Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 4, 2013

Thundering Herd faithful convene in Princeton

Marshall coaches' tour visits region

PRINCETON — As fans of Marshall University’s Thundering Herd started to gather inside the Chuck Mathena Center on Tuesday evening, two of the top draws of the night could be seen alone at separate ends of the patio outside, with cell phones to their ears.

Football coach Doc Holliday and men’s basketball coach Tom Herrion were engaged in another day of multi-tasking.

It’s that time of year, when college coaches are working the phones to keep their new signees in the loop and to land recruits for years to come.

Simultaneously, they embrace their role in rubbing elbows with folks from beyond the Huntington campus, and energizing the fan base by making them feel part of a “family” or “nation.”

On top of that, they are actively managing their sport, which even during the off-season involves multiple duties away from the office.

“For me personally, it’s one of the busiest times of the year,” Herrion said. “I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire right now.”

“We’ve now got guys in summer school, we start summer workout programs ... Obviously the coaches tour continues in many places with many stops — and recruiting never ends.

“But I mean that in a very positive way,” he said. “It’s great to connect with our fans at all of the different places, including tonight. ... This has been a great area for us in terms of fan support.”

Holliday said, “I really enjoy getting out and meeting the fan base. Being from the state of West Virginia, I love the state and I love the people, and it’s just fun to get out and mingle amongst them.”

“But there’s always work that needs to be done, and when you’re out — we started at The Greenbrier on Saturday, and up in Beckley (Monday), and we’re here today and in Logan tomorrow and Putnam County on Friday.”

“So, it’s great to get out, but it’s also important that you touch base with what’s happening in the office, to make sure that things run smoothly.”

That can be done now with much greater ease that a few years ago, the veteran coach noted.

“Back in the old days, you were sitting in a phone booth,” Holliday said. “Now, with all this technology, it sure makes it a lot easier, that’s for sure.”

Prior to the dinner, the crowd seemed happy to be sharing with each other. Most of them sported clothing in shades of green as they watched new arrivals and waited to talk to the Marshall contingent that included Athletic Director Mike Hamrick and radio broadcaster Steve Cotten, “the voice of the Thundering Herd.”

Among the attendees was Chad Wyrick, who is graduating from Princeton Senior High School on Saturday. He has decided to enroll at Marshall this fall.

“It makes me feel at home,” he said. “I’m comfortable with everything there. ... Academically, it’s going to serve me well (and) allow me to continue my education in criminal justice.”

A pair of little twins, Gabrielle and Charlize French, dashed from table to table, wearing matching green dresses with the word “Marshall” on them. The two are “almost 20 months old,” said their mother Mandy French.

The children’s father, Richie French, is a 2001 Marshall graduate.

Both coaches said their visits around the state were well worth the effort.

Holliday said, “It gives us the opportunity to give back to all these fans who do so much for us. They travel to Huntington to all our games, whether it be basketball or football or whatever.

“It just gives us the opportunity to come and say ‘thank you for all you do,’ especially the people who support the Vision campaign (for athletics), and the Big Green (Club) — all the people that actually support Marshall, not only with their enthusiasm, but with their money.”

Herrion said, “For me, personally, and I know I speak for the other coaches, events like this and support from groups like this cement and solidify that great passion that exists for Marshall athletics.”

“They’re so consistent. They’re so loyal. Our fan base has been really, really resilient, on a lot of fronts. We appreciate their support through the thick and the thin. It’s nights like this that sort of reconfirm why it’s such a special place.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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