San Diego State running back D.J. Pumphrey is now among the top 10 career rushers in college football history.
Exactly where he ranks, however, is subject to debate. He is No. 8 all-time on the NCAA career rushing list but No. 10 by other measures.
According to the NCAA, Pumphrey passed three legendary running backs — Ohio State’s Archie Griffin, Georgia’s Herschel Walker and TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson — during his 220-yard performance Friday against Fresno State.
Georgia and TCU officials would agree with that.
Ohio State officials — as well as Buckeyes fans — would not.
In 2002, the NCAA began including statistics from bowl games in overall statistics totals. It was a logical change.
“Each sport we compile statistics in, that’s the way it’s done,” Gary Johnson, then NCAA senior assistant director of statistics, said at the time. “We’re basically bringing football in line.”
There were no plans, however, to go back and include bowl game statistics for those who played before 2002.
“It was done with the caveat that we’re not going to go back and change history,” said Jeff Williams, NCAA associate director of media coordination and statistics. “Changing history is a dangerous road to start going down.”
Williams noted part of the problem in going back and reconciling the records is that some long-ago bowl statistics are incomplete.
It’s not a matter of rewriting history for several of the schools involved here. The issue is they have recorded history differently than the NCAA.
Wisconsin, Pitt, USC and Ohio State all have included bowl game statistics in their records for as long as anyone can remember. TCU, on the other hand, keeps bowl records separate.
None of the schools had given the record book much thought this season before Pumphrey brought attention to the career rushing list.
Pumphrey took the field for the Fresno State game with 5,163 career yards. He rushed for nine yards on the first play against the Bulldogs and carried for another six yards on the second play.
That put Pumphrey one yard ahead of Griffin, who has 5,177 career yards according to the NCAA.
But according to Ohio State, Griffin (who played for the Buckeyes from 1972-75) has 5,589 yards.
“I appreciate the records, I respect the records, and if the NCAA record book says this is how we do it, then I’m OK with that,” said Jerry Emig, Ohio State’s associate director of communications. “But Archie gained that 5,589 yards. We’ll leave that in our record books. We’re comfortable with that being our all-time rushing record.
“If the NCAA chooses to not count those four (bowl) games, which he played, which he rushed for almost 500 yards, that’s the prerogative of the NCAA. We’re not going to complain that Archie doesn’t have the extra yards on his official NCAA totals, but, certainly, in our records in history and traditions, his number is the actual number that he gained.”
Pumphrey was over 100 yards by halftime against Fresno State, moving him past Tomlinson (at TCU from 1997-2000), who has 5,263 yards on the NCAA chart.
Pumphrey comes into Friday night’s Mountain West game against San Jose State with 5,383 career yards. He still is four yards behind LT when the former Chargers great’s 124 postseason yards are included.
But TCU is the one school contacted that observes the NCAA totals.
“If the NCAA officially calls LT with 5,263, that’s what we go by,” said Mark Cohen, TCU’s associate AD for communications. “Otherwise, you feel like you’re fudging it.
“I feel like we’re compelled to stick by what they have. That was the rule then. … We can review it, but my initial thought is this is what the NCAA rule was. It’s just unfortunate.”
In the second half of the season, Pumphrey could approach three more players whose NCAA totals and school totals are different.
USC’s Charles White (1976-79) has 5,598 yards, according to the NCAA. According to the Trojans, White is one of just five players to reach the 6,000-yard milestone.
“We’ve included all of our numbers from every game competed in from Day 1,” said Tim Tessalone, USC’s longtime director of sports information. “All I can tell you is we’re continuing on what we’ve always done. We know what Charlie’s numbers were. How other people want to interpret it is fine with us, too. But his rushing total is 6,245.”
Pitt’s Tony Dorsett (1973-76) has 6,082 yards, according to the NCAA. The Panthers list him with 6,526.
“I’m certain part of the motivation for including those numbers was we wanted a complete snapshot of every game a Pitt player participated in and what his production was in those games,” said E.J. Borghetti, Pitt’s executive associate AD for media relations.
Added Borghetti: “It would probably be a rigorous task but a worthwhile endeavor for the national records to go back and try to include postseason performances.
“As we know, different eras are not alike. It’s not necessarily always apples and apples, but it would be an interesting measuring stick.”
Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne completed his amazing career with the Badgers in 1999, three years before the change in record-keeping.
How about them apples?
The NCAA lists Dayne with 6,397 yards. Wisconsin includes his bowl performances and lists Dayne with 7,125.
“In our view, what we keep is career stats,” said Brian Lucas, Wisconsin’s director of athletic communications. “In our mind, a career is every game you played.”
Either way, Dayne is college football’s all-time leading rusher.
The difference is that Pumphrey, who leads the nation with 1,111 yards, is on pace to pass Dayne’s NCAA figure.
At his present pace, Pumphrey would finish with 2,593 yards (over 14 games), giving him 6,865 yards.
Dayne’s higher figure, however, is likely out of reach.
“It could end up being like the major league home run record,” Lucas said, referring to when the majors expanded from a 154- to 162-game season in 1961. “It’s the same kind of deal where Babe Ruth had fewer games than Roger Maris.”
Adding to the confusion this season is that the NCAA career rushing list goes only 25 players deep. The list compiled by sports-reference.com goes 250 players deep — but its rushing totals include bowl games.
Pumphrey began the season ranked No. 74 all-time, so SDSU officials used the sports-reference numbers. And they listed Dayne at the top of the list with 7,125 yards.
When Pumphrey reached the top 25 in SDSU’s game at South Alabama, the Aztecs switched to the NCAA list.
All of a sudden Dayne was listed at 6,397 yards and players like Dorsett, White and Griffin had their totals adjusted as well.
“We were always going to go by the NCAA as soon as he had enough yardage to appear on their chart,” said Mike May, SDSU’s senior associate AD of communications and media. “We all play in the NCAA, they’ve got the big record book, they send out all the statistical awards and, in our world, they are the authority on it.
“And so we’re going to go by their record book when it favors us and when it doesn’t favor us. That, to us, is certainly the record and that’s why we go with it.”
May recognizes it won’t sit too well with Badgers fans if there’s someone else sitting atop the rushing chart next season. He also knows what it will mean to Aztecs fans if Pumphrey breaks the NCAA record.
“The NCAA will, obviously, recognize Pumphrey’s tremendous accomplishment,” May said. “Wisconsin will continue to recognize the great work that Dayne did while he was there, including bowl totals.
“It would be remarkable next fall if you opened up an NCAA record book and underneath rushing, next to No. 1 was (the name) Donnel Pumphrey.”
Said Pumphrey: “I didn’t even know (that there were two different lists). I don’t really care either way to be honest with you. All the guys (ahead of me) are big names, so just to be in consideration is a big accomplishment to me.”
SDSU head coach Rocky Long isn’t getting caught up in all the record-keeping. As usual, Long’s focus is on the field.
“D.J.’s career, even if it ended right now, is unbelievable,” Long said. “He’s going to be proud of it. Our program’s going to be proud. The school’s going to be proud, no matter how it turns out. …
“No matter which way you (view the records), what he’s done is unbelievable. And it’s fun to watch. It’s fun to see it happen.”
There’s no argument with that.
Career rushing leaders
There is a conflict in the college football career rushing chart because the NCAA did not begin including bowl game statistics until the 2002 season while other resources include all bowl game statistics:
NCAA list sports-references.com list
Ron Dayne, Wisconsin 6,397 1. 7,125 Ron Dayne, Wisconsin
Ricky Williams, Texas 6,279 2. 6,526 Tony Dorsett, Pitt
Tony Dorsett, Pitt 6,082 3. 6,279 Ricky Williams, Texas
DeAngelo Williams, Memphis 6,026 4. 6,245 Charles White, USC
Charles White, USC 5,598 5. 6,026 DeAngelo Williams, Memphis
Travis Prentice, Miami (Ohio) 5,596 6. 5,596 Travis Prentice, Miami (Ohio)
Cedric Benson, Texas 5,540 7. 5,589 Archie Griffin, Ohio State*
D.J. Pumphrey, SDSU 5,383 8. 5,540 Cedric Benson, Texas
Damion Fletcher, So. Miss. 5,302 9. 5,387 LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU
LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU 5,263 10. 5,383 D.J. Pumphrey, SDSU
*Griffin ranks No. 11 on the NCAA list with 5,177 yards