HUNTINGTON — This weekend, Marshall head coach Doc Holliday will reach a milestone in his coaching career with the Thundering Herd.
When Holliday leads Marshall onto the field against Cincinnati at 5 p.m. on Saturday, it will mark the 120th game as head coach in Holliday’s 10-year tenure with the Herd.
So why is that significant? That number surpasses Cam Henderson as the all-time leader in games coached in Marshall football history.
While the mark is momentous in Marshall lore, Holliday said his only focus regarding Saturday is finding a way to defeat a tough Cincinnati team, who comes into Joan C. Edwards Stadium at 2-1 and is one of the American Athletic Conference’s top teams.
“I’m not real concerned about that [milestone] right now,” Holliday said. “The only thing I’m concerned about is getting this team ready to go play a really good Cincinnati team on Saturday.”
Saturday’s appearance pushes him past Henderson, with whom he is currently tied at 119 games. Henderson led the Herd from 1935-49 with three seasons (1943-45) not featuring football due to World War II.
Bob Pruett, who coached Marshall from 1996 to 2004, tallied 117 games in his nine seasons and leads Marshall with 94 wins — 70 of which came at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. Heading into Saturday’s game, Holliday is currently second in career wins at 72 — 65 of which have come at the FBS level.
While Holliday stayed low-key about the milestone, Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick took time out of meetings in Washington, D.C., to offer his praise for a head coach who was his first hire as the Marshall athletic director.
“I’m just so happy and proud for him,” Hamrick said. “He’s worked hard to put together an outstanding staff, and his wins have been in the shadow of a clean program. Our players play hard, they are disciplined and they graduate.”
Hamrick added that Holliday has sustained success during a time when the landscape of college football was changing with realignment and the emergence of the College Football Playoff.
Despite the change in dynamic, Holliday has navigated Marshall to being one of the more successful Group of 5 programs in recent years.
“When he was hired here, the program was not doing well,” Hamrick said. “The program was getting ready to come off NCAA probation and we needed a football coach to put the program back together and he has done that among many changes in college football.
“The hardest thing for any coach to do is to sustain success. Doc has sustained that success at Marshall. I believe in Conference USA in the last four or five years, he’s won more football games than anyone within the conference. He’s sustained consistent success over a period of time.”
When hired on Dec. 17, 2009, Marshall became Holliday’s first head coaching venture after nearly three decades as an assistant with West Virginia (twice), N.C. State and Florida.
Holliday did joke on Tuesday that, given the difficulties of turning things around at Marshall in the first few years, he never knew if Saturday’s milestone would come.
“I guess I’ve been here a while,” Holliday said. “After that first or second year, I wasn’t real sure I was going to make it past year two or three, so I guess year 10, I’ve accomplished something.”
The Hurricane native added his appreciation for Hamrick and late Marshall President Stephen Kopp for believing in him and offering him his first head coaching gig.
“I owe a lot to those guys who gave me this opportunity and I really appreciate that ... the opportunity to coach a great game, at a great place, where football is important,” Holliday said. “It doesn’t get a lot better than that. I’m happy to be here, proud to be the head coach.”