Wednesday, December 13, 2017

From time to time, after nearly half a century, I still think about all of the 'what ifs'

Thundering Herd running back Art Harris weaves his way downfield
during a 1970 home game against the University of Louisville.
(Photo courtesy of the Herald-Dispatch archives)
Forty-seven years after the fact, the images from an unforgettable college semester remain crystal clear in my mind.

It was a foggy, rainy and frigid night— a night when a college lost most of its football team in a horrible plane crash. Even with the passage of so many years, the memories of the deep hurt felt by students at Marshall University and the citizens of Huntington, West Virginia can never be erased. 

Personal history, mixed emotions

For me, November 14, 1970 is a part of my personal history that will always produce mixed emotions whenever I think about it.

Yes, there’s sadness and despair in remembering the sorrow caused by the tragedy. But there’s also joy in being an eye-witness. I watched and rejoiced as a decimated football program regrouped and moved forward in spite of suffering devastating losses.

From time to time, I’ve wondered about what Marshall football would be like if the rainy night in November turned out differently than it did.

  • What if there had not been a plane crash?
  • What if there had been no football recruiting scandal in 1969 that drastically reduced the Thundering Herd’s talent level?
  • Why didn’t my former teammates get the same opportunity as I did to pursue my goals and dreams after graduating from college?
  • On a very personal note ... Why am I still here?

These are questions that I’ve pondered from time to time. But as far as I can determine, no answers are forthcoming. And besides, it’s all speculation as to what could have been, what might have been, what should have been.

This is what I do know.

'1970 team left its mark

There is heart-warming consolation in knowing that the ’70 version of Marshall’s Thundering Herd left an indelible mark on the school and the community. Against overwhelming odds, the program continued to persevere. There’s no doubt that dedication and passion for the game laid the foundation for the football victories that were to come in later years.

That's the great news about this greatest story that's never been told.