Most phenomena aren’t based on passion.
Instead, the tendency is towards science, creatures and storms.
But the best phenomena?
The very best?
It is spawned by passion.
Which leads us to Marshall University’s annual fountain ceremony on every Nov. 14th. The event commemorates the death of 75 people, including most of Marshall’s football team and coaches, in a horrific airplane crash.
The 49th edition of the fountain ceremony was held Thursday, and it was as passionate as ever. That’s what is so amazing, so phenomenal about this event.
It is held year after year with the landmark 50th edition looming in 2020, yet the memorial service hasn’t begun to wane or become redundant or lose its heartfelt appeal.
That in itself is phenomenal.
Most events of this ilk lose their attraction after a while with younger generations lobbying to move on and quit living in the past.
But not here.
Not in Huntington.
This heart-wrenching tragedy and the annual ceremony it created in remembrance have become so enmeshed in the history, tradition and very way of life in this town, the fountain ceremony actually is growing and becoming more significant on a yearly basis.
That is truly phenomenal because it’s certainly not the normal trend.
So what makes this ceremony different?
The circumstances, first of all. The community and university became one, losing pillars of the community and players at the college in one emotionally bonding tragedy.
But it’s more than that.
Marshall’s athletic department and football program have played an increasingly important role in recent years by designating “75 week.” It involves the players wearing commemorative black jerseys with a “75” sticker on their helmets for the “75 Game.”
It was an outstanding move that began in the 2013 season. Marshall was scheduled to play at Tulsa that year on Nov. 14, the crash anniversary. The Herd pulled out an emotional, come-from-behind 45-34 victory that day in Oklahoma.
A trend was born.
And it is helping to keep this tear-stained tradition alive after 49 long years.
So, let’s take a look at what has happened in Marshall’s very next game after the crash anniversary.
Thanks to the Herd’s 35-10 victory over Louisiana Tech Friday night, Marshall’s record in these games is 28-21.
The Herd has a 3-3 record in games played on Nov. 15. More compelling, perhaps, is Marshall’s 4-2 record in games on Nov. 14.
MU actually lost the initial anniversary game in 1971, as coach Jack Lengyel and his “Young Herd” lost to Ohio 30-0. But Marshall won at Ohio 31-14 in 1972 and defeated Dayton 37-14 in the 1973 edition of this game.
Lengyel finished with a 2-2 record in these games. Frank Ellwood followed Lengyel, but is the only MU coach to go winless in these anniversary games (0-4). Next, Sonny Randle compiled a 1-4 record, followed by Stan Parrish at 1-1.
The late George Chaump was next and went 2-2.
Then, real success became a trend. Jim Donnan had an undefeated 6-0 record in wins over Western Carolina (twice), VMI, Tennessee Tech (on Nov. 14), Middle Tennessee and Hofstra.
Bobby Pruett followed that with an 8-1 record. The only loss was at Ohio, 38-28, in 2000.
That wave of success ended under Mark Snyder, who was 1-4, but Doc Holliday has revitalized it with a 7-3 record.
The best part?
There is no end in sight.
Memorial ceremonies come and go and rarely stand the test of time. Except this one. Why this one?