Nov. 10, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – It is a special tribute to the people and a night that Marshall will never forget.
For the first time since the Nov. 14, 1970 Thundering Herd football team plane crash that took 75 lives, Marshall will play a road football game on the anniversary of that date.
Coach Doc Holliday’s Herd will be at Tulsa’s Skelly Field on Thursday for a prime-time Fox Sports 1 telecast game.
Here in Huntington, the MU campus will again pause emotionally earlier in the day for the annual Memorial Fountain ceremony and remembrance, and the fountain will be turned off for the winter, as is the tradition.
Approximately 70 members of the 2013 football team (6-3, 4-1) will not be able to attend the ceremony. However, 850 miles away in Oklahoma, those young men will pay a unique tribute to those who died in the crash – a display that will resonate with a national TV audience.
For the Tulsa game, the Herd players will wear their regular white, striped helmets that will feature the usual “block M” on the right side. However, the customary “M” on the left side of the helmet will be replaced by a green “75” decal – the same size as the block M -- to honor the 1970 crash victims.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said. “The nation is certainly familiar with our Marshall story, the tragic crash, the loss of life. It’s a large part of our fabric.
“We will never forget those 75 players, coaches, staffers and devoted supporters at Marshall, but we wanted to remind as many people everywhere we could of the roots of the emotion and devotion with which our student-athletes compete.”
Hamrick said with the Fox Sports 1 network available in 86 million U.S. television homes, many people across this nation will be presented a remembrance of the lives lost that sad night on the trip home from the Herd 17-14 loss at East Carolina.
“The movie (‘We Are … Marshall’) retold the story so many younger people know,” Hamrick said. “The exposure provided on a national telecast on Fox Sports 1 will provide another reminder of part of what we’re about here.”
Hamrick and Holliday gave a large dose of credit to MU Head Equipment Manager Rich Worner and his staff, for their efforts in helping the special helmet tribute happen.
“My goodness, that’s the history of this program,” Holliday said. “It’s a fitting tribute. I’ve said many times – and I’ll say many more times, I’m sure – that there’s not a program in America where their football team means more to their fan base, more to the community, more to the state, more to the university than what this one does because of what happened that one night, the crash in 1970.
“There’s just a special bond, a special relationship among the football program and the university and the community and fan base because of that. And any way we can honor those people, those victims of that crash, in any way, shape or form, we should do it … and we’re going to do it.”
Holliday told his players Sunday about the headgear tribute as the Herd began workouts for their “short week” after becoming bowl eligible with Saturday’s 56-14 triumph over UAB.
The Herd has played four football games on the anniversary date – but all at home, two at Fairfield Stadium and two at Edwards Stadium.
Marshall is 2-2 on Nov. 14 with games in 1981, ’87 (both Western Carolina), 1992 (Tennessee Tech) and 2009 (Southern Miss).
“Our kids will be a proud bunch with that 75 on their helmets,” Holliday said. “They all understand the history and the tradition of the program, the sadness, the emotion, the coming back from that to win championships … what it’s all about. And they’ll be reminded of it before the game and just what that 75 means. But they don’t need reminding.
“I think it’s a great gesture on the part of our athletic department, Mike Hamrick, our president, Dr. (Stephen) Kopp, all of them, to do this to honor that team and those people who died that Nov. 14 night.
“We’ll be there in spirit with those at the Fountain, and I guarantee you we’ll proudly wear those ‘75’ helmets, just as we always proudly wear the Marshall name.”