Chuck Landon: MU could fill schedule gap with ECU

September 15, 2018

Now what?

Since Marshall’s scheduled road game against South Carolina on Saturday night in Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina, was canceled because of Tropical Storm Florence, what is the Thundering Herd going to do?

Will Marshall be content to play just 11 regular-season football games?

Or will Marshall try to find another FBS program that has the same open date - Oct. 27 - as the Herd?

If so, would Marshall prefer to replace the away game at South Carolina with another road contest, or would booking a seventh home game in Joan C. Edwards Stadium be a better situation?

Those are valid questions because Marshall’s officials do indeed have options. That’s because there are at least three other FBS programs that have the coinciding open date on Oct. 27.

One is Big Ten member Nebraska, who has a home game against Minnesota on Oct. 20 and then an off week before playing at Ohio State on Nov. 3. The Cornhuskers are the longest of long shots as it relates to filling Marshall’s 12th-game void.

Next there is UCF. The former MU archrival, now a member of the American Athletic Conference, is scheduled to play at East Carolina on Oct. 20 and then has an open date on Oct. 27 before hosting Temple on Nov. 1.

The Knights need to schedule a game to make up for the cancellation of their road game at North Carolina that was slated for Saturday. Since UCF already has seven home games scheduled it probably would be seeking a road game.

But let’s be honest. Extending all the way back to their days in the Mid-American Conference, were UCF and Marshall ever chummy? Uh, no. It was a rather bitter rivalry in both football and basketball, dating back to the days when Donnie Jones resigned as MU’s head basketball coach to take over UCF’s program.

Then there’s East Carolina. The Pirates canceled their game at Virginia Tech scheduled for Saturday because of concerns over Hurricane Florence hitting Greenville, North Carolina. That leaves East Carolina needing a game.

The Pirates host UCF in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Oct. 20, then have an open date on Oct. 27 before hosting Memphis on Nov. 3.

So, East Carolina and Marshall easily could schedule a game. Besides the fact of the kinship between East Carolina and Marshall, linked to the horrific MU airplane disaster on Nov. 14, 1970, there is also another reason to schedule this game.

The Pirates are coming onto Marshall’s future schedules anyway. The Herd will play East Carolina on Sept. 5 during the 2020 season in Greenville, North Carolina. In 2021, Marshall will host ECU in Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Sept. 4.

The rivalry skips a season in 2022, but resumes in 2023 and 2025. In 2023, Marshall will play at East Carolina on Sept. 9. In 2025, the Pirates will make the return trip to Huntington on Sept. 13.

Besides all that familiarity, East Carolina already has seven home games scheduled in 2018, while Marshall has six. Although it would create technical difficulties with Marshall’s season-ticket packages, it certainly would be benevolent of MU’s officials to offer its faithful fans a seventh game.

Any way the scenario is viewed, working out a deal with East Carolina to play Marshall on Oct. 27 in Joan C. Edwards Stadium is a win-win situation.

It really needs to happen.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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