Happy anniversary, (the) Joan
HUNTINGTON - Mike Hamrick knows where exactly he was on Sept. 7, 1991. He had too much invested not to remember.
"I was living in Little Rock, Arkansas," recalled Hamrick, Marshall's athletic director. "My wife and I drove with three kids all the way back here to watch the first game. Three young kids - how about that?"
The "here" was the new Marshall University Football Stadium, the replacement for the not-aging-so-well Fairfield Stadium. Hamrick played four years at Fairfield in the late 1970s, when a new stadium was little more than a tantalizing dream.
Hamrick has since been to East Carolina, Las Vegas and back, and he is the man in the athletic director's box for the third season. Renamed Joan C. Edwards Stadium in November 2004, it will be site for the 22nd home season of Thundering Herd football.
Western Carolina will supply the opposition at 7 tonight. That supplies a little symmetry - as a Southern Conference rival at the time, the Catamounts were the stadium's fourth visitor, falling to the Herd 27-24 in a triple-overtime thriller in 1991.
This will be the Thundering Herd's 150th game at "The Joan," against 63 different teams. The latter number could swell next year, depending on the scheduling rotation of the realigned Conference USA. Marshall is 127-22 all-time in the venue.
The stadium has been expanded twice, with a 38,019-seat stadium large enough to draw bigger-name opponents. New video boards have been added on the north and south ends, and decorations have been added on ground-level facades, concourses and elsewhere. New luxury suites are in the works, with the third change in artificial turf planned in 2 to 4 years.
In many ways, today's visitors will find a building in young adulthood roughly unchanged from how it appeared in its infancy.
"I think it's an outstanding stadium," Hamrick said. "I think it's been well kept, we've dressed it up a little bit. We've got nice suites here that I think are good as anywhere. We're planning to add another addition of suites, right after the season is over we're going to start that."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.