Jan. 4, 2007
‘We Are Marshall’ Cheer: How It All Began
By Chris Spencer
Huntington News Network Photographer
Huntington, WV (HNN) -- The Marshall University cheerleaders shout to the crowd, "We Are," and the Herd fans respond, Marshall."
Those three words "We Are Marshall." is now the name of a successful movie by Warner Bros. that premiered in Huntington last month. The movie is now playing nationwide.
Where did the "We Are Marshall," cheer start and come from? It is Marshall University Assistant Cheerleading Coach Duane Nutt who pinpoints the exact date of the start of the cheer, "We Are Marshall." Coach Nutt was a Marshall cheerleader from 1986-1990.
Coach Nutt said, "It was at homecoming in 1988 against Furman at Fairfield Stadium. It was a sell out crowd with more than 19,000 people there. It was the first time in school history that we beat Furman in football."
That date was Oct. 8, 1988 and Marshall beat Furman 24-10. The Herd was 11-2 under coach George Chaump losing to Furman in the play-offs 13-9 on Dec. 3.
Coach Nutt recalled: "One of the coaches wanted something loud. We tried the words from the song, 'Don't Worry, Be Happy." That didn't work real well."
"We were at practice one night trying something we could do that would go back and forth. One of the coaches came to us and asked us about crowd response and getting the crowd into it more. We tried to come up with different cheers that would be easy to yell. Some of them were way to long with to many words."
"We tired different things. We were doing it as a normal side line cheer with the cheerleaders. We started doing the cheer with megaphones. It was a much more compact atmosphere at Fairfield."
"We tried using it on defense to distract the other team. Fans seemed to yell it louder on defense or if there was a good play or a break in the game."
Coach Nutt said, "We like to keep it quiet on offense and use the "We Are Marshall." cheer on defense to distract theother team. They seem to yell it louder on defense."
"No one ever dreamed that the cheer would be made into a movie. Back in 1988 we didn't think of that kind of stuff. We were just excited to get the wave going and the cheer going. No one ever dreamed it would be what it is today."
"At basketball games they don't yell it. It seems to be a football only cheer. They are not really responsive at basketball games even with bigger crowds. . It is really strange. It seems to be a football thing."
"A lot of high schools are now coming up with their version of it."
After viewing the 'We Are Marshall," movie Coach Nutt said, "There are times it shakes me up. The movie is hard to sit through and look back."
The emotional scene where the fans look up to the board room and shout 'We Are Marshall," brought cheers from the movie audience at the premiere.
Coach Nutt said, " I cry every time I see that clip."
Marshall University unofficial sports historian and radio broadcaster Woody Woodrum said, "I remember them starting the cheer in the late eighties at Fairfield Stadium. I don't remember what the thing was that really got it going."
"I had heard that cheer before at Penn State when I was up there back in the late seventies and early eighties, we are Penn State: “We are Penn State.”
"We Are Marshall," was going back and forth between the fans and I think the cheerleaders picked up on it. We did it a little bit, but it didn't really take off until we were in the Joan C. Edwards Stadium."
"The fans really got into it then. I know same people quibbled about the name of the movie, "We Are Marshall." Back in 1970 and 71, it was not authentic but it is all about the spirit of the thing. "
"I remember playing North Texas and Furman in the play-offs in 1988. I just remember them shouting it back and forth."
"It was like the group of fans that did the Thunder Clap. I remember over at VMI they were doing push-ups ever time they scored. A bunch of our fans couldn't do push-ups so they they started clapping their hands like this. They did it the whole game."
"When they came back home they were doing it. It is amazing how everyone picked up on doing it. Those two things have become part of Marshall. It is something the fans started doing."
"I would be amazed if some body right here could say on this date I stood up and yelled 'We Are Marshall." Maybe somebody out there did that and will read the story and respond. and say just want to tell you we started dong that.... "
"I think that was the way it was the students were over here and the paying customers were over here and they stared shouting to each other."
"I don' think there is a better statement. You, me, those players this community this campus and those individuals are part of Marshall."
“We Are Marshall," sums it up about as well as any thing I can think of. It is a great saying that has come on it's own. I think it is amazing that it is now 20 years later and it is world wide."
"I have got Google set up and I am getting ten to fifteen stories a day from around the world since the premiere. I posted 50 or 100 on our web site the other day. It is amazing how many people are writing about this."
"Long term the "We Are Marshall," could be huge for the university. People are naturally attracted to things like this. They are going to come to town and want to come to the university."
"If the university presses this right they could see a record enrollment for next year."