The big news in the college basketball world last week was Jack Taylor of Grinnell College scoring 138 points in a game and that broke the record of Clarence ''Bevo'' Francis, who scored 113 points in a college game in 1954.
Since that time the closest to come to Francis' record of 113 were Pete Maravich with 69 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (when he was Lew Alcindor) 61. The highs in the college careers of Larry Bird (49), Michael Jordan (39) and Michael Jordan (31) didn't even come close.
However, those 113 points were Francis' second-high total. In 1953 he scored 116 points in a game when Rio Grande College (pronounced Rye-O, not Ree-O) from Rio Grande, Ohio, defeated Ashland Junior College, 150-85. But because it was against a two-year college, the 116-point mark was not recognized by the NCAA.
The following year, Francis nearly matched that total with ''only'' 113 points in a 134-91 win over Hillsdale College from Hillsdale, Mich., on Feb. 2, 1954. And because Hillsdale was a four-year college, it became an NCAA record which stood until Taylor broke it last week.
Coming into that record-setting game in 1954, Francis was averaging 46 points a game and his 113-point effort came three days after he scored 31 points in an 81-65 win at Buffalo State.
In his next game after scoring 113, Francis had 51 in a win over Anderson College. That was similar to the previous year when he had 61 in a win over Mayo State following his 116-point game.
In contrast, last week Taylor had 21 points following his 138-point game.
The amazing thing about Francis' two games with more than 100 points is they were before the 3-point shot and also before one-and-one free throws.
In Taylor's 138-point game, he made 27 3-pointers. Those are 27 points Francis couldn't have had. When you deduct those 27 points and count the baskets as 2-pointers in the Francis era, Taylor had 111 points.
So does Francis still have the record? Or do you put an asterisk next to it?
In his 113-point game, Francis hit 38 of 74 field goals, 54 percent. I wonder how many of those would have been from 3-point range?
He was even better from the foul line, shooting 82 percent by hitting 37 of 45 and the 37 free throws were a new NCAA record. If the one-and-one rule was in effect (it was adopted the following season), Francis might have had even more points.
To accomplish their high-scoring games, both Taylor and Francis benefitted from unusual strategies.
Last week, Grinnell College used a fast-paced system, similar to loyola Marymount in the 1980. Grinnell wants to put up a shot every 12 seconds and it presses relentlessly on defense hoping for a turnover to get back on offense.
In Rio Grande's game against Hillsdale, Francis had 58 points at halftime it was decided it was the chance for him to surpass 100 points again. So after every basket he made in the second half, Rio Grande immediately fouled a Hillsdale player as soon as he touched the ball. That stopped the clock while the Hillsdale player went to the foul line and it prolonged the game. And that allowed more time for Francis to surpass 100.
Here are some other interesting notes about Taylor and Francis.
Both accomplished their feats for small four-year colleges. Grinnell is located in rural Iowa and has a population of 9,169. Rio Grande is located in rural southern Ohio and in the early 1950s had a whopping population of 203.
Taylor is 5-foot-10 while Francis was 6-9, but he didn't score most of his points on ''bunnies'' inside. He was also a great outside shooter.
On the night Francis scored 113 points, a teammate said, ''From fifteen to eighteen feet out, he never missed.''
In the foreward to the book, Shooting Star: The Bevo Francis Story, the late George Steinbrenner praised Francis. Long before he was the owner of the New York Yankees, Steinbrenner coached the Lockbourne Air Force Base basketball team in Columbus, Ohio, and took on Rio Grande three times. When he saw Francis, he figured the 6-9 opponent would be uncoordinated and noted, ''But once he hit the court, his physical grace dispelled all such notions.''
Steinbrenner added that Francis was adept at driving to the basket and said, ''But it was his jump shot that left you speechless.''
Steinbrenner never forgot Francis. When the American Basketball League was established, Steinbrenner owned the Cleveland Pipers and in the first season of 1962-63 he signed Francis. However, by then Francis was out of condition and hadn't played much competitive basketball. He was cut from the Pipers early in the season after playing 21 minutes in two games and scoring two points on 2 for 5 at the foul line.
Hopefully Taylor's basketball career proceeds better than the one of Francis.
When he scored the 116 points in 1953, Francis became a national phenomenon after an Associated Press story about his feat ran all over the country. Eisenhower's inauguration, the Korean War and the antics of Senator Joe McCarthy took a media backseat to Francis' big game. Francis was featured in Life magazine and the Rio Grande basketball program changed dramatically. In 1952-53, the schedule included teams such as Bliss Business College, Cincinnati Bible Seminary and Ashland JC. In 1953-54, Rio Grande played teams such as Arizona State, Miami (Fla.), Wake Forest and North Carolina State, all on the road.
Francis' coach, Newt Oliver, saw Francis as his ''gravy train'' which he controlled for what he hoped would be a profitable ride. But it didn't happen.
After Francis' sophomore season when he scored 113 points, Oliver signed with the Harlem Globetrotters to coach the Boston Whirlwind, one of the teams the Globetrotters played and defeated all the time. And Oliver took Francis with him.
However, Francis didn't enjoy ''losing'' every game, but it was the only way he could be paid to play basketball because the NBA had a rule at the time that the college class of its players had to have graduated.
After two years with Whirlwind, Francis met that requirement and he was drafted in the third round by the Philadelphia Warriors, who offered him $10,000 for the season. Francis had been making $12,000 with the Whirlwind, so he returned to his home in Eastern Ohio and worked in a steel mill, where he could earn the same or more.
He played a lot of recreational basketball in East Liverpool. Ohio, and on a team called the East Ohio All-Stars. I was living in East Liverpool at that time and probably saw Francis play, but didn't know who he was, or who he had been.
In 1957, former Jamestown High School principal Jim McElrath played against Francis in a tournament in East Liverpool during the Grove City College men's basketball team offseason. McElrath's team won the game, but he recalled that Francis ''was a magnificent shooter.''
At last report, Francis still lives near Wellsville, Ohio, where he played high school basketball.
A final note about Francis. Why was he called Bevo?
During Prohibition, Anheuser Busch produced a soft drink called Bevo that his father liked. He drank so much, his friends called him Bevo. His son was eventually called Little Bevo, the Little was dropped and he became known as Bevo for the rest of his life.
Hopefully, Bevo Francis is never forgotten.