Friday, September 30, 2011
Thundering Herd football avoids the proverbial ax
After the plane crash, there was some uncertainty about the future of football at Marshall University. There was rumbling among some faculty members who wanted the school to kick football to the curve.
The remaining assistant coaches who were not on the fatal flight – Red Dawson, Carl Kokor and Mickey Jackson – didn’t know if there would even be another football season at MU. As things turned out, though, there was never enough support among the anti-gridiron faction that would result in the plug being pulled on Thundering Herd football.
The “powers that be” never wavered in their desire to continue the program – even if it meant starting from next to zilch. Marshall’s leadership demonstrated their commitment with the hiring of the new athletics director.
Joe McMullen took the reigns as the new AD less than three months after the tragedy. Hiring McMullen sealed the deal for Herd football. That’s because McMullen was a football guy through and through. Prior to becoming an AD, he had head coaching stints at the University of Akron (Ohio) and San Jose State. Aside from that, he spent a few years as an assistant coach under Joe Paterno, who was in the beginning stages of his legendary career at Penn State.
While it didn’t take long for Marshall to hire a new athletics director, securing the services of a new coach was another matter entirely.
McMullen moved swiftly in the hiring process, but hit a few snags along the way. The top candidate, Bob Phillips (Penn State assistant) said no thanks to Marshall’s job offer. About two weeks later, Dick Bestwick, the freshman coach at Georgia Tech, got the nod, but later reneged. Bestwick cited family reasons for his shocking change of heart.
Another three weeks would pass before McMullen finally got his man – Jack Lengyel – who just happened to be one of McMullen’s former players from the time he coached at Akron. Lengyel was the head coach at Wooster College (Ohio) prior to his coming to Marshall.