Marshall Football History
- NCAA Division I-AA 1992
- NCAA Division I-AA 1996
Bowl Game Victories:
- Motor City Bowl - 1998
- Motor City Bowl - 1999
- Motor City Bowl - 2000
- GMAC Bowl - 2001
- GMAC Bowl - 2002
- Little Caesars
Pizza Bowl - 2009
- W.Va. Athletic Conference 1925
- W.Va. Athletic Conference 1928
- W.Va. Athletic Conference 1931
- Buckeye Conference 1937
- MAC 1997
- MAC 1998
- MAC 1999
- MAC 2000
- MAC 2002
Coach Bobby Pruett
- Pruett left an indelible mark on Marshall football
- 1996: The greatest season
- 1997: A great I-A beginning
- 1998: Herd takes giant step
- 1999: Commanding respect
- 2000: MAC champions, again
- 2001: Miracle in Mobile
- 2002: A year of inspiration
- 2003: Herd's MAC reign ends
- 2004: Season of discontent
- Timeline of MU Coach Bobby Pruett's life and career
- TIM STEPHENS: Pruett turned losses into life lessons
- ANTHONY HANSHEW: One August afternoon told the rest of the story
- ERNIE SALVATORE: Easygoing Pruett a sportswriters' dream
MU Football History
Pruett left an indelible mark on Marshall football
The Herald-DispatchHUNTINGTON -- Nothing about Bobby Pruett's storied football career is accidental.
It began as a youngster, bounding over locked fences with friends for pickup games in his hometown of Beckley. The precocious preteen eventually went on to earn bonafide jock status as a four-sport standout at Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley.
Pruett often references himself as "a good ole' boy from south Beckley," but he found a second home at Marshall University, where he lettered in football, track and wrestling. Before there was Randy Moss there was Pruett, with No. 88 securing the game-winning, 48-yard touchdown catch in the final seconds of a 1963 19-18 victory over Toledo.
Upon graduation from Marshall, the twenty-something Pruett had a clear vision of his career path -- and it ended at Marshall.
"This is a job I had wanted since 1965 when I left Marshall," Pruett said. "That's why I came back as an assistant (1979-82). This was a dream and a goal I had, and it makes you feel very appreciative when you're able to fulfill that."
Appreciation and reflections of a 40-year coaching career moved Pruett to tears on March 9 when one of Marshall's all-time favorite sons retired as head coach.
For more than two decades, Pruett's family knew full well that Huntington was his final destination.
A resounding career wake-up call was delivered in 1989, however, when Jim Donnan accepted Pruett's dream job. Following seven seasons as a Wake Forest assistant, the now forty-something Pruett realized it was time to go against the grain.
Pruett never was a fan of hopscotching the country one job at a time like so many college coaches. A more rounded resume was needed to win the Marshall job, however, thus stops at Ole Miss, Tulane and Florida followed in fewer seasons than his entire Wake Forest tenure.
Six years of nomadic coaching more than paid off on Jan. 9, 1996, when Pruett was officially named as Marshall's choice to succeed Donnan. Thirty years after leaving Huntington, Bobby and his wife, Elsie, returned to their alma mater, rekindled old friendships and renewed membership to their local church.
"We're back home," Elsie Pruett said.
For years, Pruett literally and figuratively had dreamed of returning to his alma mater. Not even the veteran coach himself, however, could envision Marshall's unprecedented success to come.
There was immediate validation with a 15-0 record and NCAA Division I-AA national championship as a rookie head coach. His Fun N' Gun offense spearheaded Pruett's assertive, wide-open philosophy on the field.
In previous seasons, Marshall teams had appeared somewhat tight in big games. Under Pruett, the Thundering Herd stampeded to a 46-6 fourth quarter lead over then 14-0 Montana in the '96 national title game.
Two seasons later, Pruett's relaxed nature under the brightest spotlight again was on display. Leading his team into SEC territory before 78,000-plus fans at South Carolina, Pruett was at his cool, collected best.
With a packed Williams-Brice Stadium crowd in denial of an unthinkable upset in the making, Pruett called the memorable "fumblerooski" play that Doug Chapman converted into a 7-yard touchdown run and 21-10 lead.
On the game's final play, Billy Malashevich lined up for a 37-yard field goal. Thundering Herd teammates held hands on the sidelines. Countless fans buried their heads in prayer. Pruett merely stalked the sideline with a smile, shrugging his shoulders with an accepting calm.
Malashevich, of course, split the uprights for a 24-21 victory, marking yet another landmark moment of Pruett's nine-year tenure. Pruett exits coaching as Marshall's all-time wins leader (94) and boasted the nation's highest active winning percentage (.803) prior to his retirement.
"People need to realize that the Marshall football program has been nothing short of a miracle with what's happened," said Chad Pennington, Pruett's quarterback from 1997-99.
Regular season triumphs over Clemson and No. 6 Kansas State followed the South Carolina celebration, along with numerous Mid-American Conference and bowl titles. Pruett generated one of college football's greatest all-time comebacks, rallying his team to a 64-61 double-overtime victory over East Carolina in the 2001 GMAC Bowl.
"The thing about coach Pruett is the way he motivates us," said Joey Stepp, a Marshall offensive lineman from 2000-03. "We can talk about Mobile (at the 2001 GMAC Bowl), when we're down 38-8. We're in the locker room and basically he tells us, 'You guys are terrible. You're good football players but right now you're terrible. You're not giving me enough effort.'
"And MAC championships after MAC championships in the locker room at halftime. People called us a second half team. No, we just needed coach Pruett to give us a spark."
Wins and losses, however, sometimes cloud the full picture. Pruett's success can better be counted in people, not championship trophies. Pruett the recruiter was a big fan of the underdog, and countless walk-ons such as Stepp, Luke Salmons and Jeff Edwards thrived at Marshall during the past nine seasons.
Once on campus, Thundering Herd football players were exposed to the entire Marshall University experience. Specifically, Pruett introduced student-athletes to the legacy of the 1970 plane crash that claimed an entire team.
During each Nov. 14 plane crash service outside the Memorial Student Center, Pruett made sure a healthy amount of players were in attendance. The Thundering Herd's lopsided victory over rival Miami (Ohio), marking the 30th anniversary of the crash, remains a highlight of Pruett's career.
Marshall football is unique in its celebration of tragedy. It's a balance Pruett lived, understands and introduced to another generation of Marshall football.
If anyone is prepped for retirement, it's Bobby Pruett. For four decades, he poured everything into the game he met as a youngster.
Elsie, southbound vacations and four grandchildren now take precedence. On the morning of his retirement, Pruett said, 'I've got 10 years to live and 10 years to die. And I want to live those 10 years with my grandkids."
Following the early morning shock of March 9, 2005, Pruett's coaching staff and friends generally segued from surprise to congratulatory acceptance. Stepp, a twenty-something Thundering Herd graduate assistant who could join football's coaching ranks, bid his former coach the best.
"He's been in coaching forever," Stepp said. "Shoot, he's been in football forever. It's been his life and if you look at it, it would be nice to just sit back and relax every now and then.
"Putting up with 116 18- to 23-year-olds has to be hard. I'm a GA and it's hard as a GA and I'm just 24."
Pruett's farewell press conference was filled with emotion, but moments later, the veteran coach appeared content with his decision. Sitting in a vacant office that for so long told the tale of Pruett's career, the good ole' boy from south Beckley was diving headlong into Day 1 of the next 10 years.
"This is something for two or three weeks now that we've given a lot more serious thought to," Pruett said. "This is something that I've given thought to for two or three years. To all of you it might sound like something sudden, but ... I felt like the timing was right for the program and for me."