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
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
and Marshall are played on a regular basis.