Paul Swann (12)
HUNTINGTON — Thankfully, players must sign a National Letter of Intent. One slip of the tongue could have cost Marshall football Coach Doc Holliday the services of Gerald Wright.
“Signing Day was crazy; some of the crowd was chanting ‘FSU, FSU,” Wright said. “I got to the microphone and choked and said I was taking my talents to Michigan. I don’t know where that came from.”
Lucky for the 6-foot-3, 320-pound offensive lineman, his mom was there to save the day for the Herd and not Florida State or the Wolverines.
“I had my mom saying ‘Marshall, Marshall, Marshall, Marshall,” Wright said of when he looked at the school crowd to witness his Signing Day announcement. “That’s when I corrected it and said I will be taking my talents to Marshall.”
Wright, from Miami Northwestern High School, was the second commitment of the 2013 Marshall recruiting class and turned down offers from offers from Florida A&M, Ole Miss and a late offer from Florida State.
“The crazy thing is that (Florida State) came to offer me on Thursday, right before we went out on break, six days before signing day,” Wright said.
But he already was excited to play for Coach Holliday.
HUNTINGTON — Stevie Wonder dubbed Philadelphia 76ers legend Darryl Dawkins “Chocolate Thunder” because Dawkins was described to Wonder as the chocolate guy putting down thunder dunks.
D’Andre “Chocolate” Wilson didn’t have such luck on how he acquired his nickname.
“During birth, I came out extra dark and my father said my name was ‘Chocolate,’” Wilson said in an interview last week. “Ever since then, my name has been Chocolate.”
No matter the humorous beginnings, life has been sweet like chocolate for Wilson.
HUNTINGTON — For more than 30 years, the thought of coming to Huntington brought only pain and sadness to Moses “Mo” Lajterman.
His brother, Marcelo Lajterman was the kicker on the 1970 Marshall Thundering Herd team that perished on Southern Airways Flight 932. Mo Lajterman was the keynote speaker at this year’s Marshall Memorial Fountain ceremony, but how he started his journey to Huntington started back 12 years ago.
“I decided in the year 2000 that I was going to come here with my brothers, without my brothers,” Lajterman said. “I had spoken to Tommy Shoebridge (brother of 1970 Herd quarterback Ted Shoebridge). He kept saying to me you have to go to Huntington and meet some of the people there, you would never believe what goes on there.
“And I said, ‘Tommy, I don’t want to go, I don’t want to be reminded of what happened in 1970, it’s bad enough that we talk among ourselves and go to the cemetery and pay our respects and that’s good enough for us.”
“He goes, ‘You are missing the point. You have to go there and feel the love and see what happens when you get there.”
That same year, West Virginia Public Broadcasting was preparing a telecast documentary about the 1970 Marshall plane crash; Lajterman was finally compelled to make the journey to Huntington and MU.
“There was a documentary, ‘Ashes to Glory,’ and all the sudden it came to me that I had to be here whatever reason, I had to be here,” Mo Lajterman said. “I called my brothers, Abe and Tito, and they were still emotional, they didn’t want to come here to Huntington and said, ‘no, we’ll skip it, we still don’t want to be there.
“I said, ‘Guys, I’m going by myself,’ and that’s exactly what happened. I came here; I didn’t know a soul. I knew Tommy (Shoebridge), and we ended up seeing the documentary at the Keith Albee Theater.”
The experience of coming to Huntington, seeing the story of the football team plane crash, and feeling the embrace of the Marshall family left an everlasting mark on Lajterman.
“I remember coming back, talking to my younger brother,” Lajterman said. “Tito, I said, ‘You have to feel the love and the emotion that goes on here. I couldn’t even finish the conversation and started tearing up and crying and I said, ‘I have to call you back,’ because the emotion was just too much for me.”
It took Lajterman a few hours to call his brother again, but when he did, he was determined that the family had to travel to Huntington, to see and feel what he experienced.
“I called him back and I was able to speak to him again, but I said to him, ‘Listen, next time we’re coming together, you, myself and Abe and we’ve going to have to come back here together.” It would be a few years before an opportunity came for the Lajterman family to all come to Huntington. It came by phone in 2006.
“Steve Chapman (freelance TV producer) called us about coming for the movie premiere of ‘We Are … Marshall,’” Lajterman said. “That’s the first time we came together, the three of us.”
The “three of us” included Abe Lajterman; he still harbored deep emotions over the events of Nov. 14, 1970. Abe has a unique connection to Marshall; he played soccer at Davis & Elkins from 197072; his 1971 team won the NAIA championship.
He even competed against Marshall men’s Coach Bob Grey during Gray’s playing days at Alderson-Broaddus.
It was Abe who came to Huntington after the crash to take care of Marcelo’s affairs. It left a scar.
“For many years I was angry and I was upset with this whole thing that happened with this accident,” Abe said. “Because of Mo pushing us to come, we decided to come with the premiere of ‘We Are …Marshall.’”
For a second time, a movie about Marshall and its football program left an everlasting mark on the Lajterman family. The experience left the brothers wanting to do more than pay their respects to Marcelo. “Coming home, among the three of us, we came up with the idea of doing something for our brother Marcelo, so his name goes on, and we came up with a tournament,” Abe said.
“Originally it was going to be a kicking tournament, which was going to involve high school players that are going to go to college. We were going to raise some money and donate it to them, but it developed into a golf tournament, and I’m happy to say after six years we were able to donate quite a bit of money in Marcelo’s name and an endowment at Marshall University.”
In a few short years, what once was a place of sadness had now become a second home for Mo and his brothers.
“We do enjoy coming to this family, we love it here, we really do,” Mo said. “We look forward to it.”
So, 12 years after his first visit here, Mo received a phone call from Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick.
“In the beginning, when Mike asked me to be the keynote speaker (at the 2012 ceremony) I had reservations,” Mo said. “I said to Mike that I would get back to him in a couple of days; it actually took three to four days before I got back to him, but I knew all along I wanted to be the keynote speaker.
“It’s just an amazing thing that people keep coming back year after year. It’s getting bigger all the time. It’s just amazing, 42 years and people still never, ever, forget what happened, and that’s a great feeling for us, it really is.
“And that’s why we come back. We come back here for that.”
HUNTINGTON — The Marshall Thundering Herd is averaging more fans this season than 2012 — yes, even with three home losses this year — but will that really matter for the Houston game after dropping their sixth game of the season with a 38-31 loss at UAB? The last two home games for the Marshall Thundering Herd have not been the best at the turnstile, with announced crowds (that’s tickets accounted for by sales, students, etc.) of 22,563 for UCF and 22,041 for Memphis.
Maybe you can blame television and really bad weather on UCF crowd, despite the Knights being a hated foe of the Thundering Herd. That night, the Joan C. Edwards stadium wasn’t a place to be on a Saturday, but the following week was a nice day for a one-win Memphis team, and that game wasn’t televised — and many guessed the actual attendance at 16,000-to-18,000.
Early in the season, the expectations are high, and so are the crowds.
But when you aren’t winning and it’s late in the season — maybe it’s cold, maybe it’s wet, or maybe life catches up with you — is it realistic to expect to crowds on par with the 33,436 fans that showed up for a rivalry game early in the season like Ohio?
Or even the 27,188 for the conference home opener against Tulsa?
“Naturally, because of the weather, you will experience a decline in attendance” said Aaron Goebbel, Assistant Athletic Director of Ticketing.
“It is difficult to have identical expectations.”
But despite the recent drop in attendance, the actual average is ahead of last season.
In 2011, Marshall averaged 25,874 in five games. In five games this season, Marshall has averaged 26,109.
That’s an increase of 1,175 fans from the season total of 129,371 last year with one home game to go, but will the fans show to watch a six-loss team, coming off a bad loss to UAB?
The final home game is going to be a tough sell, with a 4-6 Marshall team taking on a 4-6 Houston squad. Keep in mind: Marshall hasn’t been eliminated from bowl eligibility and the offense is still fun to watch, averaging 38.8 points per game.
But the Herd is a team that also sits on the verge of postseason elimination, playing another one in the same boat, and it might be easier to stay at home and watch this one on television or keep track of the game with your radio (on SuperTalk 930 AM and 94.1 FM, of course). I don’t think you solve the problem on Saturday.
Fans are either going to come or they are going to stay at home, and most of them made their mind up after the UAB loss.
Instead, I think it’s time to look toward next year and beyond.
We know the answer is winning, it will solve everything, because everyone loves a winner.
That is not an indictment of fans, its just fact.
Fans are predictable — if you win they show up, if you lose, they don’t.
Yogi Berra said it best, “If people don’t want to come out to the ball park, nobody’s gonna stop ‘em.”
But that doesn’t mean the opportunity to give fans a reason to come to the game doesn’t exist, as teams with losing records all across the country draw fans.
It starts with engaging the alumni.
In the 15 years since the day I graduated with the class of 1997, I have not seen one piece of mail letting me know that football season is about to start, and how I can become a season ticket holder.
Alumni are already invested in the school — why not invest back in them. Will every person that ever-attended Marshall want to come to a football game?
However, but if it was easier for every person who attended Marshall to become a season ticket holder, or buy tickets, you would have more opportunities to boost your gate.
Winning the hearts and minds of the students is vital to the future of Marshall athletics.
Chad Pennington, Randy Moss, Byron Leftwich and Troy Brown are just names to many students that go to Marshall.
It’s not that they are apathetic; these are just not their heroes — hey, many of them were not even born when Brown was leading the Herd to the I-AA title in 1992, 20 years ago.
Rakeem Cato, Tyler Williams, and Dominick LeGrande are the new heroes, and these students should embrace the new heroes the way fans remember the old.
While winning will help energize the student body, creating a culture where the students are passionate, willing to take ownership of the team is imperative.
Students at Duke are proud of their passion, they compete to show it at basketball games.
Maybe it’s time for Doc Holiday to go “walkabout” on campus this week and next year, and talk to every student he can and share the passion he has for the program.
Marshall is a commuter college. It’s easy for students to pack up after their last class on Friday and head home for the weekend. Winning football will help keeping students on campus, but making every home game is an event, that is what football is all about, it is why so many older fans look forward to the six yearly events. Why not make the weekend surrounding the game an event, including (but not limited to) concerts, activities, events, picnics or even bonfires or outdoor events.
Think it doesn’t make a splash at UCF when they have a band out front of the basketball building before a Marshall game, with a portable ice rink in Orlando, Fla.? No doubt.
The Marshall athletic brain trust has to find out what students want and then give it to them. Give them a reason to stay on game day. Students and alumni alone will not fill Joan C. Edwards stadium, and just because Marshall is playing a football game, people won’t just show up.
The Cincinnati Reds make it a point to market outside of Cincinnati, and they have ticket agents that have regions in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia.
Why? The Reds are a small market team.
They fight for every potential fan possible because the Cincinnati city alone can’t sustain the team.
Marshall needs to take this approach, constantly reaching beyond Huntington and the Tri-State into all of West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio.
“Thunderfest at Great American Ball Park” has been a fun time at Reds games in Cincinnati for years.
Why can’t Ashland, Ky.; or Ironton, Ohio; or Putnam County Community Day happen every year at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Of course the real fix is winning, and right now Marshall isn’t, so will the fans care this Saturday after the loss to UAB? Houston, and the Herd, will find out Saturday
HUNTINGTON — On Oct. 12, the Marshall volleyball team defeated the then-Conference USA leader Rice at home in three sets. The Thundering Herd had something to prove, especially against the Owls, a team that dominated them the last time they were in Huntington.
Those are things you don’t forget, and the play on the court showed.
“They didn’t forget Rice coming into our building two years ago, beating us two nights in a row and kind of laughing and giggling and having way too much fun, rather than having to play as hard as they could to beat us,” Marshall Coach Mitch Jacobs said. “They didn’t forget that when we beat Rice at home this year.”
Marshall was 16-5, and had improved to 6-1 in C-USA with the win over Rice, so it’s natural for young athletes to feel good about the early success. It also was a warning sign for Jacobs.
“We were trying to get them to understand that we’ve been living on a fine edge, we’ve been executing extremely well in the fundamental areas of the game,” Jacobs said. “With all of the wins piling up, it’s just human nature to feel good about yourself, you want to feel good about yourself … You find ways to feel good about yourself when things aren’t going right.”
Since the Rice game, things haven’t gone right for Marshall, dropping seven straight matches. It’s now in a three-way tie for seventh place in C-USA with two home matches left, and is in danger of missing the upcoming conference tournament that includes eight teams.
The Herd team that played like it had something to prove all of the sudden lost that chip on its shoulder.
“We went from a team that was trying to gain respect to a team that thought they had respect. That’s just not going to help us,” Jacobs said. “We’re playing these teams last year and I remember playing at UAB and we were so injured that we had a makeshift lineup and I remember some basketball guys sitting behind our bench just telling our girls they are the worst athletes, worst volleyball players they ever seen, and loudly.
“I remember players on the other side of the net hearing it and laughing, and I think our players forgot about that kind of stuff."
“Sometimes when you feel good about yourself, it’s easy to forget why you were trying to feel good in the first place. Sometimes when that happens, a team can lose an identity."
“We were doing so well that our offense started looking really good and that’s just not the identity of this team. The identity of this team is defense and ball control and serving tough. We were doing so well in those areas that our offense started looking good, but it was only looking good because it was coming off of those areas of the game."
“Our offense starts looking so good and all of the sudden our team is like, ‘This offensive thing is great, it’s so much fun.’ And they stop focusing on the areas we needed to stay focused on, that’s serve, pass and play defense.”
It’s also those fundamentals that Jacobs is now working on to get his squad ready for a postseason push that’s needed.
“We’re a good enough volleyball team that when we’re really executing the fundamentals, we can put pressure on people and we do some areas of the game very well that when our fundamentals are really strong that we’re able to get into those areas that we do really well at and put pressure on teams and try to break them down,” Jacobs said.
“Without the fundamentals being done soundly, we’re not a good team. That’s just something that the team bought into from the start, we recognize as a group that our fundamentals have slipped and that’s kind of lead to the slip in our season right now.”
Jacobs is optimistic that his team can get back on track and finish strong enough to make the postseason.
“They get it,” he said. “They understand, and we play our best when our backs are against the wall, so hopefully, once again our backs being against the wall, knowing we have to win now to get into the tournament.
“We’ve got to play every point like it’s our championship at this point. There is no more game by game, set by set, every point has to be played like you are in the championship match, otherwise there won’t be any shot for a championship match.”
The question remains: Can this team come out of the slump they are in and make that final push?
“We’re doing the best we can, they are pushing hard in practice and we’re trying to come out of it,” the Herd coach said. “The key is that we just have to stay bought in to the parts that are most important to us, the straight fundamentals of serve and pass, and we’ve got to keep our identity
“This little stretch is tough on everybody because it’s not hard to have a group bought in when you successful with what you are doing. But now the fact is that we’re not getting though those points, but I think we’ve got a full buy-in again.
“The other side is our opponents practice, too, and our opponents have their backs against the wall as well. Who’s willing to go forward when they’ve taken their best shot, that’s going to be the last teams that are going to make it to the (C-USA) tournament.”
HUNTINGTON — New Marshall women’s basketball coach Matt Daniel won’t be mistaken for Star Wars Director George Lucas anytime soon, but the two have something in common.
Lucas was infamous for his direction of “Faster, more intense.” Daniel is definitely both faster and more intense.
“Things can always be going faster and better for me, that’s just the pace I operate at. Even my daughter we had a month ago understands that, she came three weeks early,” Daniel said. “Everybody in my family understands how I am and our administration as we get to know each other has been supportive of what we are trying to do and the pace we need to do it at.
“I’m never satisfied and I think that’s what keeps the success coming because you’re always hungry. Once you become complacent or fat and happy, that’s when you get yourself in a bind, no matter what your realm is.”
Daniel’s team makes its public debut Thursday night at the Henderson Center, in a 7 o’clock exhibition against Concord of the WVIAC. He admits that it’s not an easy task to hit the ground running for both his team or his staff, while trying to turn around a program. “I think that they are trying, I don’t think it’s an easy task,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an easy task for anybody. It’s not an easy task for our coaching staff, either. You’re trying to get to know each other as quickly as you possibly can and setting things up so you can have some success.
“That’s tough in a normal environment or normal situation. When you come in here and let these kids have some success and do it the right way and not to band-aid something but build something that everyone in the state can be proud of. I think that is going to be tough on anybody.” One of the early tasks in front of Daniel is getting everyone on board with his game plan, the House of Higher Hoops mantra.
“It’s very hard, when you have individual meetings and you talk about player personnel and they say, ‘Hey this is what my previous coach did and this is what the strength coach did and that’s just kind of who I am,’” Daniel said. “You say that’s really irrelevant. “It’s not about who you are it’s about who we need you to be,
because it’s really not about you it’s about team first win which is the foundation of the Home of Higher Hoops”
That philosophy isn’t just a team guideline for how to deal with game day or practice, it’s more about personal responsibility, to the team.
“You know if we’re making decisions with the team first in mind whether it’s Friday night in the club or church on Sunday morning or game day on Thursday night, you’re making decisions with team first and you’re winning, regardless of what the scoreboard says,” the new MU coach said. “I think that’s a true measure of what we do. “ Personnel is a recurring theme with Daniel, something he’s been on the road trying to address on the recruiting trail.
“Right now we have six available scholarships, and we’re in the process of evaluating personnel; when something is broken, you’ve got to fix it,” he said. “That doesn’t make it personal, it’s just personnel.
“We have four commitments right now, two in-state kids, two kids from Virginia and Maryland. We’re heavy and hard on the recruiting trail while trying to focus on the team we have here and the task at hand that (starting Thursday) and then tip off for real Nov. 9 against Radford.”
The impression you get from Daniel is that his team is a work in progress, but with a wink and a nod, he had an idea of what his team will look like, he’s just not ready to tell the rest of us.
“We are going to wear white and five are going to take the floor.” I hope everyone’s shirt tail is tucked in and we have on the right shoes and things of that nature,” Daniel said. “It’s up and down every day and we’re pulling it with different lineups and roster changes and to be honest.”
“I think (6-foot-3) Chukwuka Ezeigbo, she’ll play 20 to 25 minutes a game this year for us. I think she is someone who has really come on because of her work ethic consistently. I think that is something you
can count on.
“(Jasmine Shaw and Erica Woods) are both performing well on the floor, and you add Shay Weaver to the mix and you have a young point guard in Norrisha Victrum that is going to play some, and Shynisha Johnson and Veronica Ruiz.
“That’s kind of the lineup we’re looking at and the people who are going to be involved, majorly, unless something changes, but in what form or fashion I don’t know yet, but we’ll have to figure it out on the fly because of implementing the new system.”
Daniel is quite candid about the direction he has set for his team. It’s one that is faster, and more intense.
“I just want to make it clear, playtime is over and it’s no longer equal opportunity. If you are behind, you have to earn more and if you are there, you have to maintain and that’s just to survive,” he said. “We’re not trying to survive, we want success and beyond that we want significance.
“We’ve thrown a lot at them, and we’re going to hone in and really work on some things in one exhibition game and grow it as we go.” The Herd women play a second exhibition game Sunday afternoon against Kentucky State before the Nov. 9 noon opener against Radford.
HUNTINGTON — Imagine if former Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington became an assistant coach under football Coach Doc Holiday, or Hal Greer were roaming the sidelines under basketball Coach Tom Herrion.
That’s what you have with the recent hire of all-time Marshall tennis great Kellie Schmitt as an assistant coach.
For several years, Schmitt worked at Top Notch Tennis Academy in Scottsdale, Ariz., with well-known coaches Joey Blake and Ron Hightower. While at the academy, Schmitt coached several nationally ranked players to junior championships. Then, she got the call to come back home.
“Laurie Mercer (wife of MU Coach John Mercer) called me, and they have been asking me the past three years since I left if I would want to come back,” Scmitt said. “I was just not ready at the time. “Laurie called me in July and it was like, ‘Hey our assistant is leaving, do you want to be our assistant?’ Things in Arizona were not working out and so it was perfect timing and I was missing home a lot.”
Schmitt has a resume as impressive as they come, a 10-time Conference USA Player of the Week, five-time C-USA Player of the Month, C-USA Freshman of the Year, three-time C-USA Player of the Year, three-time all-conference first team in doubles, four-time for singles … and that’s not counting her countless records and NCAA postseason success.
Just don’t mention the all-conference second team for doubles in 2009. Schmitt, 25 and a Pittsburgh native, doesn’t accept being average.
“I hate being average, we’re just going to say that,” said Schmitt. “With everything.”
Schmitt was successful during her time in the desert, but after three years she felt things were not right.
“People didn’t care enough to get better,” she said. “Some of the juniors I worked with didn’t realize the opportunity they had in front of them with two really good coaches, and I started to feel like I was becoming average, and I hate that feeling.”
So it might have been providence that she got the call to come back home to where she was the greatest.
“When (Marshall) called, it was a great opportunity for me to help myself to be even greater, but also to help them, because last year was a struggle for them,” Schmitt said. “I felt like I needed to help them out.”
There was no apprehension on returning to Marshall. Schmitt sees it as being easier to come back home to start her collegiate coaching career.
“I think it is a lot easier coming back where you are known, and knowing what you did here and who helped you out here,” she said.
Already, Schmitt feels right at home. She said she has even taken Coach Mercer to task for being too easy on the current team.
“We always had a run. Why aren’t they running? It’s something I’m used to,” Schmitt said. “Some things that were done when I was here playing just disappeared; I hate it. I’m so competitive, I hate it when other people are better, I hate it. I was like that when I was working with the juniors in Arizona.”
Now the team is starting to be reshaped into a program more fitting to Schmitt.
“I told the trainers we need to do more running and you need to make it mandatory they have to do certain things, so now they have to run 2 miles a week,” Schmitt said. “When I was playing, we coordinated what we were wearing for each match and they weren’t doing that, so now I’m telling them if you don’t wear the right thing, we’re doing a lot of ‘Herd Heavens’ (running From Page 12 steps to the roof of the Henderson Center).”
Schmitt admits these initial changes are just little things, but she’s trying to prevent a culture that might have headed toward accepting average.
“I know they’ve had really good assistants the past few years, but they haven’t been around this program to really know what’s expected,” Schmitt said. “Yeah, it’s Marshall, but we’re going to hold ourselves to be the best. I know the whole routine with everything and what’s expected.
“We’re Marshall, people don’t see that and in the past couple of years they haven’t had assistants that know that “
Schmitt has used that knowledge of what Marshall is about to help her on the recruiting trail, and she already feels like she’s made a difference with the program.
“I talk to recruits and tell them my experience, how John helped me and what I liked about the school. We’re getting a lot more recruits because I’m telling them my story,” she said. “From all of my resources in Arizona and all the players I know, we have a lot of top girls interested already.
“Blake and Hightower are sending a lot of top recruits our way because they trust me, and that’s going to help because I’ve worked with a lot of juniors.”
There is no doubt that Schmitt brings a great deal of experience, credibility and resources to the Marshall tennis team, but with her return to the program, the fun is back.
“I think I’ve lightened things up, I’ve got my (NFL Ravens linebacker) Ray Lewis dance now,” Schmitt said. “At William and Mary (a recent tournament), we were getting ready to play doubles and I was trying to get them pumped up so I said, ‘John, we got to have the Drew Brees huddle speech, you know how he does that or Ray
Lewis, how he walks out.
“So I did it and he’s just laughing at me, we have to have something creative, I don’t like boring. I found out with juniors; if you loosen them up a little bit, they play so much better. I’m really intense, but I’m funny being intense.”
That’s intense like Ray Lewis … only she is a Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan.
HUNTINGTON – Sometimes, small isn’t a bad thing … unless you’re like Marshall sophomore Celia Leonard, and wanted to hoop it up.
“I played basketball, but I wasn’t tall enough to keep playing it, so I had to find a new sport,” Leonard said.
It’s a good thing that the 5-foot- 2 Leonard’s mother went looking through her yearbook and discovered the perfect sport for her daughter.
“In the seventh grade, my mom went looking through my yearbook and saw there was a cross country team and said, ‘You should join it,’” Leonard said, “So I said OK. I never ran before, and I didn’t have anything else to do in the seventh grade.”
So, Leonard signed up and started running track and cross country; she found success, placing high at several meets, including an eighth- place finish at the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s district track and field championships her senior year in 2011.
HUNTINGTON - Erin Simmons was an exceptional soccer player during her high school career at Columbus Academy in Gahanna, Ohio. She led the state in scoring in 2011 with 39 goals and 26 assists, earning player of the year honors for her efforts.
Simmons could have played soccer anywhere in the country, but ended up at Marshall because of a special connection she has with the school.
“Both of my parents went to Marshall,” Simmons said. “My dad played baseball, it’s always been a thought and I liked Marshall since I was younger.”
Simmons’ father is Paul Simmons, who played baseball for the Thundering Herd, and led the team in runs scored in 1980.
“When I said I wanted to go to Marshall, my parents were ecstatic; they were so excited that I’m going to school where they went to school.” Simmons said. “My dad played a sport and I’m playing a sport, so that hit home with them.
HUNTINGTON - You won’t find the schedule posted on any official Marshall athletic websites, but MU has a club hockey team.
The season gets underway Oct. 12 against West Liberty at the South Charleston Memorial Ice Arena. Tickets are $5 for general admission, $3 for students (with Marshall ID), and $2 for members of the Marshall Maniacs (with ID).
Something new for this season is the addition of Bill Durstein as coach. He is no stranger to hockey; he’s been involved in the sport since his childhood.
“I grew up in Pittsburgh, played as a kid until I was 15, then I went to Marshall, and there was no hockey at that time.” Durstein said. “I moved back here around 1989 or ‘90 and that was in the Huntington Blizzard era, so got back into it, started a youth hockey association, and even had a private rink. I also did various amounts of coaching. I’ve been doing this for over 15 years.”