ECU vs Marshall Moved to Aug. 29 to Honor Tragic Plane Crash
ECU will renew their rivalry with Marshall one week earlier than originally planned in order to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Marshall plane crash that occurred after their game with the Pirates in 1970.
ESPN will televise the game on one of it's networks on August 29 one week before the original date of September 5th.
The NCAA approved the request and both teams will be allowed to begin fall practice one week earlier than scheduled and will provide their teams with seven days of rest sometime during the season by rule.
The commemorative Week Zero contest will pay tribute to the 70 passengers and five crewmembers who lost their lives on Nov. 14, 1970 while returning to Huntington on a charter flight following the Thundering Herd's game in Greenville.
It was the greatest air tragedy in the history of collegiate athletics and the school's grieving and rebuilding process were chronicled in the 2006 movie We Are Marshall.
"There is a special bond and indomitable spirit that exists between our communities, universities and football programs," ECU Director of Athletics 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.
“I appreciate Mike Hamrick and Marshall University for being great partners in this process as the move allows both schools to have a marquee national broadcast spot on the football calendar to open the 2020 season.”
Hamrick is the current Marshall and former ECU athletic director. He also played his collegiate football at Marshall.
The two teams were Conference USA East Division opponents for nine seasons before ECU moved to the American Athletic Conference in 2014.
ECU and Marshall contests went into overtime in two of the last three (and three of the last six) games to determine division championships or bowl eligibility.
The series also features a 64-61 overtime win by the Herd in the 2001 GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama with David Gerrard at quarterback for ECU and Byron Leftwich for Marshall.
"We plan to invite family members of the players from both teams who played in the game," Gilbert told ESPN. "Both programs will forever be linked, and we are honored to recognize the 75 people who lost their lives."
This year's game will be the first of four home-and-home meetings as part of the latest scheduling agreement between the two schools that includes games in 2021 (Huntington), 2023 (Greenville) and 2025 (Huntington).