Monday, January 4, 2010

Records Are Made To Be Broken

Ferris Thomsen won 115 games as Princeton men's lacrosse coach between 1951 and 1970, which broke the old record of 74 wins, set by Al Nies from 1921-35.

Bill Tierney then came along in 1988 and won 238 games with the Tigers, which obviously broke Thomsen's record. Tierney's 116th win, the one that set the record, was a 9-7 win at Brown in 1998.

Why bring this up now? Because TigerBlog never realized it at the time.

TB took a look back at the 1998 men's lacrosse binder and saw that the game notes for Princeton-Brown talked about any number of items without ever mentioning that Tierney was tied for the career lead in victories by a men's lacrosse coach. The postevent release (that's what they were called back then; today it would simply be a "story") refers to how Princeton allowed three goals in the first five minutes and three more in the last 55, including none in the last 33:52, en route to a 9-6 win.

TigerBlog doesn't remember exactly when it dawned on him that Tierney must have set the school record for coaching wins at some point, but it was definitely years after the fact.

Switching record books, Alex Sierk graduated in 1999 as the all-time leader in points scored by a kicker at Princeton with 184. That record, by the way, has since been broken by Derek Javarone, who finished with 213.

Sierk's 184 points knocked the great Charlie Gogolak out of the top spot on the list after Gogolak had finished his career 30 years earlier with 170 points. Sierk would break that record in a 20-0 win over Columbia on Halloween in 1998, on a 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that provided the final points of the day.

Just as he had been at the Princeton-Brown lacrosse game that spring, TigerBlog was also at the football game at Columbia as well. And, just as he missed Tierney's record, TB missed Sierk's as well.

Record keeping is a primary function here at HQ, yet it's not always obvious when records are being set. To TB's credit, he's realized way more than he's missed, including the time Sydney Johnson made 11 straight three-pointers or the time Chris Massey scored a goal in 46 straight games or the time Monmouth's Rahsaan Johnson set the Jawdin Gym record with 40 points in a game or countless others.

Records that are single-game are often more obvious, since there's some idea that something special is happening as someone begins to accumulate huge numbers in a given statistical category.

Records that are career are more difficult, because the records are somewhat random. For instance, Bob Surace begins his Princeton football coaching career 89 wins off the school record (held by Bill Roper for 80 years now). 89? Is there a more random number?

Then there are the "trend" records. Those are nearly impossible to figure out unless really good record-keeping has been done from Day 1. For instance, when Rick Hielscher went 16 for 20 from the field against Dartmouth in 1995, TigerBlog tried to figure out the last time a Princeton player had made at least 16 field goals in a game or what the highest shooting percentage in a game was by a Princeton player with at least 20 attempts.

There used to be a guy whose name, TB believes, was Bill. He'd show up after each basketball season and ask for all of that season's box scores, and then he'd come back a few weeks later with handwritten updates of all Princeton men's basketball stat leaders. His work left HQ with three blue binders, stuffed with individual leaders, all-time results, game-by-game totals for every game in Princeton history - everything anyone could have asked for.

And then one year, Bill didn't show up. Haven't heard from him since. Still, his work has been an unbelievable resource, one that no other sport here has.

TigerBlog has often wished that he had a game-by-game goal-scoring accounting for lacrosse. Or similar information for any other sport.

Such information is essential to looking up "trend" records. Somebody a long time before TigerBlog started working here put together a good "Last Time It Happened" for football, but it doesn't exist for all sports.

The comments from the last TigerBlog entry about Gary Walters and his tenure as athletic director got TB wondering if he'd missed the time when Walters set the record for longest run by a Princeton AD.

Princeton has had four (or possibly six, depending on how you consider them) actual Directors of Athletics since the position was formalized in 1941. It wasn't until 1937 that the athletic department existed as a University entity; prior to that, it was an independent association with a separate board to oversee its functions. Going way back, there were no coaches, just team captains who ran each sport's show.

Asa Bushnell was the head of the last head of the board of the athletic association and the first person to oversee athletics when it became absorbed by the University, but his title was never actually "Director of Athletics."

The first person to hold that distinction was Ken Fairman, who served as actual Director of Athletics from 1941 through 1973, a 32-year tenure that was interrupted by Fairman's service in World War II (during which time Howard Stepp was acting AD).

Royce Flippen was AD from 1973-79 for the shortest tenure by an AD here, and the Robert Myslik took over from 1979 until Walters arrived in 1994 (TigerBlog and Walters started on the same day).

In other words, Walters is now second in terms of time as Princeton AD, but he's only about halfway to the record that Fairman has. Should Walters still be AD in 2026 and break Fairman's record, TigerBlog won't miss that one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your longevity (is it a record or does Bill Stryker '50 have you beat??) and all of the good work. Looking forward to more in the new year. All the best to you and your colleagues.