Dec. 27, 2007
Many Clemson fans don’t know much about Dr. Harold Vigodsky. They probably just know the name because he is one of the people play-by-play announcer Pete Yanity credits at the end of football broadcasts as the statistician for the Clemson Tiger Sports Network.
But Harold Vigodsky was more than just a stats man. He had a positive impact on Clemson’s level of professionalism with the media through his interaction with members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, whether it be at a conference meeting or Clemson sporting events. While he was never a full-time employee of my office, it sure seemed like he was. That is why his death at the age of 61 on Thursday, December 27 from a virus that led to internal bleeding was a big loss for the Clemson Sports Information Office.
Harold did not attend Clemson, but no one was a more loyal supporter of the athletic program. He attended Emory University in Atlanta for his undergraduate degree in medicine, then graduated from Pennsylvania Medical School. He returned to South Carolina where he was one of the top optometrists in the state for over 35 years. He was my eye doctorever since I came to Clemson in 1978 and he provided that service for just about everyone who has worked in my office during that time.
How good a doctor was he? For years, he made up the questions for the state board exam for prospective optometrists. I knew that because the week he administered the exam was about the only time he ever missed working a Clemson football or basketball game. I had complete faith in anything he ever said about my eye care. And he was always right.
That was the case when it came to his compilation of statistics and his knowledge of the statistics rules. His ability to catch mistakes on stats or facts is legendary in our office and in the SID profession.
In 1977-78, before I came to Clemson and in the pre-computer days, Harold used to add all the columns of the stats in all the sports after Bob Bradley issued his release. That year, Clemson actually kept basketball playing time to the second. One day late in February the season, then assistant SID Al Adams got a call from Vigodsky stating that he found an error in the minutes played category.
“The playing time total is off by one second on the stats this week,” Vigodsky told Bradley. “But, I figured out where you are off. Leander Anderson should have one more second.”
That may seem a little picky, but Harold had a way of telling you about your mistakes in a polite manner. When he called and started a sentence, “By the way…” you knew there was a correction coming. But you just couldn’t get mad at him because he was just trying to help and make your stats and game notes more accurate. And, he was always right.
He provided the same service for the ACC office and long time media services director Brian Morrison. Over the last 15 years Morrison sent his football and basketball media guide proofs to Vigodsky so he could catch some errors before they were published.
I got smart in that area as well in the early 1980s. After a few calls my first couple of years about basketball boxscore corrections I decided to hire Harold as the chief statistician at courtside. While he was deliberate in his compilation at times, that boxscore always balanced and never had any late changes. He had been our basketball statistician for over 25 years and evened served as the official scorer when regular scorers Larry Nash or Anne Miller could not attend.
Vigodsky broadened his horizons to the NFL in 1995 when the Carolina Panthers played their inaugural season at Clemson. Charley Dayton of the Carolina Panthers brought a stats crew with him from Charlotte for the first two exhibition games that year and I got Harold a job as a backup stats person. After Harold made countless corrections to the stats after each exhibition game, Dayton just made Harold in charge.
Last Saturday, he completed his 13th season in that capacity for the Panthers. By the end of his second year, he was regarded as one of the top experts on NFL statistics interpretations and he normally received calls on Sunday afternoons from around the nation asking him his opinion on how a play was scored. He only missed three NFL games that I know of due to a heart attack a few years ago and I pinch hit for him. It is a tough job because the NFL has so many rules that are different from the college game.
In addition to his love of statistics, he was one of the top collectors of sports artifacts in the upstate. He had a room at his home above the garage that contained every media guide and football program produced in all Clemson sports dating to the 1960s. We always told him that if the Jervey Athletic Center burned down, our office would be up and running the next day, because we would just have to work out of his home in Spartanburg.
But, as I said earlier, Harold’s greatest contribution to our office was his personality and his unofficial representation of the athletic department. Harold would go to the ACC Football Kickoff, the ACC Sportswriters Outing at Grandfather Mountain and ACC Operation Basketball each year to count the ballots for the All-ACC team. While he was there he never met a stranger. When I look back on it, his gentle demeanor was a positive representation of our athletic department. When many of the media left that meeting they had had a positive experience with Harold whether it be a conversation over lunch or a round of golf. A long time friend and admirer of Bob Bradley, Harold knew how to deal with people. Starting this week everyone in our office will have to proof those game notes and stats a little closer. We won’t have Harold getting our back anymore.
Everyone in the Clemson Athletic Department and at Clemson Tiger Sports Properties sends out condolences to Harold’s wife Gail and his children Billy and Amy.
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