Weixlmann's Tidbits: Tribute to Marshall Football

Ben WeixlmannSenior Writer ISeptember 16, 2008

I have a couple friends from college that live in Huntington, West Virginia, and I will be visiting them next weekend. I figured though, what is there really to do in Huntington besides drink and hang out at fraternity houses at Marshall University.

Instead, though, I was deeply moved a couple years by watching the movie "We Are Marshall" with my two friends from Huntington.  The movie, which stars Matthew McConaughey as head coach Jack Lengyel, had much more meaning to them, because they're parents were good friends with members of that 1970 Marshall team that lost so many lives.

I know it sounds like a weird request, but I told my friends that I wanted to visit the team's memorial, which is a small part of a cemetery in Huntington at the twentieth-street entrance. There lay six of the players from that 1970 team who died in that fateful plane crash.

In case you  aren't familiar with the story on that tragic November day just 38 years ago, the team was flying home to Huntington after a brutal 17-14 loss to East Carolina, but on the way back, their plane crashed into a hill just short of their final destination. There were 75 people on board, and all were dead.

You see, 37 of those were football players, but the damage was far deeper. It wasn't just the football team who was now in rebuilding mode, it was the entire society surrounding Huntington and beyond.

The most amazing part about the entire tragedy is the way in which the school and team rebounded so quickly. The president of the school, Donald Dedmon, was ready to suspend football from the campus for a while, but due to overwhelming support from the community, the team decided to play.

That is when Lengyel was hired, and the team moved on to compete the following year.

Finally, I give you the message on a permanent plaque installed at the base of the Memorial Fountain on the campus of Marshall University:

"They shall live on in the hearts of their families and friends forever and this memorial records their loss to the university and the community."