|Norton Center facilities named in memory of football team members|
Pictured above is the 1970 Marshall University football team members who were killed in a plane crash on Nov. 14, 1970.
Monday, July 30, 2012
For more than 40 years, Ferrum College has honored the memory of the "Ferrum/Marshall 8.'
That group is comprised of seven members of the school's 1968 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national championship football team. It also includes the late Marshall (W.Va.) University head coach Rick Tolley, who previously served at the college as Hank Norton's first full-time assistant football coach.
Along with Tolley, 1968 NJCAA national championship team members Thomas W. Brown, David D. Griffith, Patrick J. Norrell, James R. Patterson, Arthur K. Shannon, Jerry D. Stainback Jr. and Thomas J. Zborill perished in a plane crash on Nov.14, 1970 that claimed the lives of 75 people, including the Marshall University football team, coaching staff and fans.
The team and its support personnel were returning home from a game against East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. Their chartered plane crashed one mile short of the runway at Tri-State Airport in Ceredo, W.Va.
"That terrible tragedy will always be a part of all of the guys on the 1968 team. We went through a lot in 1968 and ended up undefeated national champions," said team member John Cougill (Class of 1969).
"We were a very close team. The crash was a devastating time for all of us." Cougill added.
Ferrum has established several significant reminders of the seven players and Tolley.
The Big Green Award, which has been presented annually since 1971, is awarded to a football player who best demonstrates the qualities of courage, hustle and desire as a role model for his fellow teammates.
Also, the college memorialized the "Ferrum/Marshall 8" by naming its weight room The Big Green Room.
In 1994, the college inducted the "Ferrum/Marshall 8" into its Alumni Sports Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class.
With the opening of the Hank Norton Athletic Center, the college continues its tradition of memorializing the "Ferrum/Marshall 8."
Formerly located in William P. Swartz Gymnasium, The Big Green Room now makes its home in the Norton Center and a plaque recognizing the "Ferrum/Marshall 8" hangs in the building.
"I was given the honor and challenge to chair the Ferrum College Sports Hall of Fame in its inaugural year," said Dan Danko (Class of 1969), a member of the 1968 championship squad. "The Hank Norton Center represents a place to honor the memory of the 'Ferrum/Marshall 8' and all athletes who have excelled in hard work and dedication while at Ferrum College."
In addition to these well-established remembrances, the Norton Center's football locker room is named after Tolley, and his portrait adorns the locker room's entrance wall.
Also, a special plaque hangs in the head football coach's office that includes a photo of each of the "Ferrum/Marshall 8," as well as their 1968 national championship rings.
"Dedicating the head football coach's office to the 'Ferrum/Marshal 8' was a great way to memorialize our teammates. It has helped many of us come to terms with the loss we have felt for so many years," said Cougill.
He and teammate Howard Smith fashioned the idea of naming the head coach's office as they discussed ways to permanently remember their lost teammates and friends on the college campus and help build the Norton Center.
"The 'Ferrum/Marshall 8' are a significant part of Ferrum College's football history," said Head Football Coach David Harper, who is the first to occupy the new office.
"It is important to remember the role they played at the college and to maintain their legacy for both our new recruits and our returning players this fall and in the years to come," said Harper, a Ferrum alumnus, a former All-American and Hall of Fame member who is one of two Panthers football players to have his jersey retired.