Rumors grow into Conspiracy Theories about Herd Football

By JPrince83
Dec. 14, 2016

Former Marshall coach Bob Pruett celebrates the school's victory over South Carolina in 1998

Throughout American history, the public has been swept up in a litany of conspiracy theories. From fake moon landings to shooters on grassy knolls all the way to alien autopsies at Area 51, Americans are no strangers to conspiracy theory.

Well, now a new conspiracy can be added to the list, at least for the residents of Huntington, W.Va. According to a twitter user using the handle @NotMikeHamrick, a parody of Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick, former football coach Bob Pruett along with Doc Holliday hating local reporter Chuck Landon and the entire 1996 football team that Pruett coached orchestrated a smear campaign against Hamrick and the school in order to get Pruett his old coaching job back or to get him to become Marshall's next athletic director.

The parody account insisted that this story was not "fake" news and was 100 percent real and the proof was the fact that the story was pulled directly from a paid insider board of a popular Marshall University message board. It's a shocking and program shaking revelation to reveal that a 73-year old ex-coach could team up with the Skip Bayless of the Huntington Media in order to take down the current administration and coaching staff, because they thought this supposedly cooked up story would get Hamrick and Doc both fired, all the while getting an entire team of grown adults who haven't played for coach Pruett in twenty years to go along with their great deception of the Herd fans.

There is just one problem with the theory, it doesn't make any damn sense. According to the believers in the theory, the proof comes from the fact that Chuck Landon's story didn't get printed in the paper until six weeks after the events of the homecoming weekend had taken place. Now, I don't have an answer for why Landon didn't go to print with his story sooner, but, I do know that members of the 1996 team were speaking unflatteringly about their treatment long before his article, they just weren't doing it in the media at the time. But, I've talked to multiple members of the team both before and after the Landon story hit the presses, and the consensus was that while most of the weekend went great and while most of the people at Marshall treated them graciously, there were some "decision makers" in the athletic department that were less than respectful to the 1996 team and their families.

You didn't need to read Landon's story to get that picture, you could get it from visiting the facebook pages of several former players and they were talking about it long before Landon's story became public. So the part of the theory that suggests that these guys weren't upset and then suddenly six weeks after the fact they were, is not true. Many players were upset the weekend of the reunion and many were upset before that. Another thing folks must understand was the treatment of the '96 team wasn't the first incident or issue former players had with the Marshall athletic department, it was just the straw that broke the camel's back, to the point that some felt the need to go public. But, again team members were speaking out to their friends and family long before the public comments came to light. 

But, let's move on to other facets of this ridiculous theory, like what Pruett stood to gain by orchestrating this story. Well, unless Bob Pruett is a complete moron then he would know he would gain nothing from this story. While it is embarrassing that the athletic department would treat an all-time great team with even a modicum of disrespect it's not exactly the type of scandal that would make a university President step in and clean out the entire program from Hamrick down to Doc and his staff. Which is what would have to happen if Pruett was going to get either Hamrick's job or Holliday's job, that he supposedly covets so much. So, Pruett, Landon and complicit members of the entire '96 team (because not a single member of the team has disputed Landon's story) would all have to be idiots to think the plan would work. Sorry, I just don't buy that all those people are that dumb. 

Then you also have to look at risk vs. reward. So, the risk for Pruett is that if the truth comes out about his plot to dethrone Hamrick and Holliday that his legacy would take a severe hit, if not evaporate altogether. The reward is if he could coach one more year of college football as a head coach then he becomes eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame. Pruett would be an almost guaranteed selection with this career winning percentage of 80.3 percent. The problem here is that conspiracy theorists propose that Pruett is driven by his ego and he wants that Hall of Fame induction badly, however, if Pruett has the ego that conspiracy theorists say he does then it doesn't make sense for him to jeopardize tainting his impeccable legacy at Marshall University, because that in turn would severely damage his ego. Also if Pruett cared so much about the Hall of Fame, why wouldn't he have just stuck it out another year at Marshall back in 2004 instead of resigning like he did? The story just doesn't add up, especially when you look at the risks and rewards for Pruett's other conspirators. 

For Landon, the risk is clear, as a journalist if you're caught fabricating or manufacturing a story that didn't exist then you not only lose your job but you become persona non grata within the industry. It's journalism's cardinal sin. His reward? To spite Doc Holliday and the athletic administration who limited his media access to the team? People, really think Landon, cares that much about having his credentials pulled that he would risk his livelihood? I'm not buying that either, no way does a reporter risk ruining his career to get revenge, not to mention the libel lawsuits that he would face for his fabricated accusations against Hamrick and the athletic department. It simply doesn't add up. 

But, it's Pruett's former players who make the least amount of sense. They have absolutely nothing to gain by helping Landon and Pruett allegedly  engineer this story of mistreatment against them. I mean are conspiracy theorists really suggesting that these players are so blindly loyal to their former college coach that they would risk tarnishing their own legacies as well as facing possible lawsuits for slander, just for coach Pruett? And even if you could believe that was true of the four players quoted in Landon's article do you really think Pruett could get the other members of the team to support the story or at the very least not refute it? I mean come on? There are more holes in this theory then there are in fishing nets. It's hard enough to get a group of people to agree on a restaurant, and people think Pruett got the entire '96 team to agree to go along with a made up story in an effort to harm the alma-mater of said players? 

Excuse my language, but give me a f*cking break!