Today marks the 47th anniversary of a tragedy that helped shape a university, a football program, and a community forever. On November 14, 1970, Marshall University was changed forever.
The Marshall Thundering Herd football team was returning home from a game at East Carolina and just as the plane carrying 75 players, coaches, staff members, boosters, and the flight crew was approaching the Huntington Tri-State Airport in West Virginia, the plane went down.
The crash took all 75 souls aboard Southern Airways Flight 932 in the worst sports-related plane crash in American history. The crash left a huge hole in the community of Huntington, West Virginia and put Marshall’s future of playing football on seemingly permanent standby.
But as the university and community built themselves back up from the ashes of the crash, the Marshall football program did the same and returned to the field the following season. And since the crash, Marshall football has risen from ashes to glory.
The program has been a shining example of overcoming overwhelming adversity and proving that with hard work, determination, and heart, anything can be achieved. The plane crash helped turn Marshall University into a family and the crash has been honored and felt by a wave of new generations and generations to come.
The Marshall story was brought to the big screen in 2006 with the release of the Warner Bros. movie “We Are Marshall” featuring Matthew McConaughey. The film brought the story to the masses and depicted what the Marshall football program, university, and community went through in the aftermath of the crash.
Marshall football has reached outstanding levels of success since the crash, but the program’s success was forged by fate and the program began the tradition in 2013 of honoring the 75 lost in the crash by wearing a 75 decal on each helmet on the game closest to the date of the crash.
In addition, the Herd is undefeated when wearing those tribute uniforms, including this season when they defeated Western Kentucky on Nov. 11 while wearing special helmets and all black uniforms in honor of the 75 victims of the crash.
— Marshall Equipment (@HerdEquipment) November 10, 2017
Nov. 14 has been an emotional date for nearly half a century for the Marshall community and as the university prepares for its annual fountain ceremony, emotions will run high again in Huntington. Each Nov. 14, a few thousand show up at the memorial fountain in the heart of Marshall’s campus to honor the 75 and the water to the fountain is turned off until the spring.
But while those emotions are running high, everyone involved with Marshall University and the football program should feel extremely proud of how far they have come since November 14, 1970. And without question, the 75 souls that perished way too soon are looking down and smiling.
They will never be forgotten.