Published Nov. 14, 2003
IRONTON -- Charlie Kautz will be remembered here today.
No elaborate ceremonies will take place to memorialize the former Ironton High School and Rock Hill High football coach. The memory of Kautz, one of 75 victims of the Marshall plane crash, simply will sweep through the minds of some of those who knew him.
Kautz, Marshall's athletic director, died Nov. 14, 1970 when the Southern Airways jet carrying the Thundering Herd football team back from a game at East Carolina slammed into a hillside near Tri-State Airport and exploded. No one on the plane survived.
As it has each Nov. 14 since the crash, a ceremony will take place on the Marshall campus in memory of those who died. The fountain outside the Memorial Student Center will be turned off for the winter during the ceremony. Kautz's name will be read, along with those of the players, coaches, boosters and crew members who died that rainy, foggy night.
Kautz's daughter, Lucianne Kautz-Call of Huntington, has attended such ceremonies before.
"I felt like I was going to a funeral," Kautz-Call said.
Kautz-Call, a flight attendant with U.S. Airways, said the ceremony was difficult to attend but she was glad she did.
Kautz coached at Ironton from 1956 through 1960, compiling a 26-19-1 record. He also coached at Rock Hill before crossing the Ohio River to coach at Ceredo-Kenova. Overall, Kautz had a 74-25-1 record.
"Charlie was a good man," said Ralph May, former coach at Chesapeake High School and later director of Marshall's Big Green Scholarship Foundation.
Lawrence County had a variety of connections to the plane crash. Many residents were patients of doctors G.H. Preston or H.D. Proctor. Others were friends of the victims, knew the players or simply felt a bond from attending Marshall football games through the years.
Then-Marshall President Roland Moss hired Kautz as interim athletic director, replacing Eddie Barrett, on Aug. 25, 1969. Kautz took over an athletic department in turmoil, Marshall was reeling from a football recruiting scandal that led to the reassignment of coach Perry Moss, had a football program on a 21-game non-winning streak and was on the verge of being booted out of the Mid-American Conference because of NCAA rules violations and sub-standard facilities.
Kautz was a part of the decision-making process that led to the hiring of Rick Tolley as interim football coach and Stewart Way as men's basketball coach. Kautz, who was permanently hired as Marshall's AD during the 1969 football season, was there for Marshall's 21-16 upset of Bowling Green Nov. 1, 1969, breaking a non-winning streak that had grown to 27 games. Exactly one month later, Kautz removed the "interim" from Tolley's title and made him the Herd's head coach.
Kautz's name will be read Friday during the memorial service at Marshall. To the consternation of many, those who died are mere names to many Marshall students who are apathetic toward the ceremony.
"A lot of them just have no idea," said Dave Wellman, Marshall's director of communications. "Some of them don't even realize there was a plane crash."
Few of Marshall's more than 16,000 students were born at the time the plane went down. Many weren't even born the last time the Herd football squad suffered a losing season - 1983. Most likely can't name a player from the 1970 team, let alone the athletic director.
"I'll never forget it," Marshall coach Bobby Pruett said of the night of the crash. "It was the worst night of my life. We need to remember those people and we need to educate our students about what happened."
Pruett said his players are aware of the crash. They pass a memorial plaque outside the hallway to their locker room each day they take the field for a game or for practice. Today's players obviously don't relate to the crash the way the teams from the 1970s did, but they at least know the history.
Marshall President Dan Angel said Kautz and the 74 others will continue to be memorialized.
"As long as there is soil under a single sign that says 'Marshall University,' this service will go on," Angel said.