It happened on Oct. 2, 1970.
I know this because everyday I insert some historical sports events into our SJ calendar.
It struck a nerve so I did search after search after search. From Wichita State to Marshall, to why Madden doesn’t fly (they say when he was a grad student at Cal Tech some of his friends were killed in a plane crash and he never recovered.)
I read stories of how schools had to travel in small planes to make games under very unsafe conditions at times.
But in this case there were two planes headed to Logan,Utah to play Utah State. The Black and the Gold they were called. The Black carried back-up players and support personnel. The Gold plane carried the starters. The Black plane took the designated route which allowed for more time to gain more altitude going over the Rocky Mountains. The pilot of the Gold plane decided to take a scenic route.
The plane was heavy, it was flying low, and it got caught up in a box canyon. It became all green.
At 1:14 pm it hit trees and crashed.
The dead included 29 passengers, as well as the Captain and the Flight Attendant. Two of the original 11 survivors died later of complications.
Despite the disaster, the school will continue the football program. New head coach Bob Seaman puts the entire freshman team on the varsity and creates what is known as the “Second Season.”
The team would consist of 43 freshmen, 24 sophomores, six juniors and three seniors.
In its first game, October 31 against Arkansas, the crowd of 40,000 in Little Rock will give the Shockers a standing ovation. They were led onto the field by a surviving linebacker John Hoheisel, in his black jersey.
The outcome was never in question. But they were a team of survivors and Arkansas handed them a 62-0 loss. They lost all of their games in 1970, but won the hearts of the college world and our nation.
RIP to some college kids going to play a game and never returned. Here are their faces. Not sure why this is hitting me hard today, but it is, and hope maybe those that remember can share a little.
Next up: Remembering Marshall Nov 14
In Memory of…
Marvin G. Brown, Jr. Donald E. Christian John W. Duren Ronald G. Johnson Randall B. Kiesau Malory W. Kimmel Carl R. Krueger Stephan A. Moore Thomas B. Owen, Jr. Eugene Robinson Thomas T. Shedden Richard N. Stines John R. Taylor Jack R. Vetter
Staff and Boosters:
Etta Mae Grooms
State Rep. Ray King
Porker Players Fans’ Sympathy Went to Wichita
October 26, 1970
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (UPI) – The official’s final gun sounded and the benches emptied. But the Arkansas Razorbacks were not heading for the dressing room. Not yet.
They raced across the astroturf, meeting the Wichita State Wheatshockers at midfield. The scoreboard showed a 62-0 Arkansas victory, a devastating defeat for the young men from Kansas.
But, Arkansas showed only respect and admiration for the tragedy-scarred Wheatshockers, a team of more than 40 freshmen and sophomores.
“They were fired up before the game and they were still fired up when it was over,” said Razorback Joe Ferguson, a reserve quarterback who threw two touchdown passes against Wichita.
“They spontaneously wanted to go over and talk with the Wichita players.” Arkansas coach Frank Broyles said Sunday. “It was the first time we ever did anything like it.”
And in the stands, 40,000 Razorback enthusiasts roared their admiration for the visiting team, another unusual sight in War Memorial stadium in which only the sounds of “Sooey, Pig” usually roar.
At the start of the game the Wichita team captain hobbled on his crutch to midfield for the pre-game coin toss. John Hoheisel had a cast on his left leg, but he was the elected captain of the Wichita State University football team and his teammates wanted him on the field for their first game since 13 players were killed in an Oct. 2 airplane crash.
“It was a funny feeling, going out on the field,” he said. “I wish I was out there playing. But, I guess I should be glad to be alive. Just after that plane crashed I didn’t think I would ever see another football game.”
Wichita started its “second season” against one of the nation’s best teams. After an Oct. 2 flaming plane crash in the Colorado Rockies killed 13 players, the school’s coach, athletic director and 15 others, the crippled Wheatshockers regrouped and fought to the final seconds.
But their inexperience- there were 10 sophomores and seven freshmen on the starting units- was too much to overcome.
Broyles had trouble in preparing for the game- “we just couldn’t get up for it because of its sympathetic nature.” But the Razorbacks knew Wichita expected no favors.
Because of the unique circumstances, Broyles said the Arkansas coaches dreaded the week before the game.
“We didn’t try to get them emotionally involved,” he said, “There were no pep talks. That would have been out of order. We just worked on blocking and tackling for Texas A&M and let the score take care of itself,” Broyles said.
“I was never more proud of our fans, our student body and our players.”
Tailback Bill Burnett, who has a chance at Steve Owens’ career touchdown record, didn’t suit out even though Broyles said he could have played.
“This game will hurt Bill Montgomery’s average and the statistics of Chuck Dicus,”
Broyles said. “Bill Burnett could have scored a couple of touchdowns but it wasn’t that kind of game.”
Bob Seaman, Wichita coach, said: “These are great people. And Coach Frank Broyles is a fine gentleman. He could have made it 150-0, but he put in the second and third teams.”
“I don’t care what that thing says,” said an Arkansas fan, looking at the scoreboard, “they didn’t lose.”