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Chuck Landon: MU spring game a rip-off for Herd fans

Apr. 30, 2013 @ 12:18 AM

Marshall's fans got gypped.

When enthusiastic Herd supporters showed up to tailgate in Edwards Stadium's west lot at 9 a.m. Saturday, they expected to watch Marshall's star players perform in the annual Green and White spring game.

When an announced crowd of 5,115 sat down in the west grandstand at "The Joan" on Saturday afternoon they believed they would see the Marshall stars play, who had earned Conference USA accolades after the 2012 season.

When Marshall's fans paid $10 per ducat to attend an event billed as the Green and White spring game, they anticipated watching such standouts as Rakeem Cato, Tommy Shuler and Kevin Grooms perform.

They didn't get their money's worth.

Cato, the junior quarterback who passed for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns while winning C-USA's Most Valuable Player award, threw a meager 10 passes during the 84-play scrimmage and, then, took the rest of the day off.

Shuler, the junior slot receiver who caught 110 passes for 1,138 yards during a break-through season that earned him first-team All-CUSA honors, didn't play at all.

Grooms, the sophomore running back who led Marshall in rushing with 737 yards and eight touchdowns and was selected as Conference USA's Rookie of the Year, didn't play a single snap.

Those players were the marquee attractions. They were why the fans attended the event. They were the reason each fan plunked down $10.

So, why did Cato just make a cameo appearance, while Shuler and Grooms didn't play?

Well, with the exception of Grooms, who may have been suspended for a recent arrest, although Marshall never made any announcement of such a status, the star players didn't perform because head coach Doc Holliday doesn't like spring games.

Just ask him.

"To be honest with you," said Holliday after the Green and White game, "I don't like spring games."

Then, don't have one. Instead, hold a final officiated scrimmage that isn't free to the public and call it a spring. That would be fair.

What isn't fair, however, is holding a Green and White game and charging admission if the coach doesn't like the format and won't play his stars.

That's wrong on every level.

Which leads us to Holliday's faulty logic. The fact that Holliday doesn't like spring games is irrelevant. This just in. ... the Green and White game isn't about Doc, it's about the fans.

It's about Marshall being part of the community. It's about Marshall giving something back to its loyal fans. It's about the concept, "We Are. ... Marshall."

That means when the fans show up, the team is supposed to do the same. And that's includes the marquee players.

"We know what Cato can do to a certain extent," rationalized Holliday. "We know what Shuler can do and Jeremiah Taylor and those guys. We wanted to take a look at some of the younger guys and go play."

Holliday might know what those players can do, but the fans don't. They certainly didn't show up to watch a pair of walk-on wideouts lead the Herd in receiving.

The crux of the matter is 14 of Marshall's allotment of 15 spring practices were meaningful. Yet, the practice that wasn't relevant was the one MU charged admission to attend.

What's wrong with that picture? Besides walking away with about $50,000, I mean.

The bottom line is Marshall used the Green and White spring game as a cash cow and milked Herd fans.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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