We Are Marshall is a 2006 American drama film directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol about the aftermath of the 1970 plane crash that killed 37 football players on the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team as well as five coaches, two trainers, the athletic director, 25 boosters and a crew of five. It also addresses the rebuilding of the program and the healing that the community undergoes. It stars Matthew McConaughey as head coach Jack Lengyel, Matthew Fox as assistant coach William "Red" Dawson, David Strathairn as University President Donald Dedmon and Robert Patrick as ill-fated Marshall head coach Rick Tolley. Former Georgia governor George "Sonny" Perdue has a cameo role as an East Carolina University football coach. The movie is rated PG. The movie was scored by Christophe Beck and written by Jamie Linden. Dr. Keith Spears was the Marshall University consultant.
On the evening of November 14, 1970, Southern Airways Flight 932, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 which Huntington, West Virginia's Marshall University chartered to transport the Thundering Herd football team to Greenville, North Carolina via Stallings Field in Kinston, North Carolina and back to Huntington, clipped trees on a ridge just one mile short of the runway at Tri-State Airport in Ceredo, West Virginia and crashed into a gully. The team was returning from their game against the East Carolina University Pirates a 1714 loss. There were no survivors. In all, 75 people lost their lives. The deceased included the 37 players; head coach Rick Tolley and five members of his coaching staff; Charles E. Kautz, Marshall's athletics director; team trainer Jim Schroer and his assistant, Donald Tackett; 25 boosters; and five crew members. In the wake of the tragedy, President Donald Dedmon leans towards indefinitely suspending the football program, but he is ultimately persuaded to reconsider by the pleas of the Marshall students and Huntington residents, and especially the few football players who didn't make the flight. Dedmon hires a young new head coach Jack Lengyel, who with the help of Red Dawson (the sole surviving member of the previous coaching staff), manages to rebuild the team in a relatively short time. They are aided by the NCAA's waiver of a rule prohibiting freshmen from playing varsity football (a rule which had been abolished in 1968 for all sports except for football and basketball, and would be permanently abolished for those sports in 1972). The new team is composed mostly of the 18 returning players (three varsity, 15 sophomores) and walk-on athletes from other Marshall sports programs. Due to their lack of experience, the "Young Thundering Herd" ends up losing their first game, 29-6 to the Morehead State Eagles. The Herd's first post-crash victory is a heart-stopping 1513 home win against Xavier University in the first home game of the season.