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Eds: RESTORES dropped word in 4th graf

November 15, 1995

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) _ About 150 people attended a memorial Tuesday night for those killed in a plane crash 25 years ago that wiped out Marshall University’s football team.

The memorial was held in the lobby of the Marshall Memorial Student Center because of wet, icy weather, much like conditions the night of the crash on Nov. 14, 1970.

All 75 people on the chartered DC-9 died _ the worst sports disaster in U.S. history.

Nate Ruffin was among a handful of players who didn’t make the flight to East Carolina. He had a broken ankle and stayed behind in Huntington. He learned of the crash leaving a movie theater.

``I know that tragedy brought this campus together,″ he said at the memorial. ``People came together as a community.″

The team was returning from a season-ending 17-14 loss at East Carolina. The plane _ carrying 37 players, 21 boosters, seven staff members, five coaches and five crew members _ slammed into a hillside at Tri-State Airport outside Huntington.

Among those on board was Gene Morehouse, the sports information director, whose son, Keith, was 9 at the time.

Keith Morehouse, now a sports reporter for WOWK-TV in Huntington, spoke at the memorial. His wife, Debbie Hagley Morehouse, lost both parents in the crash.

``It’s hard for students today to grasp the magnitude of the tragedy that day,″ Morehouse said.

The 1970 team finished with a 3-6 record. It was trying to recover from a 1969 recruiting scandal that led to Marshall’s expulsion from the Mid-American Conference.

``We didn’t know how we were going to do it, but we wanted to win even without that conference,″ Ruffin said.

Following the crash, there was much discussion of dropping football. But the NCAA then allowed freshmen to play, and in 1971 Marshall finished 2-8. The school went 14 seasons after the crash before it had a winning record, 6-5 in 1984.

The Thundering Herd has since become an NCAA Division I-AA power, advancing to the championship game four times and winning in 1992.

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