By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Teams like East Carolina and Tulsa remain on Marshall’s football schedule for one more season before they bolt Conference USA. But new rivalries will also be started in 2013 as the league begins to welcome in some new members.
The new faces will mean good things for Thundering Herd, says Doc Holliday, who will start his fourth season as head coach in August.
“We’re real excited about the way the conference is realigned, because it’s good for Marshall,” Holliday said last week at the Beckley Athletic Club for Marshall University’s 23rd annual Big Green Golf Outing at Grandview Country Club. “We’re getting UNC Charlotte, Old Dominion, Western Kentucky down the road. You’ve got Middle Tennessee coming in. So there are more regional games for us.
“It also helps us as far as recruiting goes because we kept our south Florida (connections) with FIU and FAU in there. It’s been good for us and our recruiting bases because we tend to recruit from these same areas where these schools are coming from.”
The season begins Aug. 31 at home against old Mid-American Conference rival Miami (Ohio), but players will report Aug. 4. Holliday is confident the team took positive strides during spring practice.
“I think we accomplished as much as we could accomplish,” he said. “I think we came out of spring a better football team. I thought defensively I saw some signs of improvement. (Defensive coordinator) Chuck Heater and his staff did a good job with those guys. We’ve got about 60 days left of our offseason, summer program. Then when Aug. 4 rolls around they will report to campus. We’ve got to have a great camp.”
The Herd will return several players from last year’s 5-7 team. One of them, of course, is quarterback Rakeem Cato, a rising junior who was the 2012 C-USA Most Valuable Player.
“Intangibles are the most important thing, and he’s starting to mature,” Holliday said. “He played as a true freshman and probably shouldn’t have, to be honest with you, but he was all we had at that time. He has grown up and had an excellent spring. He’s starting to understand what it takes to be a great quarterback. And we also have (Blake) Frohnapfel. I think we have two quarterbacks we can win with.
“We’re excited. We’ve got all the guys back. We should be better.”
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The season ticket renewal period has passed and the ticket office is now ramping up its efforts to sell season tickets.
All tickets that were not renewed by season ticket holders from the 2012 season are now available for purchase by the general public. Season ticket packages are as low as $130 for the six-game home schedule that includes the Miami game, as well as a meeting with new C-USA member UTSA on Homecoming.
The Marshall ticket office will host a Choose-A-Seat program on Saturday, June 22, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Individuals looking to purchase tickets will have the opportunity to browse the stadium to survey the location where they would like to purchase a seat. Ticket office representatives located at Gate A on the west side of the stadium will be available to let customers know exactly which specific seats are available for sale. Football posters, schedule cards and other collateral material will be available for those who attend the Choose-A-Seat program.
Tickets for all six road games are available for sale at this time. Big Green members and season ticket holders may contact the ticket office to order tickets. All others must purchase tickets via HerdZone.com.
Tickets for the Virginia Tech game will only be offered for a limited time so please make sure to order your tickets as soon as possible. The priority deadline to order your tickets for the Ohio and Virginia Tech games is Aug. 2.
Please visit HerdZone.com or call 800-THE-HERD with any questions.
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Former Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson, who was selected by the New England Patriots in the second round of the NFL draft in April, has ties to Beckley.
Dobson’s dad, Bobby, is a 1985 Woodrow Wilson graduate, and his grandmother Helen was a Raleigh County educator who was well known for her singing voice. She performed at two West Virginia governor inauguration ceremonies.
Barbara Claytor, also an educator in Raleigh County before her retirement in 2010, is Bobby’s cousin.
— E-mail: gfauber@