Published Nov. 14, 2010

HUNTINGTON — From 114 wins in the 90s to just 27 in the past six seasons. The slide from being the winningest program in college football to where the program rests today has been a major source of contention among Herd football fans, save at least one — Reggie Oliver.

“For you to have the opportunity to experience that feeling of ‘How much are we going to win by today?’, that expectation of winning every week, that’s why we stayed and played through the hard times. It was that hope that one day there would be a time when winning was the expectation,” said Oliver, who played quarterback for the Young Thundering Herd.

Oliver, who lives in Ohio and visits campus often, stopped by the Memorial Fountain on the Marshall campus before the game against Memphis on Saturday afternoon to pause and reflect. This weekend, for many fans gathered around the stadium, was not just about tailgating and football. It was an opportunity to look back over the past 40 years and remember that fateful night in November 1970.

“I’ve seen the good, I’ve seen the bad and I’ve seen the ugly,” said Roger Dyer, who was a reporter for Marshall’s student newspaper, “The Parthenon,” in 1971. Dyer took time Saturday to visit the fountain and re-read the plaque that marks the monument.

“I remember being in Dr. (Brian) O’Connor’s office that Friday for an appointment and he said, ‘I’ve got to go. I have to catch the plane,’” said Dyer, tearing up. Dyer, who grew up in Ashland, was at a drive-in theater when he heard the news of the crash. “I was just sitting here thinking about that, what the weather was like that day ... so many memories.”

But, as the somber mood at the fountain gave way to game time, attention shifted to the 2010 edition of the Thundering Herd, who defeated the University of Memphis Tigers, 28-13, after a season mired with difficult moments.

“I like to see Marshall winning in every endeavor, whether it’s athletic or academic,” said Dyer, a season ticket holder who drives in from Columbus for game days. “We used to say, when I was a student here, that a lead at halftime was a winning streak.”

Oliver said every year he comes back, he always meets someone who is making their first return to campus.

“It means a lot to be able to come back and connect with people,” he said. “These past 40 years, the success we’ve had as a program the past 40 years, have gone by so fast. Where did it go? To me, it’s like it happened yesterday.

“This is a weekend to remember people that made the ultimate sacrifice for this school and this community,” he said.

Another member of the Young Thundering Herd, Bob Compton, remembered the support that 1971 team received and said Marshall has the perfect location in the city.

“You’ve got the city on one side and the river on the other. It’s like Marshall is surrounded by the arms of this community,” he said.

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