MU football notebook: ECU coach will miss facing Marshall
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - You never know in the mixed-up world of coaching where you'll work in any given year, home or away, but Ruffin McNeill is seeing the last of Marshall for the foreseeable future.
McNeill's East Carolina team, playing the Thundering Herd at noon Friday, is moving on to the American Athletic Conference after this academic season. The Pirates will move with Tulsa and Tulane and rejoin four other former Conference USA schools.
McNeill had fond memories of coaching against Marshall, and it stretches well beyond the double-overtime thrillers in 2011 and 2012. The Herd and Pirates split those games, with ECU winning 65-59 last season and denying MU bowl eligibility.
"I played Marshall when I played here [at ECU], from '76 through '79," McNeill said Monday. "I played there not long after the tough deal that happened there [1970 plane crash]. And then at Appalachian State, we had enormous games there, as well. And now, at East Carolina, we've been going at it the entire time.
"And then I've known Doc [MU coach Holliday], I think the world of Doc and [wife] Diana. It's been a long time for me, probably since I was 17, 18 years old."
The recap: He played with ECU against a reeling Marshall team in the 1978 season finale, which the Pirates won 45-0. He had five tackles, one solo.
At Appalachian State, McNeill faced the Herd from 1989-91 and 1993-96, going 4-3. His low point was a 50-0 blasting in 1990; his high point was a 10-3 win over freshman Chad Pennington in 1995. His 1996 Mountaineer defense did the best job against Randy Moss and company, losing only 24-10.
He is 2-1 against Marshall while at ECU, also including a 37-10 win in 2010.
Marshall strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair lived a little on the wild side during Monday's practice, parading around shirtless during the team's stretching exercises.
He's not the first strength coach to get a little slap-happy in the cold, but he added a little flair to the proceedings, pun intended.
Draped around his waist was a replica of the famous Ric Flair "Ten Pounds of Gold" wrestling belt. Sinclair eventually succumbed to the chill and covered up.
"Actually, I was pretty good until about the fourth or fifth period, and then I started getting chilly," he said. "I don't know, I just wanted to do something different to get them going. We've been talking about it since I've gotten here about winning a championship, and we have an opportunity to do that this weekend.
"Teddy Kluemper [MU's director of athletic development] bought me that belt, I'm a huge wrestling fan. I thought this week would be a good time to use it."
Holliday said strong safety A.J. Leggett should return Saturday. Leggett has been nursing a high ankle sprain the last two games and has been replaced by Taj Letman.
On a different note, freshman Justin Hunt had his red "rookie" strip peeled off after Monday's practice. Late in the Herd's 48-10 rout of Florida International, Hunt caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Blake Frohnapfel.
The big personnel news from McNeill's press conference at ECU: 322-pound nose tackle Terry Williams has been reinstated from suspension. Once considered a candidate for postseason honors, he has played just three games this season.
McNeill said the suspension was lifted after a team vote, which had to be unanimous.
Marshall is offering sideline seats for $20 in a "Black Friday" promotion. For quickest purchase, go to Herdzone.com, and use the promo code BLACKFRIDAY.
Hours for the Cam Henderson Center ticket office this week are adjusted as follows: 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. today, 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, 10-11:30 a.m. and 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday for will-call purposes only. All ticket windows at Joan C. Edwards Stadium open at 9:30 a.m.
Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.