|Marshall Thundering Herd football|
|Athletic director||Mike Hamrick|
|Head coach||Charles Huff |
1st season, 0–0 (–)
|Stadium||Joan C. Edwards Stadium|
|Field||James F. Edwards Field|
|Location||Huntington, West Virginia|
|All-time record||575–534–48 (.518)|
|Bowl record||12–5 (.706)|
|Claimed national titles||Div. I FCS: 2|
West Virginia (rivalry)
East Carolina (rivalry)
|Colors||Kelly green and white|
|Fight song||Sons of Marshall|
|Mascot||Marco the Bison|
|Marching band||Marching Thunder|
The Marshall Thundering Herd football team is an intercollegiate varsity sports program of Marshall University. The team represents the university as a member of the Conference USA Eastern division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, playing at the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Marshall plays at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, which seats 38,227 and is expandable to 55,000. As of the end of the 2015 football season, Marshall has an impressive 148–26 overall record at Joan C. Edwards Stadium for a winning percentage of .851. The University of Alabama ranks second with an .825 winning percentage at Bryant–Denny Stadium. The stadium opened in 1991 as Marshall University Stadium with a crowd of 33,116 for a 24–23 win over New Hampshire. On September 10, 2010, the Thundering Herd played the in-state rival West Virginia Mountaineers in Huntington in front of a record crowd of 41,382. Joan C. Edwards Stadium is one of two Division I stadium named solely for a woman with South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium being the other. The playing field itself is named James F. Edwards Field after Mrs. Edwards' husband, businessman and philanthropist James F. Edwards.
Early history (1895–1934)
Boyd Chambers was Marshall's head football coach from 1909 to 1916. He is best known for calling the "Tower Play", where one receiver lifted another up on his shoulders to complete a pass, during the 1915 season.
Rick Tolley era (1968–1970)
Rick Tolley was Marshall's head football coach for two seasons, coming to Marshall from his post as defensive line coach for Wake Forest and posting records of 3–7 and 3–6 before being killed on November 14, 1970 in the infamous plane crash in which all 75 passengers, including 37 players, five coaches, administrators, family and friends (along with the Southern Airways five-person crew) were killed traveling home from a game against East Carolina.
Jack Lengyel era (1971–1974)
The Thundering Herd turned to Wooster head coach Jack Lengyel to lead the program following the devastating plane crash in 1970. Lengyel was hired by athletic director Joe McMullen after head coach Rick Tolley was killed along with 37 players and 37 coaches and administrators of Marshall in a plane crash on November 14, 1970. He was selected for the job after it was rejected by a Penn State assistant and an assistant from Georgia Tech turned it down. When Lengyel arrived at Marshall he was forced to recruit athletes from other sports (baseball and basketball) as well as allow a large number of walk-ons in order to rebuild the devastated football program. Although the team struggled in Lengyel's first season at the helm, it managed to win a stunning 15–13 victory over Xavier, scoring a touchdown on the final play of the game. His overall record at Marshall as the head coach was 9–33.
Frank Ellwood era (1975–1978)
Marshall then hired Ohio University assistant Frank Ellwood, a Dover, Ohio native who led the program for four seasons. The team went 2-9 during his first season and then 5-6 during the 1976 campaign, a year which saw the Thundering Herd upset 20th-ranked Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 12, 1976 in Fairfield Stadium in Huntington. The win was redemption for the Herd, which had not defeated Miami since 1939, and a program that remembered the bitter disappointment of the 60-point drubbing in 1971. Marshall finished 2-9 and 1-10 in 1977 and 1978, respectively, failing to win a Southern Conference game in either season.
Sonny Randle era (1979–1983)
Sonny Randle took the reins following the 1978 season. Randle had been the head coach at East Carolina (22-10 from 1971-73) and Virginia (5-17 from 1974-75) in two previous stints as a collegiate head coach. He went 12-42-1 during his five seasons in Huntington, which included a 5-26-1 mark in Southern Conference play. Randle did, however, mentor Marshall Athletics Hall of Famer Carl Lee during his tenure. Lee would go on to be a three-time Pro Bowler during his 11 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings before joining the New Orleans Saints for the 1994 campaign. He was also a first team All-Pro in 1988.
Jim Donnan era (1990–1995)
Led by head coach Jim Donnan, who came to Marshall from his post as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, Marshall won the Division I-AA national championship in 1992 over Youngstown State (31–28) and was national runner-up in 1991, 1993 and 1995. Marshall set an I-AA record with five straight seasons making at least the semi-finals of the I-AA Playoffs from 1991 to 1995 (and added one more in 1996). Donnan was named NCAA Division I-AA Coach of the Year twice during his tenure at Marshall and resigned after the 1995 season to accept the head football coach position at Georgia.
Bob Pruett era (1996–2004)
Bob Pruett left his post as defensive coordinator at Florida under Steve Spurrier to become head football coach at Marshall, where he served for nine seasons from 1996 to 2004. During his tenure at Marshall, the Thundering Herd compiled a record of 94–23 (.803 winning percentage), featured two undefeated seasons, won six conference championships, won 5 of 7 bowl games, and captured the I-AA National Championship in 1996. Marshall moved to Division I-A and the Mid-American Conference in all sports in 1997. The 1996 team, with Chad Pennington, Randy Moss, John Wade, Chris Hanson, Eric Kresser, Doug Chapman and many other players who played professional football, was 15–0, had no game closer than a two touchdown win and was ranked No. 1 all-season. Marshall won the MAC title five of its eight seasons (1997-98-99-2000–2002) and were runners up in 2001 in the conference before moving to Conference USA in 2005. Since moving back to Division I-A, Marshall has finished in the Top 25 four times: 1999 (10th AP/10th coaches' poll), 2001 (21st coaches' poll), 2002 (24th AP/19th coaches' poll), 2014 (23rd AP/22nd coaches' poll). Marshall fell to Ole Miss in the 1997 Motor City Bowl, 34–31, but won the next three games in Michigan's Pontiac Silverdome, beating Louisville 48–29 in 1998, beating No. 25 BYU 21–3 in 1999 to finish 13–0 and beating Cincinnati in 2000, 25–14. Marshall and East Carolina matched-up in one of college football's greatest bowl games in 2001 at the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, a 64–61 double overtime win by the Herd over the Pirates of Conference USA. It is one of the highest scoring bowl games of all-time, and the Herd rallied from a 38–8 halftime hole behind Byron Leftwich's five touchdown passes. Marshall would fall to the Bearcats in the 2004 Plains Capital Fort Worth Bowl at TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium, 32–14, in Bob Pruett's final game as head coach before his retirement.
Mark Snyder era (2005–2009)
Mark Snyder came to his alma mater to become head football coach from his defensive coordinator position at Ohio State. Snyder coached the likes of Ahmad Bradshaw, Marcus Fitzgerald and Cody Slate during his time as head coach at Marshall. Snyder's best season was a 6–6 2009 season, which turned out to be his last. He resigned after five seasons, that included only one bowl berth, the 2009 Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl.
Doc Holliday era (2010–2020)
On December 17, 2009, Marshall officially named Doc Holliday, an assistant coach at WVU under Bill Stewart, as the next head coach for the Thundering Herd football team. Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick said Holliday had signed a five-year contract and would be paid $600,000 per season. Holliday, a WVU alum, almost defeated Stewart's Mountaineers in 2010, but an untimely fumble by freshman Tron Martinez led to the Herd blowing a 15-point lead in the game's final minutes, breaking the hearts of Herd fans. Holliday then led Marshall to a 10–4 season in 2013, capped with a victory in the Military Bowl. In the 2014 season he led the team to a 13–1 season, winning the school's first C-USA Championship and the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl against Northern Illinois 52–23. In 2020, Holliday led the Thundering Herd to a 7-0 start, with Marshall being ranked as high as #15 in the AP Top 25 poll. A 3 game losing streak led the team to finish 7-3 on the season, however Marshall clinched another C-USA East Division title, before ultimately losing to UAB in the 2020 Conference USA Championship game. Holliday was named Coach of the Year in 2020 by Conference USA. In January 2021, Doc Holliday’s contact was not extended, thus causing Marshall to search for a new head football coach.
Charles Huff era (2021-present)
In January 2021 Marshall announced its hiring of former Alabama associate head coach/RB coach Charles Huff. With his hiring Huff became the 31st head football coach at Marshall as well as the university’s first African American head football coach.
- Independent (1895–1925, 1969–1975)
- West Virginia Athletic Conference (1925–1933)
- Buckeye Conference (1933–1939)
- WVIAC (non-competing member, membership in regards to school being accredited College) (1939–1948)
- Ohio Valley Conference (1948–1952)
- Mid-American Conference (1953–1969, 1997–2005)
- Southern Conference (1977–1997)
- Conference USA (2005–present)
Marshall has won two NCAA Division I-AA national championships.
|1992||Jim Donnan||NCAA Division I-AA||12–3||Youngstown State||W 31–28|
|1996||Bob Pruett||NCAA Division I-AA||15–0||Montana||W 49–29|
Marshall has won 13 conference championships, 12 outright and one shared.
|Season||Conference||Coach||Conference record||Overall record|
|1925||West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||Charles Tallman||3–0–2||4–1–4|
|1928||West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||Charles Tallman||5–0||8–1–1|
|1931||West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||Tom Dandelet||4–1||6–3|
|1937||Buckeye Conference||Cam Henderson||4–0–1||9–0–1|
|1988†||Southern Conference||George Chaump||6–1||11–2|
|1994||Southern Conference||Jim Donnan||7–1||12–2|
|1996||Southern Conference||Bob Pruett||8–0||15–0|
|1997||Mid-American Conference||Bob Pruett||8–1||10–3|
|1998||Mid-American Conference||Bob Pruett||8–1||12–1|
|1999||Mid-American Conference||Bob Pruett||9–0||13–0|
|2000||Mid-American Conference||Bob Pruett||6–3||8–5|
|2002||Mid-American Conference||Bob Pruett||8–1||11–2|
|2014||Conference USA||Doc Holliday||7–1||13–1|
Marshall has nine division championships.
|1997||MAC East||Bob Pruett||Toledo||W 34–14|
|1998†||MAC East||Bob Pruett||Toledo||W 23–17|
|1999||MAC East||Bob Pruett||Western Michigan||W 34–30|
|2000†||MAC East||Bob Pruett||Western Michigan||W 19–14|
|2001||MAC East||Bob Pruett||Toledo||L 36–41|
|2002||MAC East||Bob Pruett||Toledo||W 49–45|
|2013||C-USA East||Doc Holliday||Rice||L 24–41|
|2014||C-USA East||Doc Holliday||Louisiana Tech||W 26–23|
|2020||C-USA East||Doc Holliday||UAB||L 13–22|
|1947||Cam Henderson||Tangerine Bowl||Catawba||L 0–7|
|1997||Bob Pruett||Motor City Bowl||Ole Miss||L 31–34|
|1998||Bob Pruett||Motor City Bowl||Louisville||W 48–29|
|1999||Bob Pruett||Motor City Bowl||BYU||W 21–3|
|2000||Bob Pruett||Motor City Bowl||Cincinnati||W 25–14|
|2001||Bob Pruett||GMAC Bowl||East Carolina||W 64–612OT|
|2002||Bob Pruett||GMAC Bowl||Louisville||W 38–15|
|2004||Bob Pruett||Fort Worth Bowl||Cincinnati||L 14–32|
|2009||Rick Minter||Little Caesars Pizza Bowl||Ohio||W 21–17|
|2011||Doc Holliday||Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl||FIU||W 20–10|
|2013||Doc Holliday||Military Bowl||Maryland||W 31–20|
|2014||Doc Holliday||Boca Raton Bowl||Northern Illinois||W 52–23|
|2015||Doc Holliday||St. Petersburg Bowl||Connecticut||W 16–10|
|2017||Doc Holliday||New Mexico Bowl||Colorado State||W 31–28|
|2018||Doc Holliday||Gasparilla Bowl||South Florida||W 38–20|
|2019||Doc Holliday||Gasparilla Bowl||UCF||L 25–48|
|2020||Doc Holliday||Camellia Bowl||Buffalo||L 10–17|
|1908||William G. Vinal||0–6||.000|
Division I-AA playoff results
Marshall has appeared in the I-AA playoffs eight times, compiling a record 23–6 in those games. They are two-time I-AA National Champions and four-time national runners-up.
National Championship Game
National Championship Game
|W 20–17 OT|
National Championship Game
Middle Tennessee State
National Championship Game
W 28–21 OT
National Championship Game
National Championship Game
Marshall competes against Ohio in the Battle for the Bell, with a traveling bell trophy as the prize for the victor. With Marshall's move to Conference USA in 2005 this rivalry game has been on hiatus. The regularly scheduled series resumed between the two schools in 2010. The rivalry was renewed in 2009 when the Herd and Bobcats faced off in the 2009 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, which the Herd won 21–17. Ohio leads the all-time series over Marshall, however the Thundering Herd have won 10 of 15 meetings since rejoining the FBS in 1997. The six-year series contract between the two schools ran out following the 2015 season. The rivalry series will return for 2019 and 2020, when Marshall and Ohio are scheduled to play a home-and-home against one another; first at Marshall, then at Ohio. Ohio leads the series 33–20–6 through the 2018 season.
Marshall played West Virginia in the annual Friends of Coal Bowl until 2012. Marshall and WVU first played in 1911, but it wasn't until 2006 before the two schools from the "Mountain State" faced off annually for the Governor's Cup. Some[who?] believe the rivalry began due to political pressure from the state government. The two last played in 2012, and there are no immediate plans to renew the rivalry. West Virginia holds a 12–0 lead in the series as of 2019.
Marshall and East Carolina have a "friendly" rivalry with one another. They are emotionally bonded by the tragic plane crash on November 14, 1970. The Thundering Herd were coming back from Greenville, North Carolina after a 17–14 loss to the Pirates when their plane crashed near Ceredo, West Virginia. The teams have been bonded ever since.
One of Marshall and ECU's most memorable games was the 2001 GMAC Bowl as they combined for a bowl record, 125 points, as Marshall overcame a 30-point deficit to beat East Carolina 64–61 in double overtime. After Marshall defeated East Carolina in 2013, it marked ECU's last conference match-up as a member of Conference USA. On April 3, 2014, both schools announced that the two teams will meet again for a home and home seridatees in 2020 and 2021. East Carolina was supposed to host Marshall at Dowdy–Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, NC on September 5, 2020, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Marshall will host at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, West Virginia on September 11, 2021 before travelling to Greenville on September 9, 2023 and host again on September 13, 2025.
ECU was 6–3 against the Herd from 2005 to 2013 when both schools were in Conference USA. East Carolina leads the series 10–5 as of 2019.
Herd football traditions
Marshall football is rich in traditions. Some Marshall football traditions include:
- Marco – The school mascot is an American Bison, the species named the National Mammal in the summer of 2016, and Marco always sports a Marshall jersey. Sometimes called a buffalo, Marco had a female companion in the 1970s, Marsha, and a green-furred "son" named Buffy, who appeared in 1979–80. MARshall COllege is where the name came from, kept when the College became a University in 1961.
- Marching Thunder – The Marshall University Marching Band known as the "Marching Thunder!"
- "Sons of Marshall" – Marshall's fight song: "We are the sons of Marshall, Sons of the great John Marshall. Year after year we go to Marshall U., Cheering for our team and gaining knowledge, too. Proudly we wear our colors, Love and loyalty we share – Sure from far and near, You'll always hear 'The Wearing of the Green' For it's the Green and White of Marshall U!"
- "We Are…Marshall" Chant – Marshall's cheer, and title of movie in 2006 about plane crash and rebirth of program.
- Thunder Clap – Marshall fans clap their hands over their heads in unison following some Marshall scores. One clap per point scored in the game for the Herd.
- Marshall Cheerleaders – One cheerleading tradition occurs after every Marshall touchdown. A male cheerleader presses a female cheerleader over his head once for each point scored in the game by Marshall (as the fans do the Thunder Clap).
- Marshall Maniacs – The student cheering section at most Marshall football games.
- Thunder Walk – Marshall players and coaches make their way to the locker room through a gathering of Thundering Herd fans on the West Lot, and led in by the Herd cheerleaders and "Marching Thunder" Marshall marching band, prior to every home game.
Top 25 Finishes
|Year||NCAA Rank||Sports Network Rank|
|Year||AP Rank||Coaches Rank|
|1999||No. 10||No. 10|
|2002||No. 24||No. 19|
|2014||No. 23||No. 22|
Individual award winners
- Mike Barber (1987, 1988)
- Mike Bartrum (1992)
- Rogers Beckett (1999)
- Troy Brown (1991, 1992)
- B. J. Cohen (1995, 1996)
- Melvin Cunningham (1995, 1996)
- Josh Davis (2001)
- Sean Doctor (1987, 1988)
- Johnathan Goddard (2004)
- Chris Hanson (1996)
- Eric Kresser (1996)
- Byron Leftwich (2001, 2002)
- Billy Lyon (1994, 1995, 1996)
- Albert McClellan (2005, 2006)
- Randy Moss (1996, 1997)
- Michael Payton (1991, 1992)
- Chad Pennington (1998, 1999)
- Steve Sciullo (2002)
- Cody Slate (2006)
- Mark Snyder (1987)
- Darius Watts (2001, 2002)
Hall of Fame
- Marshall has five players and one coach in the College Football Hall of Fame, starting with Mike Barber (1985–88) who was a record-setting receiver for Marshall who helped lead the Herd to its first I-AA title game in 1987 and its first Southern Conference title in 1988. He still holds the receiving yardage record at MU with over 4,200 yards and was a two-time All-American before he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round in 1989. Barber also played for the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals.
- Harry "Cy" Young, who starred in football and baseball at Marshall College (University status in 1961) from 1910 to 1912. Young then left Marshall, and was a two-sport All-American at Washington & Lee. He is a member of the W&L HOF, MU HOF, WV Sportswriters HOF and Virginia Sports HOF besides the College FB HOF.
- Jackie Hunt (1939–41) set a national scoring record in 1940 with 27 touchdowns in a ten-game season. He rushed for nearly 4,000 yards for Thundering Herd, a hometown star for the Huntington High Pony Express before joining Marshall. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears and was a two-time All-American, playing in the Blue-Gray Game following his career.
- Troy Brown (1991–92) considered the single-most dangerous scoring threat in all of Division I-AA during his two seasons in Huntington, few can match the heralded career of Marshall's record-breaking wide receiver. A dual threat on the playing field, Brown's elusive nature as a receiver and kick returner led the Thundering Herd to back-to-back trips to the Division I- AA (now FCS) National Championship game, garnering the NCAA title in 1992. He caught 139 receptions for 2,746 yards and 24 touchdowns in his career en route to earning First Team All-America honors his senior year. Brown went on to play 14 years in the NFL with the New England Patriots, where he became the franchise's all-time leading receiver and won three Super Bowls with the team.
- Jim Donnan (1990–1995) the only coach representing Marshall in the College Football Hall of Fame. Donnan spent six seasons with Marshall and posted a 64–21 record. He led the Thundering Herd to four Division I-AA National Championship games, winning the 1992 national title. In 1994, the Thundering Herd won the Southern Conference Championship. His 15–4 playoff record ranks second best in NCAA FCS history. He was named Division I- AA Coach of the Year in 1992 and 1995.
- Frank Gatski, C, 1985. Gatski is the only Marshall player to have his jersey number retired and was Marshall's first player in the Professional Football Hall of Fame. The university retired Gatski's No. 72 during a halftime ceremony at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on October 15, 2005. Gatski died a month later, at age 86. During his career with the Cleveland Browns (1946–56) and the Detroit Lions (1957) he won eight championships in 11 title game appearances. Cleveland won the All-American Football Conference four straight years, going 14–0 in 1948, before joining the NFL. The Browns won NFL titles in 1950, 1954 and 1955 and were runners-up in 1951, 1952 and 1953. Gatski's Lions beat the Browns for his final title in 1957. The 31st Street Bridge, connecting Huntington to Proctorville, Ohio, is also named in Gatski's honor, joining U.S. Senator Robert Byrd (formerly the Sixth St. Bridge) and Congressman Nick Rahall (the former 17th St. Bridge) among three structures stretching across the Ohio River from West Virginia to Ohio.
- Randy Moss, WR, 2018. Moss is the second player in the Professional Football Hall of Fame to have been a member of the Thundering Herd. In a career that spanned 14 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, and the San Francisco 49ers, Moss en-massed the fourth-most receiving yards (15,292) and second-most receiving touchdowns (156) in NFL history. Moss appeared in two Super Bowls (losing both); Super Bowl XLII with the Patriots and Super Bowl XLVII with the 49ers. As of the end of the 2017 NFL season, Moss still holds the NFL record for 17 receiving touchdowns as a rookie (1998), when he also won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and most receiving touchdowns in a season (23), set back in 2007. Moss over his career also reached the 1,000-yard receiving mark eight times, was elected to six Pro Bowls (winning the MVP in 1999), made the First-team All-Pro four times, and selected as a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. In addition to his receiving abilities, Moss additionally accumulated two touchdown passes, one touchdown on a punt return, and an interception in his career.
Marshall University Hall of Fame
Established in 1984, members from the football team are listed below.
- 1970 Crash Victims 1990 Honored
- Bob Adkins, '39 1984
- Mike Barber, '88 1994
- Mike Bartrum, '92 2007
- Ahmad Bradshaw, '06 2017
- Troy Brown, '92 2002
- Doug Chapman, '99 2010
- George Chaump, 2013
- B. J. Cohen, '97 2005
- Larry Coyer, '64 1987
- Chris Crocker, '02 2013
- Melvin Cunningham, '96 2016
- Josh Davis, '04 2018
- Sean Doctor, '88 2000
- Jim Donnan, 2008
- Carl Fodor, '85 1991
- Frank Gatski, '42 1985
- John Grace, '99 2010
- Len Hellyer, '56 1988
- Cam Henderson, '33–55 1984
- Eric Ihnat, '90 2017
- Dewey Klein, '91 2018
- Carl Lee, '82 1995
- Byron Leftwich, '02 2007
- Billy Lyon, '96 2007
- Albert McClellan, '09 2020
- Giradie Mercer, '99 2019
- Randy Moss, '97 2010
- Reggie Oliver, '73 1984
- Tim Openlander, '96 2015
- Chris Parker '95 2000
- Chad Pennington, '99 2010
- Tony Petersen, '88 1994
- Bob Pruett, '65 1999
- Steve Sciullo, 02 2020
- Charlie Slack, '56 1985
- Ed Ulinski, '41 1986
- John Wade, '97 2010
- Darius Watts, '03 2014
- Norm Willey, '49 2003
- Jamie Wilson, '96 2019
- William "Bill" Richard Winter, '64 1990
- Max Yates, '01 2019
Future non-conference opponents
Announced schedules as of April 1, 2021.
|at Navy||Norfolk State||Navy||at Virginia Tech||Army||at Penn State||at Ohio||at Appalachian State|
|North Carolina Central||at Notre Dame||at East Carolina||Western Michigan||at Western Michigan||at Army||Boise State|
|East Carolina||Appalachian State||Virginia Tech||at Liberty||East Carolina||Liberty||Bowling Green|
|at Appalachian State||at Bowling Green||Ohio|
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