More than a Game

by Billy Weaver

In just a few hours I will board the ECU team plane headed for Huntington, West Virginia. I have never been one to worry about flying, as a matter of fact I actually enjoy flying to different cities across the country. But somehow I know this flight will be much different from any other.

It will be the first time an East Carolina team plane will land in Huntington since the tragic plane crash that took the lives of 75 people, including the entire Marshall football team in 1970. Marshall was returning home on the night of November 14th after a tough loss to East Carolina and the plane never made it to its final destination. 

Over the past week, I have interviewed a number of people directly effected by the crash. Tony Guzzo, a current assistant baseball coach at NC State, kicked the game-winning field goal for ECU against Marshall in the game prior to the crash. He said something to me that will forever be etched into my memory. "Right after it happened," Guzzo said. "I could still see the guys' faces in their helmets across the field."

Even 35 years later Guzzo has a hard time talking about the events following that game against Marshall. He was reluctant to even grant me the interview. So nervous, Guzzo called longtime friend and former college roommate Tom Pulley to accompany him to the interview. Pulley also played on the 1970 ECU football team and like Guzzo tries not to think about that night 35 years ago. "We don't talk about it," said Pulley. "Or haven't ever. I still get together a couple of times each year at the beach with a few others that played on that team. We talk about a lot of things, just not that."

Ironically Guzzo's ties to Marshall run even deeper than having just played in the game in Greenville. His daughter is currently a softball player at Marshall University. Guzzo said he never talked to his daughter about the plane crash until she decided to attend Marshall and that putting her on a plane to Huntington, West Virginia is the one of the hardest things he's ever had to do.

The heartfelt stories surrounding what's been called one of the worst tragedies in sports history seem to be endless. I met Keith Morehouse for the first time this week. Keith is the sports director at WSAZ-TV in Huntington, West Virginia. His father was the Sports Information Director and "Voice of the Herd" in 1970. Keith's father perished in that crash. Amazingly Keith's wife was also directly effected by the crash. Her mother and father also died in the crash. Her father was the Marshall team physician.

Saturday's game in Huntington will be an emotional one to say the least. A commemorative decal will be placed on the helmets of the Marshall players as a way to show their respect and remembrance for those who lost their lives. A moment of silence will be observed before the game and a flag honoring the victims will fly at the stadium.

I am truly honored to have the opportunity to sit along side Jeff Charles this weekend to bring the sights and sounds of the game back to the people of eastern North Carolina. There are countless numbers of ECU fans, supporters and former players that have a strong bond to the Marshall program and I just hope that whatever happens with the two schools in the future that games between ECU and Marshall are played on a regular basis.              
Billy Weaver