It’s hard to slip anything past Al Shrier.
But the 73-year-old public relations veteran was left open-mouthed on Feb. 20, when Temple’s Athletics Department presented him with a bobblehead doll commemorating his 50-plus years of service as a Sports Information Director and just about every other position in the athletics department.
Shrier is the longest-tenured Sports Information Director (SID) in collegiate athletics. He’s been at Temple since he graduated in 1953.
So, this Saturday’s Senior Night at the Liacouras Center, where the men’s basketball team will honor senior David Hawkins and finish its regular season, will take on more than one meaning. Hawkins will leave with an engraved plaque in honor of his four-year career, while Shrier will walk away with his own bobblehead doll.
His co-workers sneaked the cake, friends, colleagues and the bobblehead doll right past Shrier. It was a clean sweep. Shrier said he must have been busy that morning.
“They said, ‘Here it is,'” recalled Shrier, who is now a special assistant to the athletics director. “I looked at it and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ Needless to say, I was flabbergasted and real surprised. I just couldn’t get over how they did it.
“I’m very appreciative of it. They did a super job because I had no idea until I walked into that room.”
The first 1,500 fans 50 years and older to enter the Liacouras Center doors will receive a doll. Fans named “Al” will be able to purchase 50-cent tickets and fans 50 and older will be able to purchase tickets for $6.
The idea for a Shrier bobblehead doll was spawned more than a year ago by Zach Conen, Temple’s Director of Marketing, Promotions and Tickets, but fell through because of the cost, he said.
Athletics Director Bill Bradshaw pitched the bobblehead doll idea this past September to Larry Dougherty, the new Sports Media Relations Director, whose father befriended Shrier in the early 1970s while serving as the SID for Saint Joseph’s University.
“This has never been done before for a public relations person,” Dougherty said. “It’s fitting. He deserves that. He’s behind the scenes…it’s something that’s a great tribute to him.”
Shrier keeps a low profile. He’s not loud or obnoxious, and doesn’t pose a threat or play the intimidation card like many public relations people are said to do. He’s humble. He doesn’t look for attention, despite his reputation and contacts across the country.
Shrier has a lifetime of memories to remind him how fortunate he has been. Not many people can say they’re buddy-buddy with two Temple Hall of Fame basketball coaches – Harry Litwack and John Chaney. And not many people can say they’ve been a part of more than 20 athletics teams.
“I’ve done everything you could do here,” Shrier said. “I’ve done so many different things and met so many different people and it’s always different. No matter how long you’ve been in the business, it always changes.”
Shrier wishes the younger generation could catch a glimpse of how he used to work in his heyday. He said everything has changed. Press releases were simple, consisting of a schedule and roster, always done on a typewriter. There were no media guides. Photograph requests used to be found in a filing cabinet and then mailed to the media outlet. Nowadays, all Shrier has to do is point and click on his mouse pad.
What used to take Shrier three days now takes him about a minute.
“Even though times have changed in P.R., he’s still kept up with it, so he’s someone I can rely on as a resource,” Dougherty said. “I value the fact that he’s here and he’s really helpful.”
Chris Silva can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.