Remembering the 75

Jessica Starkey, Sports Editor

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Former assistant coach for Marshall University football William “Red” Dawson spoke to The Parthenon about what this time of year is like for him. Dawson was one of the few members that did not board the plane that went down November 14, 1970. The plane carried 75 members of Marshall’s football team and the Huntington community.

He stayed at Marshall to coach for a year after the tragedy. Forty-four years later, Dawson still honors those 75 individuals.


What were those first few years like after the tragedy for you?


I couldn’t talk about it, and I didn’t want to talk about it. The fountain was put in place in 1972, and that’s when they started having the service every year. I used to park my car off campus and walk around behind a tree where no one could see me and listen to the service. I felt comfortable there. After I learned to talk about it I was able to sit out in the crowd.


Would you say that time has helped you heal after the tragedy?

Over the years your wounds heal, but they are still wounds. Though time does help, I don’t think there is any question about that. It’s gotten easier over the years.


What gave you the strength to stay and coach for a year after the tragedy?

I coached for a year because of the families. I wanted to see the football program continue. There had been some talk after the crash that Marshall would drop the football program. Dr. Dedmon talked to the remaining players and assured them that the program would continue, and that gave me something to get out of bed for.


How did the tragedy affect you personally?

I didn’t watch any football games for a long time. I didn’t want to open up my wounds. I dedicated myself to helping as much as I could that first year after the crash, and that was a hard year. It was time for me to separate myself.


Where did you go after that year?

I worked for a construction company. I started working for 12 hours a day. That started to help me sleep at night. If you get that tired you can’t think too much. It took my mind off of what had occurred.


Do you remember when you started coming around to watch Marshall football again?

I never went back into Fairfield Stadium for a game. By the time the new stadium, The Joan opened up; Jim Donnan reached out to me and let me know I was welcome around the program. Then coach Pruett did the same thing, and I started coming around to watch some games. I still don’t watch football the way I used to though.


How do you feel about the success of this season?

It’s a really good year so far. I hope they don’t have a let down Saturday night, but I don’t think they will. Coach Holliday is doing a good job, and he’s got some fine assistant coaches. I get along with everybody over there.


Do you find yourself remembering the 75 around this time of year?

Different things bring up different memories. I still remember them like they used to be. I have some good memories. I had a really hard time understanding how a tragedy like that could happen, and I still don’t get it 44 years later.


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