— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A man with no shortage of ties to West Virginia who helped Marshall’s football in its greatest hour of need will make a spring visit to Huntington.

Legendary College Football Hall of Fame coach Bobby Bowden has been named speaker for the annual “HERDSPYS” Awards ceremony on April 24 at 7 p.m. at the Mountain Health Arena and Convention Center in downtown Huntington.

The annual event, which will be combined this spring with the Big Green Scholarship Foundation endowment dinner, will recognize donors and honor student-athletes.

Bowden, 90, won national championships in 1993 and 1999 along with 12 Atlantic Coast Conference titles while guiding Florida State.

It was while Bowden was head coach at West Virginia that he came in contact with Marshall coach Jack Lengyel and assistant Red Dawson just months after the MU program was devastated by the Nov. 14, 1970 plane crash that killed 75 players, coaches, staff members and fans as they returned from a game at East Carolina.

Lengyel was interested in running the veer offense used by Bowden and the Mountaineers. Bowden allowed Lengyel and Dawson full access to WVU’s playbooks and game films as well as a chance to watch spring practice in order to learn the basics of the veer.

The encounter between Bowden, Lengyel and Dawson was portrayed in the movie “We Are Marshall.”

“I love the man,” Dawson said of Bowden. “He is a great man in both his convictions and his values. He is a Hall of Fame coach who will come up here and woo people when he speaks.

“He turned over the playbook to us in 1970, and that’s something that never would have happened today.”

Marshall Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick is equally excited about Bowden’s appearance.

“Bobby Bowden is the perfect choice to speak at our annual HERDSPYs event, and I’m so glad he is going to make a return trip to the Mountain State,” Hamrick said. “In 2020, Marshall Athletics has numerous events planned to honor and remember the 75 who died in the 1970 plane crash as part of the 50th anniversary of the tragedy. 

“Bobby Bowden was so selfless and such a friend to Marshall during a tragic time, and him telling his story and his connection to our great university is going to make for a special night.”

Marshall’s chief athletic fundraiser expects a special event.

“There is no better speaker for this year’s version of the HERDSPYs than Bobby Bowden,” said John Sutherland, Executive Director of the Big Green Scholarship Foundation. “His compassion for Marshall University will never be forgotten and he told me he would be honored to come to Marshall at such a special time.”

For tickets and information, visit HerdZone.com or call 304-696-4661.