HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Monday marked the 52nd anniversary of the Marshall University plane crash that claimed the lives of 75 football players, coaches, staff, fans and flight crew.
Marshall University athletic director Christian Spears said he, Marshall president Brad Smith and Marshall’s head football coach Charles Huff visited the site of the November 14 crash 1970 before the Thundering Herd played in Appalachia State on Saturday.
“We just spent some time there and tried to get a sense of what Brad remembers as a kid having seen living in Kenova,” Spears said on Monday’s ‘580 Live’. heard on MetroNews flagship station 580-WCHS in Charleston.
— Marshall Athletics (@HerdZone) November 14, 2022
Spears said when recruiting new teammates, it’s important to teach them what it means to be a son of Marshall.
“They visit the site and explain why it’s so important to wear the Marshall jersey,” he said.
In the past seven months Spears has held his current position, he said he learned a lot about the impact the plane crash has had on college sports as a whole.
“We’ve all seen the movie, but people forget that the rules have changed,” he said. “Every freshman in the country can now play because of what happened at Marshall.”
Spears said it was an honor to hear the stories of family members of those who died 52 years ago.
“These are people who have real connections to all of this. So many people including family members who perished on that flight are sharing stories with me about their family and the impact it has had on the university,” Spears said.
Athletic director Charlie Kautz was among those killed in the 1970 plane crash. Ed Starling stepped in as acting athletic director after the tragedy. Spears said it was eye-opening to learn how Starling got through those tough times.
“Imagine coming back to a university to try to lead as a sports director without a football team without your administrative team and kind of hold it all together,” he said. “As a sports director now here at Marshall, understanding what this person dealt with, what Ed was managing.”
Spears said despite the competition, it’s an honor to face Marshall in his 75 game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium each year.
“Anyone who plays Marshall in this game, he feels what we feel when he’s out of it,” he said.
Marshall held his annual Memorial Fountain Ceremony in Huntington on Monday afternoon to mark the anniversary.