Montel Harris Might Break Ted Brown’s ACC Rushing Record…But Should He?
At today's voting for ACC superlatives at Operation Kickoff, Montel Harris of Boston College was the overwhelming choice for pre-season ACC Player of the Year, as well he should be.
Harris enters the year with 3,600 career rushing yards. He rushed for 1,243 yards last season and if he rushes for 1,003 yards or more this coming year, he'll break Ted Brown's ACC record of 4,602 that's stood for nearly 35 years.
I've got nothing against Harris as a player or a person. By all accounts he's a fine young man and would be a fine person to claim that record from Brown.
But as a State fan and someone proud of our football tradition, it would irk me a bit if Harris were to supplant Brown in the record books, and here's why:
Prior to 2002, the NCAA did not count bowl game yardage as part of a player's career rushing totals. That's important to note, given Ted Brown rushed for 399 yards in three bowl games (1975, 1977, 1978). Harris, by comparison, has rushed for 170 yards in two bowl games (2008, 2009, but did not play in 2010 due to injury).
It might seem tempting to award the record based on per-game rushing average, but I don't know if basing it on per-game average is necessarily fair. Even though teams play more games now than they did back in the 70's, ALL of the NCAA records over the last few decades have been subject to the evolution of the game, not just personal yardage records like Brown's.
It therefore seems more fair to try and compare–as close as possible–apples to apples when it comes to this matter by focusing on the bowl games.
In doing so, there are one of two ways to go about leveling the playing field:
One, you can hold Harris to the same standard as Brown and disregard his bowl game yardage. His 3,600 yards would drop to 3,430 yards (3600 – 170), leaving him 1,172 behind Brown's current record.
The other way would be to bring Brown's records current by adding in his 399 yards, boosting his record to 5,001, leaving Harris 1,401 yards behind Brown's adjusted numbers.
Given the choice, I suppose I'm inclined to vote for the latter rather than the former–not because it benefits Brown, but because it accurately represents events that occurred on the field. I see no reason why–if stats were kept and deemed official at the time–they shouldn't be deemed to be "real" stats worthy of inclusion in the record books. The bowl games back then weren't treated like exhibitions or glorified practice sessions…they were games just as hard-fought as any other on both teams' schedules that year.
As such, why not count the yards Brown amassed? The NCAA apparently got that message nine years ago, so it seems to me AND to the record keepers that bowl game yardage is just as valid as regular-season yardage. Further, it seems a simple thing to merely re-write the record books retroactively where these numbers can be reasonable and reliably verified.
If Harris racks up 1,402 yards this season on the ground–and it's quite possible he will–then all anyone can do is tip their cap to Montel and affirm him as the league's best rusher of all time.
But should Harris wind up with somewhere between 1,003 and 1,172 regular season yards, or between 1,003 and 1,401 full season yards, I know there will be plenty of State fans who will be the first to say–in response to Brown being supplanted–"Yeahhhhhhh….but…"