Developer Chat

General WhatIfSports

Jack Lengyel

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

7:00 PM - 8:00 PM EST

The LIVE portion of this chat will begin on

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 7:00 PM EST.

Welcome everyone to our Legends of the Game chat with former Marshall University Head Coach and US Naval Academy Athletic Director and current Vice President of Business Development for XOS Technologies, Jack Lengyel.

What do you think about Matthew McConaughey playing you in the movie? If you could have had any actor play you, who would it be? (skonley - Hall of Famer - 7:50 PM)

I think that Matthew McConaughey did a fantastic job. I met with him as a consultant on the movie and he did not try to be like me - which I think was good. He took the script and all of the materials that he could find about me and then tried to create a character based on how he would have reacted had he been in the same situation. His character was much more animated than I am, so that was better for the movie. If I had to choose an actor to play me in a movie, I would probably choose Matthew. I obviously had not input into the selection, but I was well aware of who he was beforehand.

Dear Coach, First, as an alum of Marshall University (M.S in 1992) and a life long resident of West Virginia, I want to thank you for what you and your staff did after the tragedy that struck our school. Your inspiration and drive to overcome were heart felt throughout our great State. How difficult was it for you to reflect and provide information to the directors and actors while they were producing "We Are Marshall"? Thank you and God Bless!! John Lantz Moundsville, WV (bulantz - Hall of Famer - 7:52 PM)

It was not difficult to help with the movie, but it was definitely difficult times portrayed by the movie. I tend to reflect upon all of the good things that city of Huntington, the fans, other coaches, the administration and everyone involved did for us as they showed support. Ultimately, I am proud to be a part of the process of building the program, but I was just a small part. The University's success had so many fathers and we were just a small part of the beginning of the rebuilding of the foundation of the school's football program. Along the lines of your comments. I want to thank all of the members of the entire state of West Virginia for their commitment to rebuilding the program and to support the Young Thundering Herd and our coaching staff. That time was an unprecedented time in the annals of college football and we needed their help.

Do you feel that the movie accurately portrays the story? (danmam - Hall of Famer - 7:54 PM)

I think you have to understand that Warner Brothers was taking a full year of experiences and compressing it into two hours while still trying make an accurate account of the story. In some cases, they had to use composite characters because they could not find all of the right people to sign off on the characters. In whole, I would say that they did a very admirable job with the storyline and in capturing the spirit of the town of Huntington and Marshall University as well as respecting the 75 members of the program who perished in the crash; which was our main objective from the start.

How can I throw a football farther and/or faster? (rcktchamp - Hall of Famer - 7:57 PM)

Well, first of all, you have to have a strong arm. In other words, you must be in top physical condition. Throwing the football requires strength in the whole body including strength in the legs and upper body. Athletic ability has a lot to do with it. You will not be able to reach your peak without being in peak physical condition. Then, with the grip, grasp the ball lightly with your index finger toward the top of the ball off the laces. As your throw, rotate the thumb inward and come over the top with your arm. Keep your elbow pointed down and find your target. Put your target on the tip of your left (if you are right-handed) foot's big toe so you can open your hips and hit the target.

What is your fondest memory of coaching at Marshall? (KSBeachBums - Hall of Famer - 7:58 PM)

Bringing together the young student athletes and coaches with the support of the community and university while putting together a team that was competitive and a true team. We may not have been fully competitive, but we represented the University and helped in the transition to the success that the school would have in the years to follow.

Hey coach. For me, a truly inspirational moment in the film was when you went to West Virginia and asked for help with the veer - they opened all their resources to you and then you noticed that they memorialized marshall on their helmets. In real life, what was that moment like for you? (fd343ny - Hall of Famer - 8:03 PM)

When I first called Bobby and asked for permission to come up to spring practice, he welcomed us with open arms and he showed his graciousness by allowing our entire staff (contrary to the movie) take part in spring ball at West Virginia. We watched practice every minute of practice for three days. After practice, the offensive staff would meet with us every night to discuss implementing the veer offense. On the squad, we only had four wide receivers and two quarterbacks, so we decided we needed to learn the Houston veer so we could split two wide and play 9-on-9 as opposed to 11-on-11 - which we could not do and to succeed. We were able to option the ends out and it gave us a chance to throw the football a little more. While in Morgantown, we spent every night until 2:00 am watching film. After that, we simplified the offense, wrote up a playbook and brought it back to Marshall for our spring practice. By the time we played the Alumni game that spring we had it and were able to win that game 26-0 with a very limited team. Bobby Bowden was most gracious. Our families have remained friends for years. Some say that that would never have happened today and I say that it would because that is who Bobby Bowden is. He told me a few weeks ago that the role in the movie has made him an icon and that he has had more interview questions about that scene than the (Sun) bowl victory. I told him that he deserved it.

Coach, did you really run your kids into trees to toughen them up? If so, would you recommend that practice to others? (mudbone1969 - Hall of Famer - 8:05 PM)

Hardly (laughing), in fact the interview never took place at my home. I drove to Marshall to meet with the Athletic Director and President. My kids never ran into trees. The Athletic Director at Marshall played a normal role, but with the movie, Warner Brothers tried hard to keep the story and message a little more in line by lessening the number of characters.

what's the number 1 thing to do to get things rolling with a bad football team? (foreman32 - Rookie - 8:07 PM)

The number one thing is to develop a strategic plan for success. You must come up with a mission and core values. Sportsmanship, integrity, leadership, academics, community service - all play a role in those core values. Then you take that plan to the administration, the alumni and the team. When everyone is on the same page there and the entire program is striving to meet those goals, the team can achieve its football goals. Throughout the season, periodically review these goals, adjust as needed and move forward. Over time, quality goals and the desire to accomplish them will help you achieve success. That's what is great about this movie. It is about hope and perseverance and those are encompassed by those core values. The ultimate thing about college athletics is how to do that, how to get back up after being knocked down and find a way to succeed.

What do you think about pay for play? (skonley - Hall of Famer - 8:09 PM)

I am not one for pay for play. I think that the student athlete that receives a full scholarship for tuition, books and fees as well as help and support with all academics and a network for job placement and life after school as well as the ability to play the game itself are rewards unto themselves. However, I am very concerned with salaries of coaches today which seem to warp the educational goals of the institution. I recognize the marketplace and the desire to stay competitive, but it seems as though salaries are out of whack and some better balance should be met. When a school starts paying a coach $4 million a year, you must take a good hard look as to where those revenues are going to come from.

Recently, Marshall has been a fairly succesful program, especialy in producing many pro players. What would you attribute this to? (blackmink18 - Hall of Famer - 8:11 PM)

The fathers of Marshall football throughout the years have made it what is today. Stan Parrish having the first winning season in 1986. George Chaump being successful and playing for national championships. Jim Donnan played for national championships on the DI-AA level. And then Bobby Pruett, who went 15-0 in his very first season, coached the team to be the most successful DI program in the 1990s. Pruett fulfilled all of the dreams that we had by achieving the goal that we told our players when I started. We needed to play then, so we could share in the victories and the successes that would be had later. We laid the groundwork to share in those victories and coaches like Bobby Pruett got us there.

Have you been able to remain in contact with any of the players or coaches from that 1971 team? (schmoldty - Newbie - 8:11 PM)

Absolutely. I have stayed in contact with many of them. The opportunity to have a reunion dinner in Huntington at the movie premiere was wonderful. Many of the players had not seen each other in more than 30 years and it was just a wonderful, wonderful time.

What accomplishment are you proudest of from your years as an athletic director? (buzzardbill - Prospect - 8:14 PM)

As an AD, I think having the opportunity to, upon my retirement (from the position at the Naval Academy in 2001), help schools that were having trouble like Temple, Eastern Kentucky and Colorado as an interim Athletic Director meant that I could give back to my profession and use everything that I had learned previously to improve situation. I went in there and helped them with strategic planning and those were very rewarding opportunities where I had a chance to help alleviate some serious problems. I have also always had a close relationship with Marshall University and tend to think of my accomplishments there first, so anyway in which I have been able to help them has been very gratifying.

Well, someone beat me to the Bobby Bowden question. Was wondering if you still keep in contact with Red Dawson and the other members of your staff from that time period? (bulantz - Hall of Famer - 8:14 PM)

Red and I see each other from time to time. I see him every time I visit Marshall University. He still has a small construction company in Huntington.

What were you doing when you heard about the plane crash? (mudbone1969 - Hall of Famer - 8:18 PM)

I was returning home from our last football game at Wooster and was watching television when I saw the crawl come across the screen. My heart sunk just like everyone else and every football coach thought the same thing, "By the grace of God there go I and there go my football team." I ultimately thought it was a great opportunity to give the game something that it had given me by becoming head coach. I was a walk-on at Akron and then went on to be a Freshman football coach and a high school coach before making my way through as an assistant and landing the job at Heidelberg. I was able to foster so many young men and help them through college. Education was important to me growing up. My parents were both from the "Old Country" (Hungary) and came over here when they were 7 or 8 to go to work. They did not have much more than a Third Grade education so I made it my goal to get the best education. Then, I was able to do the same and have the greatest influence on that by becoming a head coach. I was blessed to be in that position, so it was important to me to give something back as I could. There is an old Chinese proverb that says that if someone gives you something of value that you have an obligation to pass it on to others. No one needed what I could provide more than Marshall University; and I wanted to provide it.

What is XOS technologies and how did you become affiliated with the company? (tinmanpb - Hall of Famer - 8:19 PM)

XOS Technology is the premier athletic technology company for coaches and administrators. We do editing systems for 98% of college coaches and much of the NFL. We do instant replay for the PAC 10 as well as some other conferences. We do internet broadcasting for FOX and ESPN and host/create sites for several collegiate programs. It is an all-inclusive program that helps take coaches into the 21st century. It allows many programs to find new ways to generate revenue and stay in the race.

Did President Dedmon actually go to Kansas City to get the NCAA waiver for freshman at MU? (bulantz - Hall of Famer - 8:23 PM)

No. He did not. My understanding was, and I don't know this for a fact, but the process was that Dedmon and the AD sent a letter to the NCAA to petition for the use of freshmen players. The only way we could field a football team was to play freshmen because we only had 21 players on the team (freshmen becoming sophomores who did not travel in 1970). Approval was given by Walter Byars of the NCAA after the first letter. We recruited about 48 players to play as freshmen. We had three players from the previous season who had been injured and were not on the plane; three players from Buffalo who transferred after the school dropped football, three basketball players, a basketball player from Puerto Rico who had just played in the Pan-Am games, a soccer player who had never played football before and a few other servicemen and walk-ons who joined the team. Because of all that I changed the mascot to the Young Thundering Herd.

What is your feeling about a possible playoff in college football? (swolek20 - Newbie - 8:25 PM)

I think the playoff is an eventuality. It is just a matter of time before the presidents and the television networks and the Rose Bowl come to terms with all of the conferences. As the cost of fielding athletic programs rises, colleges will continue to find ways to raise funds and I believe that the National Playoff will be one of these. It will all come down to how the money will be split, but it will have to become a reality. That won't be for (at least) another five years yet.

Thank you very much for participating in our Legends of the Game chat with Jack Lengyel. It's been great being able to hear the insight and stories from one of the more notable college coaches and administrators of all time. For more information regarding upcoming chats, please click here.

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