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Prep football: Stat man George Felt is Utah's record holder

Published July 21, 2012 5:59 pm

Prep football • George Felt's hobby has made him the state's unofficial statistician.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Surrounded by trinkets and trunks and files in a home office at the mouth of Millcreek Canyon, George Felt leans back in a swivel chair. At his fingertips, contained on two computers, is a history he has spent a quarter of his life compiling.

West Jordan's C.J. O'Neal once caught 100 passes in a season. One day in 1919, East High's Gene Livingston rushed for 10 touchdowns.

Felt, 56, never learned to throw a consistent spiral. But what each high school football player wants, Felt already has: He holds all the records.

Usually his desk is covered in ledger sheets, lists of schools and numbers edged by repetition, but he has stuck them into filing cabinets.

This isn't his job, but it has become his life.

"Where are you complete and thorough," he says, "and where does it become … ?"

Obsessive?

"Yes."

That's the boundary Felt, a law enforcement equipment retailer by trade, has pushed up against forever, including in 1989, when shortly after the birth of his daughter, Elizabeth, he left his wife Debbie in the hospital to watch a football game at Skyline, his alma mater.

His curiosity led him to investigate the beginnings of Utah high school football, but his backgrounds in accounting and high school journalism led to him documenting everything he found.

This is Utah prep football's archives: A quiet but excitable man in a basement office, with a model train, a homemade mountain and railroad track anchoring one end of the room and Felt, fussing with pages, bolted to the other end.

He has documentation of every high school football game ever played in Utah, but the records go deeper: overtime records, playoff sites, coaching records, things the Utah High School Activities Association couldn't begin to track.

"Little by-quarter records and those types of things are pretty difficult for us to handle," UHSAA Executive Director Rob Cuff says.

Starting in 1992, Felt parsed microfilm from 1890s newspapers for snippets such as, "The high school team did not practice yesterday." By 1993, the state's football centennial, he had a book. By 1998, he had a second edition, updated with All-State teams and other details that eluded him on a short deadline for the first book.

"It solved arguments about who had been first-team All-Staters or not," Felt says.

In a state where officials have limited resources for chasing down records, Felt has become a de facto public relations wizard for the UHSAA and the go-to source for coaches and media in search of historical context.

"If he doesn't know the answer, he'll find out within just a few minutes," first-year Skyline coach Steve Marlowe says. "He's like a savant."

During football season, Felt says he spends about 25 hours per week studying newspaper box scores, calling scorekeepers and assembling his popular "Felt Facts," which is published and utilized by most of the state's newspapers.

"It's easily the top of the conversation among the coaches," Marlowe says. " 'Oh, I didn't know that was your 100th win!' Or, 'That's a great streak you've got going against Woods Cross.' The meticulousness of those columns!"

Felt grew up in a Salt Lake City family for which Skyline and University of Utah football games were can't-miss events. He never played the game, but he had a mind for accounting, and he saw rhythm in numbers within the game, and structure.

Math people love structure.

When his father, Whitney, died in 1998, George Felt found an old ledger. In it, Whitney had tracked NCAA football games in the 1950s and '60s: team stats, standings, the sorts of things his son, a generation later, would chase in the high school game.

The father never mentioned his own hobby when his son got serious in the early 1990s.

"Maybe he forgot he did it," Felt says. "I don't know."

Felt knows he can't do this forever, although he's in no hurry to stop going to games and tracking them. He hopes in 20 years or so a successor will step in, wanting to take over. The hard work is done, the history has been written.

But Felt has no intention of stepping aside shortly. There are questions to answer. One of them is growing more popular, and Felt fields it often: "When are you going to do basketball?"

boram@sltrib.com

Twitter: @oramb —

George Felt file

Age • 56

Alma mater • Skyline High School

About • Began gathering high school football data in 1992 and within a year had written a book. Now is the gatekeeper of the state's records and archives.