HUNTINGTON — Marshall and Navy will be foes on the football field on Sept. 4, but will come together to celebrate a man whose influence on both programs is enduring.
The Thundering Herd and Midshipmen will honor Jack Lengyel at the 3:30 p.m. season opener Sept. 4 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. Lengyel coached the Young Thundering Herd from 1971 through 1974 and was athletic director at Navy from 1988 through 2001.
Naval Academy director of athletics Chet Gladchuk announced the scheduling of the ceremony.
“Jack has touched so many lives in such a positive way throughout the course of his incredibly successful career as a coach and administrator,” Gladchuk said. “He portrays decades of sincere and highly effective inspirational leadership that is duly reflected in the annals of intercollegiate athletics history. His personal and professional influence on Marshall University and the Naval Academy still remains etched in the core values, operational logistics and emotional fiber that motivates administrators, coaches and athletes even to this day.”
Marshall interim athletic director Jeff O’Malley said he looks forward to seeing Lengyel honored during the ceremony.
“Coach Lengyel is a legend at both schools,” O’Malley said. “Not only did he do great things at Marshall and Navy, he’s known for what he accomplished for college athletics nationwide.”
Gladchuk said what Lengyel accomplished at both schools is reflected by the success they have experienced since.
“Jack constructed a road map to indisputable success at both institutions and so many still remain broadly influenced by his legacy in a manner that makes us better as professionals and as caring human beings,” Gladchuk said. “It is so appropriate on this special day, Marshall versus Navy, that Jack Lengyel be acknowledged for what he accomplished for us and to our collective, immeasurable benefit.”
Lengyel took over the Marshall program soon after a Nov. 14, 1970 plane crash that killed all 75 aboard near Tri-State Airport. That plane, Southern Airways Flight 932, carried most of the Herd football team, as well as administrators, community members, journalists and the plane’s crew.
Marshall’s administration considered dropping football after the disaster, but were influenced to continue, then hired College of Wooster coach Lengyel to lead the restoration of the program.
Lengyel came to Navy from the University of Missouri, where he was the Director of Athletics, and served as Navy’s first civilian athletic director from 1988 until retiring in 2001. He received the 2005 John L. Toner Award from the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame for his service at Navy. Since retiring, Lengyel has fulfilled the role of interim director of athletics at Temple, Eastern Kentucky and Colorado. He also served for many years on the Board of Trustees for the Naval Academy Foundation.