Film Saves Record That Got Away : College Football: A statistician's error gives Cal State Fullerton's Mike Pringle share of NCAA rushing record that he thought he had lost when Coach Gene Murphy sidelined him.


Coach Gene Murphy of Cal State Fullerton says now that he made a mistake Saturday by not giving Mike Pringle a chance to break the national single-game rushing record.

But Fullerton officials found another mistake Monday--a five-yard statistician's error that, when corrected, gave Pringle a share of the record anyway.

Murphy kept Pringle on the sidelines in the final minute of Fullerton's 45-10 victory over New Mexico State Saturday, choosing to give reserves the playing time he had promised them, rather than give Pringle a chance to get the six yards he needed to break the record of 357 yards set by Washington State's Rueben Mayes against Oregon in 1984.

But in a routine review of game statistics Sunday night, Mel Franks, Fullerton's sports information director, noticed a five-yard discrepancy between the play-by-play and the tabulation kept by official statistician Dean Lohuis. Fullerton reviewed game films Monday and found a five-yard error.

"It's an embarrassing situation," Franks said. "But we'd rather be embarrassed than Mike Pringle not have his yards."

The NCAA has been informed of the revision, and will list Pringle as co-holder of the record, said Jim Wright, NCAA assistant director of communications.

The error occurred on a third-down play at the end of the third quarter. The play began at the Fullerton 41-yard line, and after Pringle's carry, the film shows the ball at the 43. But Lohuis' records indicate he mistook the 43 for the 38, shorting Pringle five yards.

Pringle, who had borrowed the game films himself Sunday night to watch them but did not catch the error, learned Monday afternoon that he had tied the record after all.

"I feel good about it," said Pringle, who leads the nation in all-purpose running and is second in rushing to Florida's Emmitt Smith with 148.9 yards a game. "It's not the same high I would have felt on the field, not the same excitement. I'm pleased. Now I know my name will be in the record book."

With the correction giving Pringle a share of the record, some people are asking why Fullerton can't find another yard to give him the record outright.

But Franks said Fullerton was only correcting a mathematical error, and would not question any issues of judgment.

"We're not going to mess around and look for a yard," Franks said.

Lohuis, an accountant and high school football official, said he was glad the error had been discovered.

"It doesn't bother me," he said. "You want things right. Everybody does make mistakes."

Murphy spent part of Monday conducting more interviews on his decision, one that drew television news crews to the offices of a football program that struggles for recognition and drew only 3,000 fans to its game Saturday.

"If I had known it would cause such upheaval and furor, I'd have let him get the six yards," Murphy said.

Murphy had kept Pringle in a runaway game well into the fourth quarter, trying to let him get the school record of 301 yards and all the while promising the backups they would play as soon as Pringle got the record.

But when Pringle finally broke the record, he did it on a 67-yard run, shattering Obie Graves' school record and ending up an apparent five yards shy of tying the NCAA record when he was pulled down five yards short of the goal line.

Murphy took him out, and never sent him back in.

"At the moment, at the time, I was personally caught up in the emotion of wanting to make the substitutions," Murphy said. "Unless you've been in coaching, you never know what it is like to watch those kids practice and never get to play. . . . I should have let Mike Pringle get the six yards. I apologize. I'm sorry."

Murphy regretted his decision Sunday and made apologetic phone calls, first to Pringle's mother, Annie Pringle, and then to Mike, who had grown more unhappy with the decision the more he considered it.

"I said after the game it would probably hit me later, and it did," Pringle said. "It did. . . . I was kind of bitter late Saturday, and all day Sunday."

As the knowledge that he shared a national record set in Monday, Pringle thought back to Saturday's game, when he stood on the sidelines waiting to go back in. He had stood there, planning to get the record, and planning to hang on tight to the game ball.

"It would have been nice to be able to run off the field carrying the ball," Pringle said Monday. "Now it's, 'Where's the ball?' "


A look at the top 10 single-game rushing performances in NCAA Division I-A history.

Player School Yds Mike Pringle CS Fullerton 357 Rueben Mayes Washington St. 357 Eddie Lee Ivery Georgia Tech 356 Eric Allen Michigan State 350 Paul Palmer Temple 349 Ricky Bell USC 347 Ron Johnson Michigan 347 Tony Jeffery Texas Christian 343 Roosevelt Leaks Texas 342 Charlie Davis Colorado 342

Source: NCAA Records


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