HUNTINGTON — In recent years, Marshall football coach Charles Huff has been touted as one of the nation’s best recruiters.
Next week, however, Huff isn’t solely focused on recruiting future Marshall players, though.
Instead, much of his focus will also center on recruiting former Marshall players and welcoming them back into the program — an aspect that has wavered in recent years.
Huff, the Big Green Scholarship Foundation and Marshall’s Quarterback Club collaborated on an idea to kick off Green-White weekend by celebrating Marshall’s past before looking ahead to its present.
On Friday night, April 16, Marshall kicks off the weekend with the Thundering Herd Celebrity Bowl-A-Thon, which brings back several Herd football greats to mingle with each other and fans while engaging in some friendly competition.
“We want to use what has made them great in their careers — that competitive juice — to try and rally some energy and excitement,” Huff said. “Hopefully, we’ll get some 300 bowlers — and we may have some 96 bowlers — but it will be a good opportunity to get everybody around and having a good time back at home.”
Huff said the goal of the weekend is to make sure that all former Marshall football players — the Marshall family, as Huff put it — know that they are welcome back at any time.
In his talks with former players during his first three months, Huff said the feeling was that, perhaps, that wasn’t always the feeling among Herd alumni.
“The constant thing we heard was that they didn’t feel welcome or included,” Huff said. “What we want to do, we want to show them they are welcome. We wanted an event that was catered to them and we wanted to have an event that challenged them to be a part of it. Once you play a sport, they are competitors. Any time you challenge their competitive juices to come back, it gets things going.”
Huff joked that it had been years since he has bowled, so his competitive nature will be seen in trying to rally players back to the program — not trying to end up with the best score at night’s end.
The idea of a Bowl-A-Thon is not one foreign to the Marshall community, either.
For years, Marshall great Chad Pennington hosted an annual Bowl-A-Thon in Huntington through his 1st and 10 Foundation, which had enormous success.
As ideas for an event for former players came about, Pennington was again pivotal in the decision-making as the Bowl-A-Thon presented opportunities that maybe a golf tournament — another idea — did not.
“(Chad) mentioned that he did the bowling deal for his foundation and thought it went well,” Huff said. “It was something that was easy to put together and you can mix and mingle and get to know everyone. We talked about a golf tournament, but you only really get to mix and mingle with the guys you are playing with. At least bowling, you can bounce around between lanes. It was really his idea to go with bowling, based on the event he had.”
From now until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Marshall is hosting a virtual auction in which participants can bid on former Herd greats to join their team. Teams for Friday’s 6 p.m. event at Strike Zone Bowling Center will be announced following the end of the auction.
Huff joins current Marshall staffers Mike Bartrum, Doug Chapman, Ralph Street, Shannon Morrison and Clint Trickett as celebrity bowlers.
Pennington headlines a group of former players that includes Aaron Dobson, Carl Lee, Chris Massey, Cody Slate, Dani Derricott, DeNero Marriott, Doug Legursky, Jason Starkey, John Grace, Max Yates, Melvin Cunningham and Steve Sciullo as celebrity bowlers as well.
Marshall men’s basketball head coach Dan D’Antoni and women’s basketball head coach Tony Kemper also are appearing as celebrity bowlers. Those bowlers can be viewed and bid for at Herdzone.com.
Huff wants the momentum of Friday’s event to jumpstart the weekend for the festivities of Saturday, April 17, which include the annual activation of the Memorial Fountain — a ceremony in which Bob Coleman will speak at 12:30 p.m.
Following the ceremony, the Herd will feature a live spring game at 3 p.m. in which Huff showcases his team for the first time in competition since taking the job in January.
Fans will be allowed to attend Saturday’s spring game with $5 reserved seats on sale through Marshall’s website (http://www.herdzone.com), which is the same place auction information is available for the Bowl-A-Thon.
Tailgating will not be allowed on-site due to COVID-19 protocols.
For Huff, the goal for the weekend is to get the former players back while building momentum toward the Sept. 4 opener against Navy.
“I think it’s really good for the program and the community, as far as the former players getting back to a place that means so much to them,” Huff said. “It’s good for the program for the current players to see and feel the true energy and passion that Marshall University and the football program has.
“It’s about Marshall football, it’s about the alumni, and it’s about the community.”