Public Relations Tactics

“We are . . .” Marshall University benefits from Hollywood version of its story

Publication Date: 10/2007

Source: SO01 Public Relations Tactics
Product Code: 6C-100708
Organization/Author/Firm: Ruth Sullivan, / Randy Bobbitt
Industry: Sports / Entertainment
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Most sports fans over the age of 50 know the story of the 1970 Marshall University football team. On Nov. 14 of that year, the Thundering Herd played a Saturday afternoon game at East Carolina University in Greenville, N. C. On the return flight, the chartered plane crashed into a West Virginia hillside killing all 75 onboard, including players, coaches, fans and flight crew. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, it was the worst tragedy in the 100-plus-year history of intercollegiate athletics.
Today, more than 35 years after the tragedy, the university and surrounding community continue to mourn the loss. Numerous memorials are found on campus and in the community.

Despite the story being so well-known, university officials and Huntington,W.V., residents are protective of the 1970 team’s legacy. They were concerned when, in 2005, Hollywood wanted to tell the story. Warner Bros. producer Basil Iwanyk and director Joseph McGinty Nichol were adpating the tragedy into a major motion picture titled “We Are Marshall.” Not sure how the story would be told, townspeople were skeptical about outsiders coming to “Hollywoodize” an important time in the community’s history.