MORGANTOWN -- West Virginia University played a key role in helping Marshall University rebuild its football program after a plane crash took the lives of 75 football players, coaches and community members in 1970, a report on the West Virginia University Library's site, www.libraries.wvu.edu, said.
WVU again played an important role in the retelling of the saga in the movie "We Are Marshall."
Charged with the task of training a team composed mostly of new players, MU coaches Jack Lengyel and Red Dawson turned to then WVU football coach Bobby Bowden for guidance.The pair made a trip to Morgantown to learn the veer offense from Bowden. Lengyel and Dawson sat in an office at the old Mountaineer Stadium and watched black and white game films to study the plays.
On the big screen, audiences view a clip of actual game footage of the Mountaineers. The footage was provided by the WVU Libraries, who have archived more than 400 game films from about 1940 to 1970. To secure a few minutes of vintage Mountaineer action, film producers worked with John Cuthbert, curator of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection; Randy Jenkins, library media supervisor; and Shea Browning, assistant general counsel for WVU. Rodney Adlington and Cheryl Clark, both from the Library Systems Department, performed the technical work.
Cuthbert worked directly with Lengyel to find a portion of film showing the veer offense, while Browning and others read over a three-page section of script to make sure WVU is depicted accurately. That part of the script earned the university's approval.
"WVU looks good in the movie. Basically, it shows us as the big guys helping out the little guys," Browning said.
Before the movie was released Bill Bissett, director of public relations for Marshall University, said he thought WVU fans would be touched by the camaraderie the sequence creates.
"The coaches and players of WVU helped Marshall in its darkest hour in rebuilding this football program," Bissett said. "It definitely portrays Bobby Bowden and West Virginia University in an excellent light."
Overall, Bissett believes the movie has a unifying theme.
"In this film, you really see West Virginians helping West Virginians," Bissett said.