By Philip Sikes || Special to Clemson Athletics
Monday was a special day for Clemson Football. The coaches, staff and student-athletes that made up the 2016 National Championship team were honored in a ceremony at The White House.
Noticeably absent among Clemson’s large contingent was someone instrumental to the program. No, he hasn’t thrown a single pass or scored a touchdown for the Tigers. But he’s been documenting all that and more since September 1978.
And on Monday, in a (fittingly) less-publicized ceremony some 865 miles south of Washington, D.C., football communications director Tim Bourret was enshrined among the 2017 Hall of Fame class for the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) at the organization’s annual convention in Orlando, Fla.
A couple of tables worth of colleagues filled the World Center Marriott as Tim joined his two mentors — Notre Dame’s Roger Valdiserri and Clemson great Bob Bradley — to have the highest honor bestowed on him in the sports communications industry.
Listening to Tim talk, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to our two stories. He grew up listening to Notre Dame football games on the radio with his father. When I was young, I tuned in to Clemson basketball broadcasts to listen to Jim Phillips and Tim on the radio call when fewer games were televised.
As a student at Notre Dame, he had no idea a sports information office existed. The same was true of me as a college senior, even though I had heard Tim on the radio for years. When he guest lectured PRTM 453, a course titled ‘Sports Information & Event Management,’ I was hooked.
On Monday, he recalled a story in which his father had a chance meeting over the summer with Valdiserri, Notre Dame’s sports information director. Tim followed by writing a letter to him, saying he would work in his office for free. After Tim had lectured my class, I sent him countless emails begging to complete my 400-hour unpaid internship under his watch. What began as a summer job and introduction to the sports information industry turned in to a wonderful 15-year stay in collegiate athletics.
One of my favorite memories of my time in Clemson Athletics came in 2008, when our men’s basketball team broke a 10-year NCAA Tournament drought. From a youngster who dreamed of analyzing a Clemson basketball game on the air, I was paired next to the man I’d grown up listening to on the radio in an important road tilt at Maryland. Tim and I described the action as the Tigers overcame a 20-point deficit in the second half to win and all but bust down the door to the Big Dance.
Tim’s loyalty is the one thing that I’ll always think of first when people ask me about him.
In 2005, after just one year of full-time experience, he promoted me to sports information director for men’s basketball at the age of 25. Looking back, I was too young for all that came with it at the time, but that showed his belief in me and how he empowered those around him to do their jobs. He had that same effect on so many folks around the country, many of whom were in attendance at Monday’s ceremony.
Perhaps best known for his nuggets of information — “Bourret stats” as they’ve become known — there are so many that come to mind. My favorite came in 2007 after we had just lost a tough road game to Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Vernon Hamilton made a layup with five seconds left, stole the ensuing inbounds pass and sank a three to tie the game. But in what became quickly known as the “clock game,” Duke was awarded the ball after a controversial stoppage with 4.4 seconds to go. Apparently it only took Vernon a total of 0.6 seconds to steal it, check his feet to make sure he was behind the three-point arc, and gather to shoot the tying three.
Leave it to Tim to poke a little fun at the clock mismanagement, yet also try and draw context to Vernon’s scoring barrage. Looking back through his game notes for the following contest, he wrote “If Hamilton kept his scoring pace of five points every 0.6 seconds for an entire 40-minute game, he would have scored over 20,000 points and passed Pete Maravich’s all-time NCAA scoring mark of 3,667 by the 12:40 mark of the first half.”
The last two years were truly special, sharing a seat next to him in football press boxes around the country as the Tigers compiled a 28-2 record and returned national championship glory to Clemson. It was easy to see how much the championship meant to him.
It was even easier to see how much he meant to people. When we walked in a press box together, everyone knew him and spoke to him, a testament to his No. 1 rule of building credibility with members of the media.
But that’s Tim, a Hall of Fame person as well. On a trip to Kentucky a couple of years ago, he went to the Louisville Slugger baseball factory and customized wooden bats for my two sons. I’ll never forget that.
When Tim was asked by the event emcee who he’d like to thank, he singled out two student workers — David McGrew and Cricket Yates — who were at Clemson in 1978, his first year as an assistant SID. They had surprised him in Orlando the night before, and were seated at his tables Monday.
While there aren’t many reasons to miss a potential trip to The White House, Monday’s ceremony was on the short list for Tim. And it was the first question asked of him after receiving his Hall of Fame plaque, whether or not he missed being in D.C. with the rest of the National Championship football party.
“I had a choice,” he said. “But I wanted to be here.”
The room roared to an applause.
Have I mentioned the word loyalty?
I’m indebted to Clemson Athletics for allowing me to travel to Orlando for Monday’s wonderful ceremony. I think I speak on behalf of all the former student assistants and employees who worked under Tim when I say congratulations, you truly deserve this honor.
February 17, 2019