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Former Marshall University football coach Sonny Randle dies

Marshall University athletics officials said former Thundering Herd football coach Sonny Randle has died. (Courtesy: Marshall Athletics)

Marshall University is remembering one of its beloved coaches. Sonny Randle died Wednesday. He was 81 years old. Randle coached the Thundering Herd football team from 1979 to 1983.

Before Sonny Randle came to Marshall, he made a name for himself by playing ten years in the NFL. Among the Marshall faithful he will always be remembered for the mark he left on the Thundering Herd football program.

"It's a huge blow. It's like loosing a father," said former Marshall football player Carl Lee who played for Coach Randle for Four years. He remembers his former coach as a gentle giant that would do anything for his players. "For me Sonny created me into something that would allow me to play 12 years in the NFL, physically, mentally. I felt like nothing could break me because I had gone through four years with him," said Lee.

"From everyone I talked to that played for Sonny they talk about the disciplinarian and how hard he was, but I don't know anyone who played for Sonny that had a bad experience," said former Marshall Assistant Football Coach Mark Gale. He credits Randle with laying the foundation for the success of the Thundering Herd's football program, as Marshall tried to get beyond the devastating plane crash of 1970.

"I think anyone that studies the history of Marshall football will look at Sonny and say that this was the start of where the success of Marshall football began," said Gale. "He created a foundation of how players need to be and the type of player that needs to be here. You can judge how he did it, but at the end of the day he's the reason why Marshall is where it is today," said Lee.

Randle coached the Thundering Herd from 1979 to 1983. He was the third head football coach after the plane crash in 1970. He succeeded Jack Lengyl and Frank Ellwood.

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Marshall University athletics officials said former Thundering Herd football coach Sonny Randle has died.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of former Thundering Herd head coach Sonny Randle,” the university’s athletics program said in a statement. “Sonny was a beloved figure to many associated with our football program and will be dearly missed.”

Details about Randle's death were not immediately available.

Randle coached the Herd for five seasons, from 1979 to 1983. He amassed an overall record of 12-42-1.

Randle’s reign at Marshall started eight seasons after the devastating plane crash that killed 75 players, coaches, staff, fans and crew members. Randle’s 4-7 record in 1983 was his best return


Randle had a long career in the National Football League as a wide receiver. He played 10 seasons in the NFL, according to nfl.com. Randle played for the Dallas Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cardinals.

In addition to his career as a professional football player and as a college football coach, Randle also served as a TV commentator for Marshall football games.

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