career with 6,397 rushing yards, but that total does not include Dayne’s rushing total from the bowl games he played. If you include Dayne’s postseason rushing totals, including three bowl games with 200+ rushing yards, Dayne finished his career with 7,125 rushing yards, a point the former Badgers Heisman Trophy winner was quick to note in a congratulatory tweet.
So why do we count Pumphrey’s postseason stats but not Dayne’s?
The simple answer is the NCAA is probably too lazy to do some research to go back in time and retroactively count bowl stats for teams and players.
In 2002, the NCAA made the decision to start counting bowl game stats with the official records for regular season performance. The decision was made to make college football record-keeping consistent with how records are held for other NCAA sports, where postseason results are counted on top of regular season stats.
“Each sport we compile statistics in, that’s the way it’s done,” Gary Johnson, senior assistant director of statistics at the NCAA, said in 2002. “We’re basically bringing football in line.”
The NCAA began tracking and officially recording stats in 1937. At the time, only a small handful of bowl games existed, so there was no need seen to keep track of bowl stats in the same fashion. As time went on and more teams were given opportunities to play in a postseason bowl game, it was determined that there was a new need to keep track of bowl stats since it affected more than just a small handful of programs. Some conferences, like the Big Ten, had already taken the initiative to keep bowl game stats on the record, but the NCAA was slow to adapt (surprise, surprise). The problem is the NCAA decided to not go back and make bowl game stats from before 2002 a part of the record books. Why?
That’s a good question, especially since in 2002 Purdue sports information director Tom Schott expressed his desire to see the NCAA choose to go back and do juts that at some point.
“I think it’s doable,” Schott said. “I can understand them not wanting to go back right now. I hope at some point they go back.”
Here we are in 2016, and approaching 2017, and no initiative has been made to dig into the archives to adjust the records accordingly. And because of the decision not to retroactively count bowl game stats before 2002, we have a new all-time rushing leader on the record books, much to the dismay of the Wisconsin faithful.
If altering the record books is a way to preserve the history of the game as it was seen and recorded for decades, that defeats the purpose of keeping track of history. Football stats may be trivial to most, but the NCAA is making a very simple decision not to preserve the history of the game as it actually occurred out of pure laziness. To suddenly change the way history is recorded when such an obvious option to better preserve it exists without taking the measure to do so is silly. To me, the solution is simple. Either count all the bowl game stats or none of them. Either way is fine, so long as it is consistent.
It’s time to have somebody at the NCAA correct this blatant inaccuracy with the official record books. Until they do, the NCAA is devaluing the significance of their own individual records.