At the close of the day on Nov. 14, things were going as well as they possibly could have for Marshall football.
The Thundering Herd had dismantled Middle Tennessee 42-14 on the 50th anniversary of the 1970 plane crash. The win vaulted Marshall to 15th in the Associated Press Top 25.
But no one saw the ugly turn that was coming. The Herd lost its last three games, a championship season quickly deteriorating to disappointment.
In the end, it left the university looking for a new head football coach.
Doc Holliday will not have his contract renewed when it expires on June 30, the university announced Monday. Holliday, who coached the Herd for 11 seasons, confirmed it through a statement on Twitter.
"I have been informed that Marshall President Dr. Jerry Gilbert will not be extending my contract as Head Football Coach at Marshall University," the statement began.
Holliday was 85-54 as Marshall's head coach. He led the team to eight bowl games in 11 seasons, winning six. The Thundering Herd played for three Conference USA championships under Holliday, winning the title in 2014 and finishing No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25.
Holliday was named the C-USA Coach of the Year this season for the second time, also winning in 2014. He was also the AFCA Region 4 Coach of the Year.
Holliday coached a Marshall-record 139 games and had 77 wins over FBS opponents, which is also a record.
His 85 wins are second only to Beckley native Bob Pruett (94).
Marshall started this season 7-0 but lost its last three games. That included a 22-13 loss to UAB in the C-USA title game in Huntington and a 17-10 loss to Buffalo in the Camellia Bowl.
Many fans pointed to the team’s lack of conference championships as reason for displeasure with Holliday, who in 2010 took over a team that had not had a winning record since 2003 and was 23-37 in five seasons under his predecessor, Mark Snyder. Rick Minter was the interim head coach in Marshall’s 2009 Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl win over Ohio.
Two of Holliday’s three losing seasons came in his first three years with the team. Since then, Holliday was 68-34 and had three straight 10-win seasons from 2013-2015.
“I want to thank Doc Holliday for the leadership he has provided this program over the past 11 seasons,” Marshall Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick said. “In addition to his success on the field, he ran a clean program, graduated his student-athletes and prepared young men for life after football.”
Soon after the announcement, speculation arose that the move was influenced by the likes of Gov. Jim Justice, as first tweeted by Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports:
“Sources: The decision to remove Doc Holliday at Marshall came from above the athletic director’s head, as it was orchestrated by the governor and board. Holliday made four-straight bowl games and eight in 10 years.”
In a statement regarding the search for a new coach, Gilbert denied that claim.
“We have already started reaching out to potential committee representatives and look forward to moving forward very quickly,” he said. “I have great confidence that this process and the input of the entire committee will help us hire the best coach for our football program.
“Just to be clear, there was no outside influences in this decision. I consulted with the athletic director and made this decision.”
Gilbert added that Hamrick will chair the search committee and that interested candidates to replace Holliday have already reached out.
“At Marshall, we have a storied program, loyal fans and the foundation in place to field successful teams on and off the playing field,” Gilbert said. “I am encouraged by the early indications that the pool of candidates is deep and will allow us to identify and select the right person.”
Hamrick has said he will not comment until a new coach is hired.
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