HUNTINGTON — On Monday, news circulated quickly of Marshall University’s decision not to renew the contract of head football coach Doc Holliday.
For current and former players, the range of emotions went from anger and frustration to support and thanks for the coach who led Marshall’s program over the last 11 seasons.
Quarterback Grant Wells, a Charleston native, offered his appreciation for Holliday on social media.
“I will forever be thankful for [Holliday] for being the first coach to believe in me and giving me the opportunity to play football at Marshall,” Wells said on Twitter. “You have changed countless lives just by believing in so many guys. I am grateful to experience you as a coach and as a mentor.”
Marshall offensive linemen Will Ulmer and Alex Mollette joined Wells in thanking Holliday for what he’s done for them.
Both Ulmer and Mollette have been with Holliday for five years, starting with the struggles of 2016 and culminating with this year’s appearance in the Conference USA championship game.
“It has been nothing short of a blessing and a privilege to have played under Coach Holliday for five years,” Ulmer said. “I will always be thankful for the opportunity given to me by Coach Holliday to further my education and play the game I love at Marshall University.”
“There is not a better coach or mentor than this man right here,” Mollette said of Holliday. “He taught us so many lessons on and off the field, all while being the best coach in this conference year in and year out. Nothing but love and respect for this man.”
Marshall linebacker Tavante Beckett, who won the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year award this season, summed up his feelings on Holliday’s impact in two words: “Forever grateful.”
The reaction was much the same from players who have since exited the program, such as Levi Brown, who started for four years at center under Holliday from 2016-19.
“One of the absolute best there is,” Brown said. “This man changes kids’ lives and makes them into men. Can’t thank Coach Holliday enough.”
Holliday, who went 85-54 as Marshall’s coach in 139 career games, built his success through recruiting.
The Hurricane native always stated that football was a “personnel-driven” game and that players, not coaches, were at the center of success.
Holliday was able to recruit high-caliber players to Marshall, especially making big inroads in Florida where talent continuously traveled to Huntington.
Players such as all-time school leading passer Rakeem Cato and Conference USA’s all-time leading receiver Tommy Shuler are two of the players Holliday brought in through recruiting who turned into major talents despite never having been offered hard in high school.
Cato especially was angered at the news on Monday, issuing a Facebook post that read, in part, “y’all better hope the grass greener on the otherside(.) may not never see kids from Florida ever again”
Quarterback Chase Litton, another former Florida product for the Herd, also expressed support for Holliday after being given an opportunity at Marshall that no one else gave.
“I had 0 offers coming out of high school & there was only 2 people who believed in me — Bill Legg (OC) & this man right here (Holliday),” Litton said. “I’m beyond thankful for the opportunity I was given. You deserve better coach. Players play and coaches coach. We let you down. Thank you for everything.”
While the former players voiced their thanks to Holliday, current players were faced with the notion of looking at their future and assessing who they want to lead the program now that Holliday is not returning.
There was overwhelming support among players for current defensive coordinator Brad Lambert to move into the head coaching role.
“There are only a few people who truly understand Marshall and will keep the traditions strong like @CoachBradLambo [Lambert],” Wells said. “He has the respect of everyone on the roster and will continue to elevate this program with full support.”
Mollette agreed with his quarterback’s assessment of Lambert’s prospects as the Herd’s potential future leader.
“Coach Lambert understands the history and passion that comes with Marshall and our community,” Mollette said. “Going forward, there is no one except [Lambert] that I would trust with leading a program that is so precious to us as players and the community.”
Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert announced a committee is being formed to conduct a search for the new coach.
The eight-to-12-member panel will be headed by Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick.