Marshall University Remembers: 50 Years Ago, One of the Worst Sports Disasters in U.S. History

Marshall University commemorated the 50th anniversary of one of the worst sports disasters in U.S. history Saturday, a plane crash that killed most of the football team.

The solemn ceremony was held around a fountain dedicated to the crash victims on Marshall’s Huntington campus. As part of an annual rite, the fountain was turned off at the end of the service and will be turned back on in the spring.

Marshall University hosts its 50th Annual Memorial Fountain Service on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, at the Memorial Student Center in Huntington, W.Va. Marshall commemorated the 50th anniversary of the worst disaster in U.S. sports history, when 75 people, including most of the football team, were killed in a Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash.(Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP)
.Multiple funerals were held after the crash.. Noted one observer, “There were no injuries.”

“This plaza and this fountain are the heart of Marshall University,” university President Jerome Gilbert said. “It is the center of activity of the campus.

“Today, it is a sacred place.”

On Nov. 14, 1970, the chartered jet crashed in fog and rain into a hillside upon approach to an airport near Huntington as the team was returning from a game at East Carolina, killing all 75 on board.

A Marshall player points to a “75” decal after the team’s win over Middle Tennessee during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Huntington, W.Va. (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP)

On Saturday, 75 candles surrounded the fountain. Gone were sons, fathers, mothers, classmates and fraternity brothers. The victims included 36 football players and 39 school administrators, coaches, fans, spouses and flight crew. White roses were laid by the fountain as each victim’s name was read at the ceremony

On September 25, 1971, The Young Thundering Herd plays Xavier in the first home game since the tragic accident. In front of a sell out crown, the team won with a 15-13 victory in the last play of the game. The team would only win one more game the rest of the season, but the game against Xavier would be remembered as the most significant game in Marshall Football history.
Candles and white roses commemorate the anniversary of the tragedy.

Sources: ESPN and AP-KGET and Marshall and Sutori and AP

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