Marshall vs. East Carolina game moved up to commemorate 50th anniversary of 1970 plane crash

During the 2005 season, Marshall players wore decals to honor the lives lost in the 1970 plane crash. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)

Next season’s Marshall vs. East Carolina game, originally scheduled for Sept. 5, has been moved up to Aug. 29 to recognize the 50th anniversary of the infamous Marshall plane crash.

Southern Airways Flight 932 crashed on Nov. 14, 1970, claiming the lives of all 75 on board — including 37 Marshall football players. The jet was carrying the Marshall team back from an away game at East Carolina and crashed just two miles from Tri-State Airport in Kenova, West Virginia, where it was scheduled to land. 

The events of that day, considered one of the worst tragedies in the history of American sports, were depicted in the 2006 film “We Are Marshall.”

The two universities announced Thursday that the 2020 game will now be broadcast nationally “in a collaborative effort by both institutions to offer a distinctive opportunity to recognize the 50th anniversary of a tragedy that has tied the two communities together ever since.”

“There is a special bond and indomitable spirit that exists between our communities, universities and football programs,” ECU athletic director Jon Gilbert said. “This opportunity will allow us to properly pay our respect to those we tragically lost 50 years ago and share our enduring support for Marshall University with the rest of the country.”

Added Marshall AD Mike Hamrick: “We are grateful to Jon Gilbert and everyone at East Carolina University for their efforts in making this schedule change come to fruition. Our people, our universities and our football programs will forever be linked by the tragedy that occurred 50 years ago. This change will allow a national audience to join us in paying proper respect to the 75."

Gilbert told ESPN that the schools plan to invite family members of players from both teams who played in the 1970 game. ESPN will televise the game on one of its networks, Gilbert said. 

Marshall and ECU were members of Conference USA’s East Division for nine years before ECU left for the American Athletic Conference. ECU holds a 10-5 edge in the series, which has four future contests on the books (2020, 2021, 2023 and 2025). 

The Marshall-ECU game becomes the fifth FBS vs. FBS game on the docket for Aug. 29, known these days as “Week Zero.” The most notable game on the schedule that Saturday is the Notre Dame vs. Navy matchup in Dublin, Ireland. Other games that day include Cal at UNLV, Hawaii at Arizona and New Mexico State at UCLA. 

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