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Chuck Landon: Decision brings end to an error

Nov. 30, 2009 @ 12:00 AM

The Jim Donnan era.

The Bobby Pruett era.

The Mark Snyder error.

That summarizes Marshall football for the last 20 years.

For 15 consecutive seasons the Herd played for championships -- both conference crowns and national titles.

Donnan compiled a 64-21 record in six seasons. Pruett followed with a 94-23 record in nine years. Together, they posted a remarkable 158-44 record with eight conference titles and two NCAA I-AA national championships.

Then, all this winning, all this glory, all this national acclaim came to an agonizing halt under the leadership of Snyder.

Not that he didn't try to keep the winning going.

He did.

Snyder tried to keep the thunder rolling. He tried as hard as he possibly could.

But after five consecutive years without a winning season, five straight years of losing games that should have been won, five long years of more excuses than success, it was time to fix the Snyder error.

Mercifully, that's what happened Sunday when Snyder resigned.

It was time.

Actually, it was past time.

The move should have happened a year ago.

But it didn't.

As a result, the Marshall universe had to suffer through yet another season of attainable goals turning into unrealized dreams.

And the final straw was Marshall's mortifying 52-21 loss to UTEP Saturday at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. The Miners were 3-8 with nothing to play for but pride, yet still humiliated a Marshall team that had everything to play for.

The Herd simply didn't show up. Instead, Marshall's players went through the motions, exhibiting unenthusiastic body language that spoke volumes.

The Herd quit.

And the blame for that fell on only one doorstep -- Snyder's.

It's not like this was the first time that happened under Snyder's watch.

Remember the regular-season finale in 2005 against Memphis? The Herd didn't show up that day, either, getting shellacked, 26-3.

Then, there's the final regular season game in '06 at Southern Miss. The 5-6 Herd had bowl eligibility on the line, but again quit during a very lopsided 42-7 loss.

Such trends were the standard for Snyder's tenure.

He lost games to Kansas State, Southern Miss and UCF during his first season in 2005 because of bad coaching decisions. And he lost games to East Carolina, UCF and Southern Miss during his fifth season in 2009 because of bad coaching decisions.

What's worse, he steadfastly refused to admit these coaching mistakes. There never was a mea culpa. Instead, Snyder's first reaction was to make excuses.

That is his legacy.

The bottom line is Snyder never grew into job as head coach -- on or off the field.

On the field, there were the coaching mistakes and excuses season after season. Off the field, there were errors in protocol, which no Marshall head coach can make.

Just last August, Snyder and star tight end Cody Slate were supposed to participate in a charity walk at Ritter Park. Snyder was a no-show.

Then on Nov. 14, Marshall's football team wasn't represented at the annual memorial service commemorating the tragic plane crash. Snyder didn't attend.

It is inexcusable for any Marshall head football coach to be absent from that event.

But Snyder never seemed to understand these coaching requisites.

That's why a move was necessary.

Snyder could have resigned or been fired. He made the right choice for himself and for Marshall. Snyder's resignation also opened the door for a negotiated buyout.

So, five years of frustration ended and a new era started Sunday.

The Snyder error has been corrected.

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

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