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By Jerry Reilly
Fredonia State men’s basketball scorekeeper Jim Polvino (in white).
Fredonia State men’s basketball scorekeeper Jim Polvino has been at it so long that he used to figure out shooting percentages with a slide rule.
“Hey, why not?” he said. “I was a science teacher.”
Fredonia State honored the man who’s been tracking the numbers at Blue Devil games since 1961 on Feb. 5 with a plaque recognizing him as one of the longest-tenured scorekeepers at an NCAA school.
“I just love basketball,” said the man who has scored more than 500 games – and those are just the home contests – in half a century.
Polvino’s association with the school began when he was a high school senior dating the daughter of Fredonia head coach Bill Ludwig, who asked Polvino to serve as the official scorekeeper.
“I think it was his way to keep an eye on me,” Polvino said.
Over the years, Polvino has served as the official scorer for the SUNYAC postseason tournament and as the official scorer for Fredonia State baseball. He also has filled in on some Fredonia women’s basketball games, as he did the very weekend he was honored.
A 1967 Fredonia State graduate, Polvino majored in geosciences and is a retired earth science teacher of 29 years. Since 1995, he has worked at the Cassadaga Job Corps – operated by Career System Development Corp. for the U.S. Department of Labor – as the recreation director, where among other duties he organizes basketball games and tournaments.
Polvino said one of his favorite memories was a road game years ago when a Fredonia player was undercut as he drove to the hoop. To cushion his fall, the player grabbed the rim and bent it.
“That was before they had extra baskets in gyms,” Polvino said. “They got a ladder and tried to fix it, but we had to play the rest of the game with a bent rim.”
Perhaps his least-revered moment came in a 113-112 season-ending loss to SUNY Geneseo in the 1989 conference tournament. A play occurred right in front of the scorer’s table that went Geneseo’s way. Polvino was convinced the official should have blown his whistle.
“You gotta make that call,” Polvino shouted to the ref.
“I’m not going to decide the game,” the official replied.
“You just did,” Polvino said.
As unique as Polvino might be at Fredonia State, a search to see where his tenure ranked revealed that many schools have somebody like him.
St. Michael’s SID Seth Cole said Cliff Breiner is in his 41st year of working the table there. Andy Walter at Bates said Leigh Campbell has done the scorebook for the men’s team since 1960-61, but not every game. He’s on a current roll, though, having kept score continuously from 1973-74 to the present.
It’s not just scorekeepers, either.
Muskingum SID Tom Caudill responded with news of Ron Vessells, who for the past 58 seasons has run the McConagha Stadium clock at Muskie football games.
Tom Fick at Wisconsin-Whitewater reported on multi-faceted Irv Madsen, who has served the athletics department there for 53 years in addition to being an admissions counselor and later a director of admissions.
Madsen began as a student manager for the football team. Since graduation, he has done the PA at football games (which he continues to do) and at men’s basketball games and has filled in at some women’s contests, too.
Madsen even coached the softball team for 11 years, posting an overall record of 264-106-2, which ranks 12th by percentage in Division III softball history. Madsen’s teams won two Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships and earned eight AIAW or NCAA tournament bids. His 1996 team was runner-up in the NCAA championship.
Mike Stagnitta, the SID at Catholic, reported on the Cal Ripken of his generation – 86-year-old Franny Murray – who started working at the school during the Truman administration. He has worked in the athletics department since 1947 in a number of capacities, including as team manager and SID. He’s now the equipment manager. During all this time he has not missed a single home basketball game.
Then there’s Richard Boland at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who SID Kevin Beattie said showed up for a sold-out hockey game in 1960, was pressed into service selling concessions, and hasn’t left. His story was chronicled in the Albany Times-Union.
Boland, who now operates the lights at the arena, has been there so long that the coach of Northeastern came through Houston Field House recently and noticed Boland, saying, “Are you still here? I played for Northeastern when you were here.”
Franny Murray (right).
The newspaper described how Boland had just left college and started a job with the state when he showed up for a game against St. Lawrence in December 1960 and realized it was sold out. A friend who worked in food service pulled him in and said, “Want to work?” Boland was introduced to the concessions manager and was wearing an apron by the second period.
The school later put him to work pinning nets and resurfacing ice (in the pre-Zamboni days). He retired from his regular job at the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance in 1996, but now, at age 73, he has no plans to leave his “post.”
People like Polvino at Fredonia State, Boland at RPI, Murray at Catholic and Madsen at Whitewater provide the support that schools rely on to make athletics the best it can be for their student-athletes.
It also goes to show that the attraction of intercollegiate athletics, both for participants as well as that army of staffers and volunteers, can be hard to shake loose.
Jerry Reilly is the sports information director at Fredonia State.