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MCGILL: Gale plays pivotal role with Herd football program

Mark Gale.
Sept. 5, 2016

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – It is Labor Day, a fitting time to shine a spotlight on an industrious veteran coach and athletic department staff member who deserves a nod for all his labor.

Mark Gale, who celebrated his 57th birthday last month, is the assistant athletic director for football operations at Marshall. If the football program outside of the lines seems like a well-oiled machine, Gale is a big reason why.

I know with 20-some years coaching in this business you get so focused on that, and that’s what I want our coaches to do,” Gale said. “I want them to focus on coaching and not worry about the peripheral stuff.”

Gale’s Shewey Building office is a long way from where he thought he’d be as a child growing up on a 160-acre horse ranch in Oklahoma. His heroes and idols at that time were veterinarians on his family’s ranch. So, that was the career Gale envisioned for himself.

Then, Gale’s father left when Gale was 10 years old and his family moved from the sprawling land to a 12-by-52 mobile home in a trailer park. The ranch vets were replaced by high school coaches. He worked under Barry Switzer and Mack Brown at the University of Oklahoma.

The man who just wanted to help animals realized he could make a difference in the lives of student-athletes. He became a coach and, for the past 12 years, the person who can act as everything from father figure to counselor to friend to the men who enter the Thundering Herd football program.

He connects with them, especially ones who have traversed rocky roads to get here.

“I know what it’s like to have the free lunch program at school,” Gale said. “I’ve had powdered milk in the water and stirred it up.

“It takes a village – I honestly believe that. The more hands in the pot that we have who can help with these young men who can help mold them, the better. It takes a little bit of Doc Holliday, a little bit of Mark Gale, a little bit of strength and conditioning, a little bit of academics, a little bit from everyone.”

Gale has proven his commitment to Marshall athletics.

It was 27 years ago when Donnan, then Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator, told Gale that Marshall had offered Donnan the head coaching job. Donnan asked Gale if he wanted to go with him to Marshall. The next day, a Thursday afternoon, they departed the Westheimer Airport in Norman, Oklahoma, bound for Huntington.

Gale remembers getting off the plane here and being welcomed by people in green jackets.

“I thought all of the past Masters winners were here to greet me,” he said.

Some labeled the new staff as short-timers, which included Gale. Six years later, Donnan departed for the University of Georgia, but Gale remained. This is his 27th football season at Marshall.

“I guess it’s 33 years in this profession now and I’ve had two jobs,” Gale said. “I don’t think there are a whole lot of people who can say they’ve been in this business that long and have only had two jobs.

“I’ve been blessed.”