Sunday, January 15, 2012

What if Herd had opted to drop football program?

       There’s no way to tell what life might have been like if Marshall University had dropped football after the November 14, 1970 plane crash. Personally, I never envisioned the school ever making such a move.
       This is really speculation on my part. But I’ve always believed that the MU administration and the people of Huntington, West Virginia would not have allowed it.
Even though Thundering Herd football was a losing proposition at that point in time, it was clear that there was enough funding available from somewhere to keep the program financially viable.
       After all, that’s why the school courted Perry Moss and brought him to town in the late ‘60s to ride herd on the Herd. Even though there was a recruiting scandal that caused the Mid-American Conference to expel MU and it cost Moss his job, the commitment to field a team didn’t diminish in the years following that scandal.
       It seems to me that there are plenty of cases in which schools that drop football eventually desire to revive the sport. Case in point—Wichita State University.
       There’s a kindred connection between Marshall and Wichita State. Both schools suffered devastating losses in plane crashes which occurred six weeks apart in 1970. Both schools continued to field teams, but the Shockers eventually eliminated the sport in 1986 as a cost-cutting measure for their athletics department.
       Wichita State hasn’t played the game since then. But down through the years, there have been public outcries to restore the sport. Some interested parties put together a website to help gauge the level of interest in having Wichita State back on the gridiron. So far—twenty-six years later—there is still no football.
       This makes me wonder if that would be the case had Marshall made the choice to give football the ax. We’ll never know for sure. We should be thankful that Marshall football still exists, that it remains alive and vibrant today. The Marshall program is the same program that survived the worst aviation disaster in the history of American sports. It’s a program that has suffered through despair and agony, but is now enjoying the fruits of gridiron glory and bowl game victories.

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