Ginny Doyle, a senior guard on the women’s basketball team, stepped to the foul line at the Robins Center looking to complete a three-point play against Old Dominion Jan. 22, 1992. Doyle had not missed a foul shot since March 1, 1991, so, naturally, her teammates anticipated a make.
Julie Jones Venick, who was co-captain with Doyle and one of her best friends, remembers feeling completely relaxed in the lane, because Doyle never missed, she said.
But the unthinkable happened – her shot rimmed out.
“We were all in shock,” Venick said. “I think we even just froze and looked at each other in disbelief. I’m pretty sure the ODU players had rebounded the ball and were already at half court by the time we realized what had just happened.”
Doyle’s foul-shooting streak ended at 66, which surpassed the NCAA records for both men and women. Her run captivated national media outlets, including Sports Illustrated and USA Today.
But Billy Packer, a renowned CBS announcer who was in the middle of his own 34-year run of announcing the Final Four, was not sold. Packer told CBS’ Andrea Joyce that the smaller women’s ball needed to be mentioned, according to the Las Angeles Times.
“And I said to Andrea,” Packer said, “‘Ginny Doyle set a new record. I think that’s kind of a neat story. If you do it, there’s one thing you’ll have to mention. The women shoot with a smaller – one-third inch less in diameter – basketball.’”
Tammy Holder, who was in her first year as Richmond’s head coach, said Packer’s comments had made the team laugh.
Packer, who was conveniently coming to Richmond in February, agreed to compete against Doyle in a foul-shooting contest. The winner would get to donate a $5,000 prize to a charity of choice.
“Ginny said, ‘Well, I’ll do it with the men’s ball,’” Holder said.
One thousand, two hundred people, including Doyle’s parents and a group of third-graders from St. Christopher’s School, were in attendance. Doyle was more nervous for the shootout then she ever was during her streak, Venick said.
Doyle, nevertheless, blew out Packer. She made all 20 of her shots, swishing 18. Packer, who was an 81.9 percent foul-shooter at Wake Forest, made only 12 of his 20, as the third-graders and the Richmond baseball team heckled him. Both contestants shot with a men’s ball.
Packer was a good sport and was very positive about the event, Holder said.
Packer said the event had been a lot of fun and praised Doyle for her accomplishments, according to the Associated Press.
Doyle would go on to shoot 95 percent from the foul line that season, which remains a Richmond record. Her career 85.4 percent foul-shooting is also a Richmond record. Doyle led the Spiders with 17.1 points per game that season, and was named to the Colonial Athletic Association’s first team.
“Ginny was an amazing shooter from all over the court,” Venick said, “yet remained very humble throughout her stellar career.”
Doyle was instrumental to the Spiders’ success outside of the box score as well. Holder, who was in her first head coaching position, commended her senior captain’s leadership, and called her a coach’s dream.
“Obviously, that was her,” Holder said. “That was her MO throughout her life.
“She was fun. She cared about her teammates. She loved school.”
The Spiders’ season ended in disappointment, as Old Dominion handily beat them in the conference tournament, snapping a two-year streak of conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances. But when people remember the 1991-1992 season, it won’t be because of the disappointing loss to ODU. It will be the courage and leadership Doyle demonstrated when she broke the record and knocked off Packer.
Venick remembers Doyle’s warm, optimistic personality.
“Ginny was a great teammate, a wonderful coach, a kind-hearted person and a dear friend,” Jones said. “She will be cherished forever by those who knew her, and will be greatly missed by so, so many.”