Aug. 18, 2003
Brown football: Brown is digging deep to get to the best
BY MIKE SZOSTAK Journal Sports Writer
PROVIDENCE -- James Perry passed for 9,294 yards -- that's 5.28 miles, folks -- and an Ivy League championship as Brown's starting quarterback in 1997, 1998 and 1999. Among his numerous honors was the 1999 Bulger Lowe Award as New England's best offensive player.
Frank Finney was a quarterback at Brown on three winning teams in the 1950s. As a senior, he won the 1958 Bulger Lowe Award as the best overall player in New England.
Bob Hall, another outstanding quarterback, completed 135 passes for a 2-7 team in 1965 and was 10th in the nation in total offense. He won the Bulger Lowe Award, in his day given to only one player, not to an offensive player and a defensive player as is the case today. Hall's passing record stood for 30 years.
So, who is the best quarterback in Brown football history? Possibly Bill Sprackling, a triple threat as a passer, runner and kicker, Brown's only three-time All-American and one of two Brown players in the National Football Hall of Fame.
Bill Sprackling? If you haven't heard of him, you're forgiven. He played in 1908-11. He threw the first touchdown pass in Brown history, a 40-yarder to Spike Dennie in 1908, two years after the forward pass was legalized.
Remembering, or learning about, forgotten greats such as Sprackling will be one of the challenges and thrills for voters selecting Brown's 125th Anniversary Football Team. Candidates for the 50 slots on the all-time team are the 295 players on 11 All-Decade teams being announced today. Among them are National Hall of Famers, Brown Hall of Famers, All-Americans, All-Ivies and NFL All-Pros.
Voting for the All-Decade teams, which took two months, created quite a stir among the 500 football alumni who cast ballots. Paring the list to 22 former stars on offense, 22 on defense and 6 on special teams is certain to spark further debate and controversy.
The 125th Anniversary Team will be announced and honored at a Nov. 1 dinner at the Westin Hotel.
"This has been a lot of work but also a lot of fun," said Ron Dalgliesh, executive director of the Brown Sports Foundation and a Brown lineman from 1988 to 1991.
"Sometimes you go around day-to-day and year-to-year, and then you realize that what makes this place so special is that we have played football here for 125 years."
Dalgliesh sat on a small committee that established ground rules for determining the All-Decade and 125th Anniversary Teams. Only football alumni could vote for the All-Decade teams and only in the decade in which they played. The exception was made for the early teams, which were selected by several members of the committee, though a few alums from the 1930s cast ballots. Players were grouped according to the last season they played. For example, quarterback Larry Carbone (Class of 1981) is listed with the 1980s team because his third and final season was 1980.
Starting with the 1940s, each team has 11 players on offense, 11 on defense, 3 on special teams and the next 5 highest vote-getters regardless of position. The 1990s team has 36 players because it includes teams through the 2002 season.
The early decades have fewer than 30 players because squads were smaller, players went both ways and positions were less specific.
The All-Decade teams represent a who's who of Brown football from its first game at Amherst on Nov. 13, 1878, a 4-0 loss, through the last game of the 2002 season against Columbia, a 35-28 win. Picking the Nifty Fifty won't be easy.
Consider the possibilities at halfback/tailback. Michael Malan (1999-01) holds the career rushing (3,266) and scoring (252 points) records and should be a lock for one of the slots. Marquis Jessie, the only other runner in Brown history with 3,000 yards (3,098) might be in jeopardy because he played for four years (1993-96) and never rushed for 1,000 yards in a season. Jamie Potkul (1983-85) ran for 2,159 yards, but his first two seasons were losers.
Then there's Dave Fultz, whose career scoring (174) and touchdowns (31) records set from 1894 to 1897 lasted for a century. And Gus Russ, whose 90 points in 1905 and 30 points against Vermont that year are still Brown records. And Fritz Pollard, Brown's other National Football Hall of Famer as a player, was an All-American, college football's first black superstar, a participant in the first official Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1916, against Washington State. He was also the leader of the 1916 team that swept Harvard and Yale for the first time en route to an 8-1 finish, thanks in part to his 12 touchdowns.
There's Jackson Keefer, an All-America halfback in 1924 and 1925 who scored a touchdown in the last game played on Andrews Field on Camp Street in Providence. And Irving "Shine" Hall, an honorable mention All-American in 1937-38 who scored 69 points as a senior. And Bob Margarita, the two-time honorable mention All-American whose 233 yards against Columbia in 1942 are fourth on Brown's all-time list for a single game. And Fred Kozak, whose 4.85 yards-per-carry average in 1947-49 is fifth on the career list. And Kevin Slattery, who rushed for 1,386 yards in 1973-75, John Anderson's first three years as coach. And Paul Fichiera, whose 1,403 yards in 1993-95 bridged the Mickey Kwiatkowski and Mark Whipple eras.
Wide receiver will be another position to watch. Sean Morey (1995-98), the only Brown player whose number has been retired, is a lock with 3,850 receiving yards, the school record, and 251 catches, third on the list. Stephen Campbell (1997-2000), who holds the record of 305 receptions and is second in yards with 3,555, also should make the cut.
Other contenders include Chas Gessner (1999-02) with 294 catches for 3,408 yards; Bob Farnham (1974-76) with 108 catches for 1,390 yards; Mark Farnham (1977-79) with 92 for 1,334; Chip Regine (1970-72) with 93 catches for 1,293 yards on teams than won a total of three games; and John Parry (1962-64) with 96 receptions was the best receiver of his decade.
Joe Paterno (1947-49), co-captain of the 1949 team that went 8-1, should receive serious consideration at defensive back. He still holds the career record for interceptions with 14. Greg Parker (1993-96) tied it in his fourth varsity season. Walt Pastuszak (1948-50) should also make it. He intercepted 13 passes, and his record of five interceptions against URI in 1949 still stands.
Voters will have to brush up on their history so they don't shortchange players from the great 1932 team, captained by Bill Gilbane, whose family owned a construction company in Providence. That team took a 7-0 record into its Thanksgiving Day finale against unbeaten, untied and unscored upon Colgate and lost 21-0 before a record crowd of 33,000 at Brown Stadium. Or the 1926 "Iron Men," who shut out Yale, Dartmouth, Norwich and Harvard on consecutive weeks and finished 9-0-1, a season-ending 10-10 tie against Colgate spoiling a perfect record.
The All-Decade teams include brothers Bill and Tom Gilbane (1933), defensive backs Joe and George Paterno (1950), and wide receivers Bob (1977), Mark (1980) and Paul (1985) Farnham. The Gilbanes' nephew, fullback Paul Choquette, Jr. (1960), perhaps the best fullback in Brown history, and his son, tight end Paul Choquette III (1997) made it, as did offensive lineman Lou Regine (1948) and his son, wide receiver Chip Regine (1973).
Also among the best are a former Rhode Island governor, Phil Noel (1954), a defensive lineman, and the current governor, Don Carcieri (1965), a defensive back. Tackle Paul Mackesey (1932) and receivers Bob Seiple (1965) and John Parry (1965) became Brown athletics directors.
Also on the roster are Brown players who made the pros. Most prominent among them are defensive lineman Don Colo (1950), who logged nine NFL seasons with Baltimore, New York, Dallas and Cleveland, and All-Pro tight end Steve Jordan, who spent 13 years with the Minnesota Vikings.
The executive committee of the Brown Football Association plans to call and congratulate each living member of the All-Decade Teams.
"As the votes came out, we worried about this being a popularity contest and that we'd have to argue that a lot of people on there shouldn't be," Dalgliesh said. "I'm pleased to see that the voting reflected on very good players. Almost all of the players selected are in the Brown Hall of Fame. We had some great players who played on some great teams here."
Voting for the all-time team is open to the public and will start tomorrow online (www.brownbears.com). The site also contains numerous records and accomplishments of the All-Decade players. All Brown football alums, supporters of Brown athletics and Brown alumni groups will receive ballots in the mail. Ballots will be available at Brown's first home game, Oct. 4 against URI, after which voting will close. Fans who want a ballot or other information can call the Brown Sports Foundation 125th Anniversary Hotline at (401) 863-9812. The 125th Anniversary Dinner is also open to the public and is expected to draw 500 people. Tickets are $125 each.