For some reason (probably because it’s June), this tweet drifted onto my Twitter stream and I couldn’t get it out of my mind:
The thing is, Christian Spears might be absolutely right. By the power of Randy Moss, Marshall and its storied history saunters into the Sun Belt with some well-earned swagger. Thundering Herd football has endured just two losing seasons the last ten years. The basketball program won a conference championship in 2018 and earned a first round victory in the NCAA Tournament. Marshall’s soccer program is as stout as any in the nation – and the Sun Belt adopted men’s soccer largely to continue Marshall’s success. Unlike recent FCS programs who have entered the SBC, Marshall has nothing to prove. It enters the Sun Belt East as legitimate contenders.
Does that make Marshall the “Darling of the Sun Belt?” The Herd certainly has the media’s attention – and it’s Eastern location helps. It has ready-made rivalries with Old Dominion, Appalachian State and James Madison. As a member of the Sun Belt East, it clashes head to head with another SBC Darling, Coastal Carolina. It won’t take much effort from Marshall’s PR team to build storylines.
But there are other storylines. Southern Miss, for example, fields one of the finest baseball teams in the nation. The Louisiana Cajuns are the in-coming Sun Belt football champions. Georgia State and Texas State will continue to have solid runs in basketball, and the conference are seeing an upward trajectory for softball, women’s soccer and (yes) beach volleyball. Marshall brings strong brand recognition to the table, but there are many stories to pitch in the Sun Belt.
I honestly can’t dub Marshall the “Sun Belt Darling” for a few simple reasons: 1) they’re not even members of the Sun Belt yet, and 2) that title actually belongs to the Chanticleers, who charmed it from the Mountaineers, who wrested it from the Eagles, who clawed it from the Red Wolves.
But be patient, Herd. You can only be a darling for just so long.
PHOTO CREDIT: unknown