ANNAPOLIS, MD. — A man that has had a historical impact on both the Marshall University and Naval Academy athletic departments will be honored at the season-opening Marshall vs. Navy football game on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk recently announced that Jack Lengyel will be honored at the game in Annapolis, Maryland, the first ever meeting between the two schools.
Lengyel took over the Marshall football program 50 years ago this year following the tragic plane crash on Nov. 14, 1970. All 75 people on board of Southern Airways Flight 932 , including team members, coaches, administrators, and fans, were killed when the plane crashed near the Tri-State Airport on the way back from a football game at East Carolina. It has been recognized as the worst sports-related air tragedy in U.S. history.
Lengyel also served as Navy’s first civilian athletic director from 1988 until 2001. He received the 2005 John L. Toner Award from the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame for his service at Navy, the Naval Academy stated.
“Jack has touched so many lives in such a positive way throughout the course of his incredibly successful career as a coach and administrator,” Gladchuk said in a release. “He portrays decades of sincere and highly effective inspirational leadership that is duly reflected in the annals of intercollegiate athletics history. His personal and professional influence on Marshall University and the Naval Academy still remains etched in the core values, operational logistics and emotional fiber that motivates administrators, coaches and athletes even to this day.
“Jack constructed a road map to indisputable success at both institutions and so many still remain broadly influenced by his legacy in a manner that makes us better as professionals and as caring human beings. It is so appropriate on this special day, Marshall versus Navy, that Jack Lengyel be acknowledged for what he accomplished for us and to our collective, immeasurable benefit.”
Lengyel remained at Marshall for four seasons, leading the ‘Young Thundering Herd,’ until 1974. Following the devastation of the community in 1970, Lengyel, Marshall students and fans convinced acting Marshall President Donald Dedmon to reconsider canceling the program in late 1970.
Lengyel told MetroNews in 2020 during the 50th anniversary of the crash that he believed the best way to honor the victims was to continue the football program.
“There were some faculty, alumni and fans that felt that we should not be playing football. They felt it was disrespectful to those who perished in the crash.” Lengyel said on an appearance of MetroNews ‘Talkline.’
“My feeling was there was no better way to honor them than to play even though we knew how difficult it would be to compete.”
The movie “We Are Marshall” depicts the aftermath of the plane crash and the rebuilding of the Marshall football program with Matthew McConaughey playing Lengyel.
Lengyel came to Navy from the University of Missouri, where he was the Director of Athletics. Since retiring, Lengyel has fulfilled the role of interim director of athletics at Temple, Eastern Kentucky and Colorado. He also served for many years on the Board of Trustees for the Naval Academy Foundation, a release said.
Marshall and Navy kick off in each team’s season opener on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The game is nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.