When folks from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) reached out to Northwestern football coach Kyle Richardson earlier this year seeking Dupree Hart’s career receiving statistics, it set Richardson’s wheels spinning.
Hart, the prolific pass-catching senior who already has 306 career receptions, can threaten several national records with a productive final high school football season this fall. When Richardson looked up the NFHS national record book to see how many catches Hart would need to break the career catches record of 445, he realized Hart’s 306 catches weren’t in the book, even though that total would currently rank him fifth all-time nationally.
A number of other Trojans records weren’t listed.
Operating under Richardson’s high-powered offense since 2007, the Trojans have cranked out offensive stats that blow away most prep football programs in the country. But who would know?
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Northwestern’s accomplishments are barely recognized in the record books of the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL), and not at all in the NFHS book.
Northwestern has 12 state records that are absent from the state record book and 41 individual and team records that should be in the national book.
Why haven’t the accomplishments of Justin Worley, Mason Rudolph, Robert Joseph, Dupree Hart, Sully Foy and others been penned into history?
“The schools don’t turn it in to me,” said SCHSL’s Jan Hogan.
Hogan pointed to a section on the SCHSL website called “AD Notebook,” which contains the forms an athletics director would need. The record book form is in that section.
“If they don’t send that in to me, then I don’t put it in the book,” Hogan said.
Regarding Northwestern particularly, Hogan said, “if it’s not in there, I doubt I have it.”
She thumbed through a folder while on the phone.
A Legg up
If a high school’s football record doesn’t make the state book, it almost certainly doesn’t end up in Chris Boone’s NFHS record book.
Boone, a stat nerd, former college athletics sports information assistant and the editor of the national record book, says he gets about two or three emails a week alerting him to someone or something missing in the record book.
“We’re completely dependent on state associations to not only alert us of those, but to verify them as well,” he said. “So, when I get those emails, there’s still a process to go through for sure.”
In some cases, Boone will get the process moving, sending the person who emailed a records application to fill out and send to the state association for verification.
Boone cited Michigan, Ohio and Iowa as proactive record-keeping state associations. All of those organizations have a person on staff who tracks records as part of their job description. Bud Legg, who is in charge of Iowa’s record-keeping, said he updates his state’s record books for all sports a minimum of two times per year, usually in August and December.
What’s required to verify a record depends on the individual state association. Richardson supplied The Herald with the Trojans’ complete offensive stats dating to the 2007 season. That wasn’t necessary for South Carolina. The word of the school’s athletics director is all Hogan needs as verification. She’s also completely reliant on the schools to submit their records.
“We just don’t have the manpower to keep up with 209 schools’ records,” said Hogan. “It’s a full-time job.”
The South Carolina record book appears to have last been updated after the 2009 season.
Boone is a big fan of Legg. Hired in 2001 by the Iowa High School Athletic Association, Legg, a former journalist, teacher and school administrator, works with the media and spends large amounts of time on maintaining his seemingly endless state record books online.
“The thing I want to stress is that in Iowa we’ve had an awful lot of help from our coaches and from the media,” said Legg, who used to save the Des Moines Register’s All-State baseball team every year as a kid. “And we’re fortunate because high school athletics is a high priority in Iowa, mainly because the absence of a lot of professional sports.”
Folks such as Legg help Boone keep the national record book as updated as possible. Still, that doesn’t mean the accomplishments of every school across the country get etched into eternity.
“We know there’s holes,” Boone said. “There’s no way we’re going to have a 100 percent correct record book without a reporting system of stats, which is not probable or likely. We may not have all the 7, 8, 9, 10s in the ranks, but what we try to do is we try to get the tops. There’s holes, but I think overall, it’s a pretty comprehensive record book.”
Hogan said most of the calls she gets about the SCHSL record book are either from the ancient past – “Hey, I was on that 1945 football team and you have the wrong team winning that year” – or members of the media checking on the schools they cover.
One such recent call came from The Herald, asking about the Northwestern records. Richardson maintains he has submitted the records on multiple occasions, including in-person at least once. He has copies of faxes as corroboration. But it doesn’t matter why the records aren’t in the books, only that they’re not.
“Our kids don’t get caught up in records; all they want to do is win the state championship, which is the ultimate goal,” Richardson said. “But when somebody is from the lower state, or the upper state or a different state, and they come across that and see Northwestern’s name in all the different spots, it’s great promotion for Northwestern, it’s great promotion for Rock Hill School District Three, and from a national standpoint, it’s great promotion for the state of South Carolina.”
Five minutes, 15 years, or 50 years ago
Even more than the program, though, the records are about the kids. Worley, Rudolph, and even Hart, have and will go on to college sports, to bigger things athletically. But for Trojans such as Joseph and Foy, whose football careers peaked in high school, having a place in the state and national record books is even more special.
“It’s good for those kids’ names, they worked their tails off,” Richardson said. “Those catches don’t come easy, those yards don’t come easy, there’s a lot of year-round hard work and effort that goes into it and they deserve to have their name in those books.”
Legg cited one more positive quality of record books, “It provides, for at least the kids and coaches, a connection from the past with the present. It isn’t just a here-and-now thing; there is so much history involved in each of those sports, whether we’re talking about Iowa, South Carolina, whatever, that that’s a valuable connection for every community, and for every sport.”
All of those motivate Richardson to collect his stacks of paper and proof of faxes, and submit the records again, starting with the SCHSL in Columbia. As Legg reminded, “This is all about kids. We want to see them, whether it was 5 minutes ago, 15 years ago or 50 years ago, we want to see them recognized.”