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Plenty to choose from when talking about Flash all-time wins

When Saint Francis opened its 2020-21 basketball season with a shocking 80-70 upset at Pitt, my immediate reaction was to call the victory the best of Rob Krimmel’s nine-year tenure.

But where did it rank in annals of the Red Flash program?

Though its place on the national landscape has not been continuous, certainly with the sustained NIT success in the 1950s and the trip to the NCAA Tournament in 1991, Saint Francis has a proud history with decorated players and an impressive amount of notable wins.

If you asked me the top victories in Penn State football history, I could tick them off pretty quickly — Miami in 1987, Georgia in 1983 at 1-2 with your order choice of Pitt in 1981, Ohio State in 2016 and Wisconsin in 2016 completing the top five.

Saint Francis basketball? Though I covered teams coached by Dave Magarity, Kevin Porter, Jim Baron, Tom McConnell, Bobby Jones and kept tabs on the program when it was guided by Don Friday and Rob Krimmel, I wanted to gather a more collective opinion.

So thank you to our esteemed panel — past Saint Francis sports information directors Bob Moore, Kevin Southard and Pat Farabaugh and media members Bernie Jubeck and Cory Giger, who joined me in this fun and interesting exercise.

As with almost any poll, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and our panel reflected that.

How do you weigh a win, for example, against a Final Four team — North Carolina Charlotte (UNCC) in 1977 — with a 1955 NIT quarterfinal win over a team (Holy Cross) led by a future NBA Hall of Famer (Tom Heinsohn) with wins that paved the way to the school’s only conference championship and NCAA trip?

Some favored the storied past and some favored more current success but all included victories worthy of consideration.

Ultimately, the 1991 team’s win over Fordham, which sent the Flash to their only NCAA tourney berth, was narrowly selected over the 1955 team’s win over Holy Cross, which put the program — then known as the Frankies — in the NIT final four, providing the ultimate showcase for Saint Francis and Maurice Stokes at Madison Square Garden.

One thing to keep in mind: When its program ascended to national prominence under Skip Hughes in the 1950s, Saint Francis was in a group of small, largely Catholic schools based in the East that dominated the basketball landscape.

At that time, the NIT, not the NCAA, was the more prestigious event as teams like Duquesne and St. Bonaventure were powers while most of the football schools were not.

Saint Francis was beating Villanova and hosting teams like Georgetown, West Virginia, UNCC, Penn State and Pitt.

Nowadays, and since the mid-1980s, the Red Flash are aligned in the Northeast Conference, which is made up of schools of similar size, which has leveled the playing field.

So getting back to the original question? Pitt finished as the sixth-best victory in our pool.

For the complete results, please see Page B3.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

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