After 117 consecutive losses and five complete seasons with no victories, Rutgers-Camden is fodder for Trivial Pursuit games.
"We're only a trivia question now!" freshman Dawan Boxley yelled as he celebrated with teammates after Rutgers-Camden snapped the nation's longest college basketball losing streak Tuesday night by defeating Bloomfield College 77-72.The Division III Pioneers' last previous victory came on Jan. 18, 1992 when they defeated Ramapo College 74-73.
Rutgers-Camden is now 1-9 this season, and Bloomfield is 5-11. Rutgers-Camden went 0-24 last season, their fifth straight without a victory, and its losing streak was 70 more games than the longest previous drought.
The Pioneers could have won a game in the 1994-95 season on a technicality after the New Jersey Athletic Conference ruled that Rowan College used an ineligible player and would have to forfeit its 85-56 win.
Instead of taking the handout, then-coach Wilbur "Pony" Wilson decided to keep Camden's record winless because he didn't want a "gift."
"I'd rather beat a team on the court," Wilson said after the NJAC's judgment. "It was not my decision; it was the conference's decision."
"It's just the beginning. We've been through some tough times," Rutgers-Camden coach Ray Pace said following Tuesday night's win.
"I knew it was just a matter of time, and I don't want any credit for this," he said. "It was all the players."
Boxley was truly optimistic.
"We're on a one-game winning streak," he said.
Rutgers-Camden led 40-36 at halftime and extended the margin to 11 with 16:13. But Bloomfield scored 10 straight points to close to 54-53 with 11:15 remaining.
The two teams exchanged baskets until the Pioneers led 69-66 with a little more than two minutes left. As the final buzzer sounded, senior Craig Bell, who had 14 points, held the ball before about 100 spectators poured onto the court and piled onto the players.
James Washington Jr. scored 21 points and Vincent Kennedy had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Pioneers.
Washington's father, James Sr., immediately called his wife after the game.
"They finally won a game, baby," he said.
"You watch him get so close and you think it's only a matter of time, and now they've done it," the elder Washington said after hanging up the phone.
Bell was optimistic the team's winning streak would continue.
"This is not it. We hope to keep this going," Bell said. "I want to tell the guys not to think this is all we need to win.
Bell said the players would most likely give the game ball to Pace.
After the game, Bloomfield coach Mike Mancino told his players: "If this is the worst thing that happens to you in your life, you've got a pretty good life. It's only basketball."
Another conference member - from Rutgers-Newark held the previous losing-streak record: 47 straight defeats during the 1983 through 1985 seasons.
Wilson returned as coach last season, but stepped down in January, citing health problems. He lost 50 pounds and his wife got worried when he would yell out the names of his players in his sleep.
In 18-plus years, Wilson had a record of 187-273 with Camden. He led the Pioneers to NAIA District 31 championships in 1972 and 1976.
The losses continued under Pace, an assistant who replaced Wilson as head coach. Pace played for Rutgers in the 1970s, scoring more than 1,000 points in two seasons.
The situation got so bad that university provost Walter K. Gordon, after calling the situation "demoralizing" and a "lost cause," announced that the school was eliminating the program.
A few days later, he changed his mind - with a little push from student leaders and alumni - and reinstated the program.
Gordon said one of the reasons he decided to eliminate the program was that the losing team received more notoriety than the academic program at Rutgers-Camden. The college has about 4,900 students.