The plane crash that devastated the Marshall University football team

The plane crash that devastated the Marshall University football team

The football team was returning, on November 14, 1970, from that day’s game, a 17-14 loss to East Carolina University.

On November 14, 1970, a charter plane carrying most of the Marshall University football team crashed into a hillside just two miles from the Tri-State Airport in Kenova, West Virginia, killing all on board. .

37 Marshall football players were on board the plane, along with the team’s coach, their doctors, the university’s athletic director and 25 team promoters, some of the most prominent citizens of Huntington, West Virginia, who had traveled to North Carolina to cheer on the Thundering.

Later, a Huntington citizen told the media that “the whole heart of the city was on board.”

The accident was only the most tragic in a series of unfortunate events that had befallen Marshall’s football team since about 1960.

The university stadium, which had not been renovated since before World War II, was destroyed in 1962. From the last game of the 1966 season to the middle of the 1969 season, the team had not won a game.

To make matters worse, the NCAA had suspended Marshall for more than 100 recruiting violations. In turn, the Mid-American Conference had expelled the team for the same reason.

Through it all, Marshall seemed to be getting back on track: He had fired dishonest coaches, built a new artificial turf field and started winning games again. The Thundering Herd had lost a squeaker to East Carolina on the 14th and were looking forward to a promising season next year.

For Huntington, the plane crash was “like the Kennedy assassination,” recalls one citizen. “Everyone knows where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.”

The town immediately went into mourning, shops and government offices closed; businesses on the city’s main street covered their windows with black banners. The university held a memorial service at the stadium the following day and canceled classes for Monday.

There were so many funerals that they had to be spread out over several weeks. In perhaps the saddest ceremony of all, six players whose remains could not be identified were buried together in Spring Hill Cemetery, on a hill overlooking their university.

Marshall got a new football coach, Jack Lengyel, from the College of Wooster in Ohio, and set out to rebuild the team.

The NCAA gave the Thundering Herd special permission to allow freshmen to play on the varsity team, and Lengyel assembled a ragtag group of freshmen, new players and the nine veteran players who hadn’t been on the plane. that night.

The team lost its first game of the 1971 season, but with a last-second touchdown that seemed almost too good to be true, it defeated Ohio’s Xavier University 15-13 in its first home game since the accident. The Herd won another game that season, and nine in Lengyel’s four years at Marshall, but none were as emotional as the first.

Globe Live Media Desk
This is the main desk of entire Globe Live Media agency. It is operated by founder and co-founder of the GLM Platform. What goes in and what goes out, it is all decided by this desk only.