The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Judging from what Marshall football did yesterday, you’d think the Thundering Herd were a year-in, year-out perennial football power, where anything less than a bowl win and a national ranking was unacceptable.

Unfortunately, they’re not.

There have been two periods of prosperity in Marshall’s past. Bob Pruett engineered five seasons with 10 or more wins over a six-year span around the turn of the century, helping Thundering Herd fans move on from the aftermath of the 1970 plan crash that decimated Marshall for two decades.

The other period likely ended on Monday, when Marshall decided to not renew Doc Holliday‘s contract.

Holliday’s nothing special. All he’s done is lead Marshall to seven bowl games in 11 seasons — a feat nearly unheard of before Holliday’s arrival. Holliday only engineered eight winning seasons over that same span, including a 13-1 season in 2014 highlighted by a Conference USA title.

In 2020, Marshall finished the season 7-3 and Holliday was named CUSA Coach of the Year.

These accomplishments are obviously so unimpressive that Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick decided to move in a different direction.

Except that’s not the case. Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported on Monday that Hamrick did not make the decision to move on from Holliday — the decision instead came from above him.

Combine firing a successful coach with inter-departmental dysfunction and you have…

… a losing organization. And that’s exactly what Marshall has been, outside of two coaches.

We’ve seen this kind of hubris before — East Carolina went fully in the tank after replacing Ruffin McNeil in 2015. McNeil’s Pirates had missed their first bowl game in four seasons and despite McNeil’s 31 wins over that four-year span, East Carolina moved on.

How’s it going since? East Carolina hasn’t won more than four games and they’ve already replaced Scottie Montgomery, the man hired to replace McNeil.

There’s something to be said about retaining coaches who aren’t perfect. Marshall isn’t going to find anyone better suited to lead the Thundering Herd. Texas made a $25 million-plus lateral move to replace Tom Herman with Steve Sarkisian.

Whit Babcock ultimately decided against such a move, which I believe was the right decision for Virginia Tech. That is, only if the Hokies make some serious institutional changes within the program to rectify glaring weaknesses.

I’m not an athletic director nor a board member. I’m sure as hell not a governor. But even I can tell when a coach is being hung out to dry by his program. Holliday is being taken to the train station, for my Yellowstone fans out there.

I’ll admit I’m wrong if this move works out for Marshall. But I’ve got a sinking feeling that the plucky Herd are about to become lowly cattle.

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