Why The Thundering Herd?
The Thundering Herd is American folklore ... as old as the buffalo that roam the western plains. The Herd once provided nearly every substance needed for human survival, including food, clothing, tools and weapons. The Herd still provides Marshall University's athletic teams with their nickname.
"Thundering Herd" has long been recognized by sports enthusiasts as one of the great, distinctive nicknames in college athletics. But on several occasions throughout Marshall's history other nicknames have been suggested and, on occasion, been hung on the school.
The first nickname of record is Indians, a moniker bestowed upon the pre-1900 athletic teams. By about 1910, sparked by the color of team uniforms, Big Green began to be used in reference to Marshall athletics. Criticized by some from its inception as being boring, Big Green was soon ripe for replacement.
When Huntington Herald-Dispatch sportswriter Duke Ridgley referred to a late-1920s squad as a Thundering Herd, after a then-current movie based on the 1925 Zane Gray novel of the same name, it caught on quickly. Both Thundering Herd and Big Green have been used in reference to Marshall ever since.
It didn't take long, however, for Thundering Herd to draw criticism as well. Some folks thought it inappropriate since it came with connotations of the western plains and didn't represent West Virginia or founding father John Marshall. One suggested nickname, which never caught on, would have honored John Marshall by calling the school's teams the Judges.
Huntington Advertiser sportswriter Dug Freutel in 1933 started referring to Marshall teams as the Boogercats (referring to Scotland's Bogie Cats, a "fleet, elusive, courageous" animal) and some other scribes followed in using that nickname. Freutel complained that Thundering Herd made one think of "cows stampeding down a country road," but many people thought Boogercats stirred up worse images than that.
The Boogercat controversy sparked the Marshall alumni association to hold a special meeting, in which a vote was taken to refer to the school teams as the Thundering Herd for the time being - but that a study should be undertaken to find a mascot that had a connection with the school or West Virginia.
Despite Freutel's attempts to keep Boogercat alive for the next couple of years, Thundering Herd and Big Green remained the commonly used nicknames. In 1958 the Marshall student body, without input from the faculty, administration or alumni, decided that two nicknames wouldn't do and held a vote to settle the issue. Along with Thundering Herd and Big Green, one group of students bought a turkey as a suggested mascot and promoted the name Green Gobblers.
The students voted on Big Green as the nickname, but the media continued to use Thundering Herd to refer to the teams.
In the fall of 1964 Marshall president Stewart Smith appointed a faculty-student committee to suggest a more permanent nickname, feeling that Big Green denoted no action and was not appropriately symbolic. The nine-member committee narrowed its field to Big Green, Thundering Herd and Rams, which had been suggested by Huntington businessman Leonard Samworth, a past president of the alumni association.
On January 5, 1965, over 85 percent of the Marshall students picked Thundering Herd above the others and chose the buffalo as the official mascot and green and white as the official school colors. The athletic fundraising organization took on the name Big Green, and Rams was left by the wayside along with Judges, Indians and, of course, Boogercats.