Lies, damn lies and the NCAA all-time* rushing list

Donnel Pumphrey is awesome. He might–MIGHT–even be the best running back in San Diego State history, depending on how you want to quantify best. That’s obviously a major statement and one to be hotly debated.

But as D.J. continues rolling up yardage, adding to his school record and rising into the top 10 of the all-time NCAA rushing list, there’s suddenly a weird discrepancy and a bunch of asterisks lurking in the numbers.


This list is from Sports Reference, which in my experience and by all appearances is a reliable and well-managed resource. The asterisks seem redundant and omit only the legendary Travis Prentice, who never played in a bowl with Miami of Ohio (despite their going 10-1 in 1998, jeez).

So Donnel is up to No. 10 on the career rushing list, just four yards behind local legend and likely first-ballot hall of famer LaDainian Tomlinson. That’s amazing! Except wait what


Eighth? Are Yahoo and the Associated Press wrong? Officially, no. Technically and logically, yes.

This came up last night mid-Fresno game when SDSU Assistant AD Jamie McConeghy tweeted that D.J. had just passed L.T. and moved into 10th on the all-time list. That sounded…off, so after checking around the internet, scratching my head and doing the math, I asked Jamie to clarify.

McConeghy agreed and said that all yards should be counted, duh. Sports Reference explains the variance thus:


The goal of any good database should be to include all relevant data, but S-R would also like to reflect the official NCAA record. For individual players they’ve left the bowl numbers in, demonstrating just how big a discrepancy this pre-2002 thing is.

Ron Dayne, the NCAA all-time leading rusher by either measurement, ran for 6,397 official yards on 1,115 official carries. Wisconsin played in bowls every year from 1996-99, and Dayne rushed for 728 yards on 105 carries in the Copper Bowl, the Outback Bowl and two Rose Bowls. Unofficially.

That’s crazy! And stupid.* And a bit of a problem.

The Aztecs have at least six games left, and probably will play eight (MW championship + bowl game). Pumphrey has 1,111 rushing yards in six games for a 185 per-game average. If he averages 185 over eight more games he would finish with 2,591 yards on the season and 6,863 career rushing yards.

That would blow away the official rushing record of 6,397 but still be 2nd on the all-time list to Dayne’s actual, legit total of 7,125.

Pumphrey leads all FBS rushers heading into today’s games. 2,500 yards would almost certainly win the rushing title and have to put him in the front row at the Heisman Trophy presentation. But the answer to this:

…could be that the committee excuses their East Coast bias by rationalizing that because he gets his bowl numbers counted and Dayne doesn’t, Pumphrey didn’t really break the record.

No worries! D.J. just needs to put up 2,763 rushing yards this season to be the legit all-time leading rusher and the Heisman is his. Definitely.

*The official NCAA list also omits Marshall Faulk’s 157 yards on 30 carries in the ’91 Freedom Bowl.

Author: lemonverbena

Californian/Washingtonian, co-editor of Kabeer Thirty.


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