Our View: ‘75’: 43 years later

Posted: November 16, 2013

As a general rule, we don’t leave the confines of the Old Dominion to comment on collegiate athletics. But, because West Virginia is so close, we could not let this sports item pass without recognition.

On Thursday night, in faraway Tulsa, Okla., the Marshall Thundering Herd played a football game. It was more than just a midweek contest between Conference USA rivals. For the Marshall program, it was the first time in 43 years an “away game” had been scheduled on Nov. 14 — a date seared in the collective memory of the school and the surrounding City of Huntington. On a rainy Nov. 14, 1970, an airliner carrying the Marshall team and a cadre of civic boosters went down on a forested hillside a few miles short of the Tri-State Airport, and home. Seventy-five people perished in the crash.

Every year on Nov. 14, a memorial fountain on the Marshall campus is turned off. This year, the Herd played — and won, beating Tulsa 45-34 — and each team member attached a decal to his helmet, bearing the number “75.”

This solitary numeral, as head coach Doc Holliday implied, succinctly tells the Marshall story: “I’ve said many times — and I’ll say many more times, I’m sure — that there’s not a program in America where their football team means more to their fan base, more to the community, more to the state, more to the university than what this one does because of what happened that one night, the crash in 1970.”

As they say in Huntington, from the “ashes” of disaster came “glory.” It never dims.

Neither does the memory.