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Rick Tolley
Title Head Coach
College Marshall
Sport Football
Born 1940
Place of birth Mullens, West Virginia
Died November 14, 1970
Career highlights
Overall 6-13
Coaching stats
College Football DataWarehouse
Playing career
1958-61 Virginia Tech
Position Center & Linebacker
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1969-70 Marshall

Rickey Dale Tolley (1940 – November 14, 1970) was the head coach of the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team during the 1969 and 1970 seasons. He died in the 1970 plane crash that killed all of the crew and passengers, including most of the Marshall football team and coaching staff and several team boosters.


Early life

At Mullens High School, he played basketball, baseball and football. Mullens High School is located in Mullens, West Virginia. Mullens High School no longer exisits, as it has been consolidated with other schools. In 1965, Mullens High School and Conley High School were consolidated. In 1992 these schools were consolidated with Herndon High School. In 1998 Mullens High School and Pineville High School were consolidated to form Wyoming East High School, located at New Richmond. The last class to graduate from Mullens High School was in 1998.

College playing career

In college, Tolley played center and linebacker for the Virginia Tech Hokies football team.

Coaching career

Tolley started his coaching career during the years 1962 - 1964 at John Battle High School in Bristol, Virginia as an assistant football coach for two years and then as an assistant baseball coach at the University of Virginia for another year. [1] He then joined the football coaching staff at Ferrum Junior College for three years, one of which they won the National Junior College Championship. He then left to become the defensive line coach at Wake Forest University in 1968.

He joined Perry Moss's Marshall football staff as defensive line coach in early 1969 replacing Ken Cooper who resigned to coach in Florida [2] He was interior line coach at the time of Moss's removal from the head coaching duties. [3]

Tolley became the interim head coach of Marshall just four days before the start of fall practice for the 1969 season. He started the season with over 40 players but through attrition, the number of players dropped to just 32 player after the team lost the first 6 games. The team was on its way to a collegiate record losing streak. Tolley was able to turn things around and managed to win three straight games against Bowling Green University (21-16), Kent State University (31-20) and East Carolina University (38-7). The final game of the 1969 season was a loss against Ohio University (35-38) with the Bobcats scoring their winning touchdown with five seconds left.

During the entire season Tolley was considered the 'acting' head football coach. Tolley had expressed his desire to be the permanent head coach but the university had not appointed a permanent athletic director and would name a head coach after the season was complete. Twenty-Eight Marshall players had signed a petition and presented it to Governor Arch Moore asking that suspended head coach Perry Moss be named to the top spot. Newly appointed Athletic Director Charles Krautz announced Tolley's selection appointment to the permanent head coaching position on December 1, 1969. His appointment was a unanimous recommendation by a special selection committee submitted to Donald Dedmon, executive vice president of the university, who made the final decision, in a absence of Roland Nelson, Marshall University president who was on vacation [4].

Tolley's Head Coaching Record by Season
Season School Record Bowl game
1969 Marshall 3-7
1970 Marshall 3-6
Total 2 Seasons 6-13

We Are Marshall

Tolley is depicted in the movie We Are Marshall by actor Robert Patrick (uncredited). Patrick was 18 years older than Tolley, causing Tolley to be portrayed in the film as middle-aged.


Tolley had been married to the former Mary Jane Edmundson of Charlottesville, Virginia since 1963 at the time of his death. The couple had no children. Mary Jane Tolley later moved back to Virginia, where she taught English and Creative Writing for high school students. Never remarried, she is now retired and living an active life in Richmond. She can be seen in a final scene in the movie "We are Marshall" with many people gathered around the university Memorial Water Fountain honoring and remembering the crash victims.


  1. ^ The Kingsport Times (Kingsport, TN), "Two Crash Victoms Had Tennesee Connections", November 16, 1970, p. 16.
  2. ^ Charleston Daily Mail January 20, 1969.
  3. ^ Charleston Daily Mail August 25, 1969.
  4. ^ Charleston Daily Mail, December 1, 1969, page 1

External links

Preceded by
Perry Moss
Marshall University Head Football Coach
Succeeded by
Jack Lengyel


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