Marshall’s Holliday goes from hot seat to title game

As Marshall was putting the finishing touches on a 59-28 victory over East Carolina, let’s hope coach Doc Holliday took a few minutes to relish the moment.

It took Holliday 30 years of coaching at West Virginia (twice), North Carolina State and Florida before he finally got his shot at running his own program. Holliday’s first game as a head coach was not too memorable as the Herd were trounced 45-7 by No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus.

Holliday’s first three seasons in Huntington, W.Va., have provided mixed results as the Herd went 17-20, but did have a bowl victory in 2011. However, Holliday never wavered from his plan to build a team with speed and a roster stocked with players from Florida.

Recruiting Florida is how Holliday built a reputation as one of the nation’s best recruiters. He invaded Florida in the early 1980s and has been going to that source of talent ever since.

One of those Florida guys is junior quarterback Rakeem Cato, who has enjoyed another outstanding season for Holliday and the Herd. The coach convinced the talented Cato three years ago to by-pass opportunities with larger programs to be a four-year starter.

Holliday has been making that pitch for years and it has paid off many times. It was guys like this, who were willing to take a chance and go to Marshall, who made the win over East Carolina happen and helped Holliday get Marshall to its first Conference USA Championship Game.

The Herd could host the championship game next weekend, but they will need Tulane to beat Rice on Saturday. Marshall will enter the game with a 9-3 overall record and 7-1 mark in the conference.

It’s almost hard to believe that Holliday appeared on a number of preseason “Hot Seat” lists. Now in his fourth season, Holliday has a chance to add another championship to his impressive resume.

Other Conference USA coaches have been able to turn a championship game appearance into a bigger payday with a BCS program. At 56, Holliday may not show up on many short lists for openings around the nation. He grew up not too far from the Marshall campus and he has built something in Huntington that could have some longevity.

No matter what happens next weekend and in the bowl game, Holliday has Marshall playing for championships again.