Marshall University, located in Huntington, W.V., evolved from a private school created by local residents in 1837. The original name for the educational establishment was Marshall Academy. It was named after the famous Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, who had passed away in 1835.
From the late 1850s, it was called Marshall College. After a closure of some years precipitated by the Civil War, the school's doors have been open from the late 1860s to the present.
Original Nickname: The school's nickname from the latter part of the 19th century until the first decade of the 20th was the "Indians."
Original School Colors: The school colors were black and blue.
Big Changes in 1903: In this year, the colors were changed to green and white, with green being the dominant color for many years. Shortly thereafter, Marshall sports teams were referred to as "Big Green."
Origins of the Thundering Herd Nickname: After the publication of a Zane Grey western novel titled "The Thundering Herd" in 1925, and the release of a Hollywood movie of the same name a couple of years later, a local newspaper sports editor, Carl "Duke" Ridgley, challenged the Big Green nickname by calling Marshall sports teams "The Marshall Thundering Herd," or more simply, "Thundering Herd."
Ridgley's moniker, however, had additional competition as nicknames other than Thundering Herd and Big Green were bandied about during the first half of the 20th century.
Students Call for an Honorable Nickname: One possibility put forward by students who wanted to further honor the personage the school is named after was to call its sports teams the "Judges." It did not gain much support in the school or the community and was soon consigned to the dustbin of history.
Local Sportswriter Likes Cats: In 1933, a local sportswriter named Dug Freutel offered the nickname of "Bogie Cats" or "Boogercats," instead of Big Green and Thundering Herd.
Freutel's inspiration had to do with a Scottish word for a mountain lion, which he believed to be courageous and fleet of foot, and more appropriate than the sound of a herd of bison on the move.
Needless to say, Freutel's hopes for his unique nickname were soon dashed.
Students Still Like Big Green: From the days of the Great Depression and on into the 1950s, the Thundering Herd nickname gained in popularity, but did not become official for several decades as Big Green retained its status as the most common one.
In fact, the Marshall College student body favored Big Green over Thundering Herd in a vote in 1958.
From Marshall College to Marshall University: Marshall College was elevated to the status of a university in 1961. As Marshall University grew, the controversy over what should be the school's official nickname needed resolution.
A Binding Vote: In a vote conducted in 1965, 85 percent of the current and former students and faculty who cast ballots chose Thundering Herd over Big Green, settling the dispute for the foreseeable future.
Marshall University's Nickname Remains Instantly Recognizable: Thundering Herd continues to this day as one of the more distinctive nicknames for a university's sports teams anywhere in the country.
Patrick Hattman is a Marshall University graduate and continues to be a big supporter of Thundering Herd football.
- Marshall University