Nov. 11, 2013
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- In case those of you in our Thundering Herd Nation haven't noticed, it's been pretty busy in these parts ... and I'm really proud of that.
And before I try to run through what's happened with the Thundering Herd since classes began, let me begin by saying a unique situation presents itself in what is always one of the most important weeks of the year on the Marshall campus.
Coach Doc Holliday's football team will be in Tulsa, Okla., for a Thursday night game, and it's the first time the Herd has played a football road game on the anniversary of the tragic team plane crash that took 75 lives on Nov. 14, 1970.
The Memorial Fountain will be turned off Thursday morning -- as it is for the winter annually -- and the memorial service will be held as always, but some of us cannot be there, except in spirit.
Fox Sports wanted our game with Tulsa for a prime-time telecast, and when television tells you to play, you do it. And the exposure in a Thursday night telecast aids a program greatly.
However, about 70 members of our 2013 team - while absent from our campus memorial ceremony -- will honor those 75 crash victims in a way that will remind our country what happened near here on that sad night.
Our football helmets for Thursday night's game will have the usual block M logo on one side, but on the other side, the number 75 will replace the M. With the Fox Sports 1 network in 86 million U.S. television homes, many people across this nation will be presented a remembrance of the lives lost.
Now, on to happier things ...
Our aforementioned football team reached bowl eligibility last Saturday, and we'll be playing somewhere in the postseason for the second time in three years. And as the Herd heads for Tulsa, we still have hopes of a Conference USA championship.
There's much more, as our basketball seasons opened last Friday with two wins at the Henderson Center ... where a new, $160,000 floor provides a much better atmosphere for our players and even fans, because `The Cam" has been brightened significantly with the glow of the lights on the hardwood that aids our volleyball team, too.
Those who have been here this football season couldn't help but notice the mammoth steel work that's gone up for our Indoor Athletic Facility - and its academic, medical and Hall of Fame pieces - that is taking shape on the east side of Edwards Stadium.
Our Vision Campaign efforts through the Big Green are closing in on the $20 million goal we set for private fundraising. We are not quite there yet, but the facilities made possible by the capital drive should be open by the start of next fall.
The stadium skyboxes and other new amenities on the west side top level have drawn rave reviews, too, from suite holders, visiting telecast crews and opposing team administrators and coaches who occupy that level on game days.
Our first season on Hoops Family Field at Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex has been completed. Players and fans alike love the place. And one of the facility's occupants had a special season, too.
Coach Kevin Long's team became the first Marshall women's soccer team to win a postseason game, with a Conference USA first-round victory at Rice last week. The Herd reached the quarterfinals, and in doing so finished 10-7-3, ranking third in wins in the 16-year history of our program. It also was our third postseason appearance (2001 MAC, 2010 C-USA).
I might also add that in the new digs, the attendance rose 36 percent for our soccer teams.
Also on the facilities front, we entered a five-year agreement with the YMCA Kennedy Center for use of the baseball field, which has been enhanced by a new turfed surface for the infield and an upgraded draining system for the outfield.
We are paying $28,000 annually in the contract and we will play some non-conference dates there, while we will continue to play our Conference USA games - five series this season - at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston.
The Kennedy Center agreement is not our long-term solution. However, it will provide our baseball team a much-needed quality facility in the short-term until we have our own stadium.
It was a very big fall for our golf programs, too.
We honored our longtime former men's coach, Joe Feaganes, by rechristening our 44-year-old Marshall Invitational at Guyan Golf & Country Club as the Joe Feaganes Marshall Invitational. We will start our seasons in that event.
We will end our regular seasons now in The Greenbrier Collegiate Invitational in mid-April, as the Herd will co-host (with Bowling Green) a 54-hole tournament at the same Old White TPC layout where the PGA Tour's $6.3 million Greenbrier Classic is played each summer.
Greenbrier Owner and President Jim Justice, one of the major contributors in the Vision Campaign, will be welcoming college golf back to "America's Resort" for the first time in about a half-century. The Herd is thrilled that Justice - an MU alumnus and three-time golf letterman - has his school as part of the deal.
The Herd men's golf team had a big fall under second-year Coach Matt Grobe. Marshall won two team championships back-to-back (John Piper Intercollegiate, Patriot Intercollegiate) for the first time since 1990, and finished in the top five in two others.
The Herd also took three individual titles for the first time in a single season - by freshman Clark Robinson (Patriot), senior Brian Anania (Bearcat Invitational) and sophomore Logan Lagodich (OBX/ODU Collegiate). In women's golf, senior Rachel Thompson posted her first career title in the Dayton Fall Invitational.
Congratulations to all!
As the fall turns toward our winter seasons and we look forward to a football bowl trip again, our volleyball team closes its regular season Friday at the Henderson Center. The Herd was picked to finish eighth by C-USA coaches in the preseason, but Coach Mitch Jacobs has his club vying for a top-five seed in next week's conference tournament.
And last -- but certainly not least - our "new" Marco recently won the Conference USA Mascot Challenge, topping Old Dominion's Big Blue in the social media-driven finals. Marco wants me to buy him a crate of buffalo wings, but we're trying to finish up this Vision Campaign, you know?
I did tell him that considering the above, there's plenty of good news to chew on around here.
As we head toward the Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you will join me this week in remembering those who perished in the football team plane crash, as well as celebrating the many successes we are accomplishing in increasing fashion on our campus.
Hope to see you at the East Carolina football game on the day after Thanksgiving, or at the Henderson Center for hoops soon.
LET'S GO HERD!