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Chuck Landon: Marshall failures hurt pride of fans

Jan. 26, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

While doing some light reading in my Funk & Wagnalls dictionary recently, I came across something rather interesting.

In the "E" section was a photograph of Marshall's 2012-13 men's basketball team.

There it was right beside the word "enigma."

I wasn't surprised.

If this current edition of the Herd isn't the most enigmatic team in Marshall's basketball history, I certainly hope to never see the MU team that is.

I mean, what other word more accurately describes a team that either blows teams out or gets blown out? Perhaps, that's the only consistent aspect of this Marshall team. One way or the other, the Herd is involved in a blowout.

Just consider what has happened recently.

After an embarrassing 94-57 blowout loss to Ohio, the Herd responded by blowing out Tulsa, 79-61, in a game that wasn't as close as the score.

Next, the Herd posted another blowout by dominating East Carolina, 77-56, in a game that included such Marshall leads as 27-4 and 40-19.

So, how did Marshall build on these consecutive blowout wins? By not showing up, not competing and not displaying any pride whatsoever during a humiliating 102-46 road loss to Southern Miss on Wednesday.

How bad was it?

The 56-point margin tied for the worst loss in Marshall's modern day history. It was the most lopsided score in Conference USA annals. It was so one-sided, even if Southern Miss hadn't scored a single point in the second half the Eagles still would have won.

That is the legacy of the 2012-13 Herd.

It is a team loaded with very talented underachievers, who are alarmingly soft both physically and mentally. At times, they care. Other times? They could care less.

Hence, the blowouts.

That also explains why Marshall's fan base is so up in arms. And rightfully so. When fans take more pride in a team than a team shows in itself, they're entitled to be upset.

That's why Marshall's fan base is so disgruntled.

Never have there been such high expectations for Marshall's football and men's basketball teams in the same school year as 2012-13.

And it was justified.

Marshall's football team was coming off a 7-6 season with a bowl win and had the most returning starters in Conference USA. The Herd basketball team was coming off a 21-14 season, which included advancing to the C-USA Tournament championship game and an NIT berth.

So, of course, the fan base had high expectations. The problem is when high expectations aren't realized they result in high disappointment.

That's the current state of Marshall's athletics. ... highly disappointing.

But, perhaps, the most disappointing aspect of all is the lack of consistent effort from Marshall's athletes. At the FBS level in football and NCAA Division I level in basketball, effort should be a given.

If a coaching staff has to coach effort, there's a problem. Yet, that's the case in both football and men's basketball. After at least three football losses last season, MU players admitted the team came out flat and didn't play hard.

For basketball, the Southern Miss game is Exhibit A through Z.

So, maybe, the problem is recruiting. Maybe MU's coaches need to recruit athletes that possess enough character to want to compete in every game.

Something has to change.

When a disturbed fan called recently his first words were, "What the hell has happened to Marshall's athletics?"

It's a good question.

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

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