Never Forget the 1970 Thundering Herd ; Loss of the Marshall Football Team Stays with the Community

By KellyMerritt | Charleston Gazette Mail, November 14, 2015 | Go to article overview

Never Forget the 1970 Thundering Herd ; Loss of the Marshall Football Team Stays with the Community


KellyMerritt, Charleston Gazette Mail


Like many kids who lived anywhere other than south-central West Virginia or the Tri-State area around Huntington, I was oblivious to Marshall University and its Thundering Herd football team on Nov. 14, 1970. I dont know what I was doing that afternoon, but I likely was in my familys living room near Luling, La., with my dad, watching the 8-0, No. 2-ranked University of Texas Longhorns extend their winning streak to 28 games by dismantling Southwest Conference rival TCU 58-0. With that score, Dad probably didnt scream at the TV a whole lot like he sometimes did when his college team made a bad play.

Perhaps during the post-game report, the network showed the score of a game between two schools I had never heard of played 1,000 miles away Final: East Carolina 17, Marshall 14. If so, I didnt notice.

Texas would finish the regular season 10-0 and ranked No. 1 in both the AP and UPI polls. The Longhorns missed its opportunity for a national championship by losing to Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl on New Years Day, a 24-11 loss that sent this 9-year-old football fan running to his bedroom in tears. Back to that November date: I dont recall shedding any tears for the Marshall University football team, mainly because I dont remember hearing anything about the tragic plane crash that took the lives of everyone on board, including team players, the coaching staff and much of the athletic department, the crew and several prominent Huntington area citizens.

In those pre-cable news, pre-ESPN and pre-Internet days, I missed any mention of it.

But nine years later, I would enroll at Marshall University, begin studying journalism, research the history of the football program for a class project and, over time, cheer the Thundering Herd through hundreds of football games.

Ive spent countless hours learning about and reflecting on the loss of the 1970 team.

And like that New Years Day in 1971, tears have flowed on many occasions.

A football season doesnt go by that I dont visit the memorial site at Spring Hill Cemetery in Huntington, which overlooks the campus and, serendipitously, the Marshall football stadium erected 21 years after the crash. …

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