Monday, February 13, 2012

'71 AD: Fan support critical for program's survival

        When Marshall hired Joe McMullen as the new athletics director less than three months after the 1970 plane crash, it was clear signal that Thundering Herd football would not bite the dust. It was reasonable assumption.
       After all, McMullen had been a college football coach for many years prior to him becoming an athletic administrator. Even so, there was one burning question on the minds of everyone who had any level of interest in MU football. How would the new AD go about rebuilding a program that had been nearly decimated?
       The choice was made to build primarily with freshmen as opposed to the wholesale recruiting of junior college players. The 1971 season exceeded everyone’s expectations, which included those pessimists who fervently believed that MU would be better off without football. Given the circumstances, the Young Herd looked pretty good after finishing up at 2-8 in its first season after the tragedy.
       McMullen, however, knew about the harsh economic realities of keeping a football program afloat. He knew all about the vision and commitment it takes to operate a successful program. But he was also keenly aware that it would take support in the form of putting people in the stadium seats and figuring out ways to boost season ticket sales. McMullen was candid in an article he wrote for the school’s Chief Justice Yearbook (1971-72 school year).
       “I think next season there will be more pressure to win and higher expectations,” McMullen wrote. “Opponents will be less likely to overlook Marshall. We have to see the season ticket sales increase, encourage more students to attend (games), and fill the stadium. In order to build, we need the support and the income from the tickets.”

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