HUNTINGTON — Steve Cotton was more concerned with pronouncing the names of the basketball players from Marshall and North Texas than he was about the hubbub surrounding him Saturday.
Cotton was recognized before the Thundering Herd’s men’s basketball game with the Mean Green at the Cam Henderson Center for calling his 1,000th game at Marshall.
“People are making more of it than it really is,” Cotton said, showing humility that has made him a favorite in the Marshall community.
The 5,489 spectators gave Cotton a long and loud ovation, letting the Kalkaska, Michigan, native and University of Florida graduate know they considered him a member of the Herd.
Cotton came to Marshall in 1993 and served as a sideline reporter for football, color analyst for basketball and was host of the Bobby Pruett and Greg White call-in shows. Cotton said he considered some other jobs and considered returning to his home in Michigan, but Marshall play-by-play man Stan Cotten convinced him to stay.
“I came to Marshall for grad school and hadn’t been able to find a journalism job that paid anything,” Cotton said. “My undergrad at Florida was in broadcasting and I got a masters in journalism. Stan Cotten, who I worked with at Florida when I was doing women’s basketball, had gotten this job and he convinced me to come to Marshall and he put me on the air. Stan convinced me to ‘stick this out, you’re close’ and he got the job at Wake Forest and I took his job here in 1996.”
Cotton has been behind the microphone since. His first season as play-by-play man, Eric Kresser and Randy Moss led Marshall’s football team to a 15-0 record and the NCAA Division I-AA national championship. Cotten said there was no better way to begin a broadcasting career.
“I would highly recommend to any aspiring broadcaster to start off with a Randy Moss and an undefeated season,” Cotten said. “Then six or eight games into basketball season, Keith Veney made 15 threes in a basketball game.”
Veney scored 51 points and made those 15 3-point shots against Morehead State on Dec. 14, 1996. That record for 3-pointers in a game still stands.
Cotton, who also did play-by-play for Carson-Newman University football before coming to Marshall, said Herd teams have made his job enjoyable. He admitted, however, he was nervous taking over a role held by Cotten, Bill Roth, who went on to Virginia Tech, and Wes Durham, who went on to Georgia Tech.
“Here I am following Stan and Wes Durham and Bill Roth, all great broadcasters,” Cotton said. “I was a little nervous filling their shoes, but when you spend the whole season saying ‘touchdown Herd’ people think you’re great.”
Cotton said he has difficulty choosing one moment as the highlight of his career, but if pressed he would pick Marshall’s 34-30 victory over Western Michigan in the 1999 Mid-American Conference championship game at Marshall Stadium. The Herd rallied from a 23-0 deficit to defeat the Broncos and advnace to the Motor City Bowl, where it beat BYU 21-3 and finished 13-0, with a No. 10 national ranking.
Will Cotton broadcast another 1,000 games at Marshall?
“I just hope the keep me around to do Thursday’s game at Middle Tennessee,” Cotton said.