On November 14, 1970, a chartered flight carrying Marshall University’s football team clipped a stand of trees and crashed into a hillside two miles from the Tri-State Airport in Kenova, West Virginia. Everyone onboard perished in the crash. MU was returning from a 17-14 loss to East Carolina University. 37 football players were aboard the plane, along with the team’s coach, its doctors, the university athletic director and 25 team boosters–some of Huntington, West Virginia.
The crash was one tragedy in a string of unfortunate events that had befallen the Marshall football team since about 1960. The university stadium, which hadn’t been renovated since before World War II, was condemned in 1962. From the last game of the 1966 season to midway through the 1969 season, the team hadn’t won any games. And to make matters worse, the NCAA had suspended Marshall for more than 100 recruiting violations. The Mid-American Conference had expelled the team for the same reason. In light of all the downfalls, Marshall seemed to be getting back on track. A shift in coaching staff, a new field and winning games brought things into a positive light for the team.
Huntington went into mourning. Shops and government offices closed. Windows were draped in black bunting. A memorial service was held in the stadium. Classes were canceled. There were so many funerals that they had to be spread out over several weeks. In perhaps the saddest ceremony of all, six players whose remains couldn’t be identified were buried together in Spring Hill Cemetery, on a hill overlooking their university.