Since joining the Division I ranks in 1997 the Marshall University football team has had a rich bowl game tradition.
Last year, Marshall whipped Northern Illinios, 52-23, in the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla.
It was the latest triumph for the Herd.
The victory improved Marshall to 9-3 in its bowl game history.
But it all started for the Herd back on December 26, 1997 in the Motor City Bowl when the Herd, led by Randy Moss and Chad Pennington, made a valiant effort but fell short to Ole Miss in a 34-31 loss at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.
For Marshall, then a member of the Mid-American Conference, it was the first of four straight bowl trips to Michigan.
Back in those days, the MAC only had one bowl game tie-in with the Motor City Bowl.
It was simple.
You win the MAC and you go to the Motor City Bowl.
With fewer bowl games on the college football landscape there was really nowhere else for a MAC team to go.
Marshall redeemed itself the next year by scoring a 48-29 victory over Louisville in the 1998 Motor City Bowl at the Silverdome.
After rallying to beat Western Michigan in the MAC title game in Huntington, the Herd returned again to Pontiac in 1999 and beat BYU 21-3 in the Motor City Bowl.
The victory capped off Marshall’s ‘99 undefeated season at 12-0 and Coach Bob Pruett’s Herd ended up finishing 11th in the nation in both the AP and Coaches polls. It was a season when Marshall opened with a 13-10 upset win over Clemson at Death Valley.
Marshall won a fourth straight MAC title in 2000 and went back to the Silverdome and beat Cincinnati 25-14 to win its third straight Motor City Bowl crown.
Locally, Marshall’s football team in the bowl games, were well represented by Logan High School’s Michael “Kool-Aid” Owens, a starting linebacker, and Man High School’s Orlando Washington, a starting defensive linemen.
Owens tackled a BYU ballcarrier for a safety in the 1999 Motor City Bowl to give the Herd a 9-7 lead in the first quarter.
The next year, the Herd did not go to Pontiac, instead opting to play in the Mobile Alabama Bowl, the MAC’s second bowl game tie-in, winning in an epic 64-61 comeback over East Carolina in a game the Herd trailed 38-8.
Then in 2002, Ford Field opened in downtown Detroit and the NFL’s Detroit Lions moved out of the Silverdome, leaving the facility without a permanent tenant.
Since then, the facility, which once housed Super Bowl XVI in 1982 between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals, has slowly been in decline.
The facility closed in 2006 but after multiple attempts to solicit redevelopment plans, the City of Pontiac sold the stadium at auction in 2009 for only $583,000 to Canadian businessman Andreas Apostolopoulos.
The sale of the Silverdome, completed in 1975 at a cost of $55.7 million to local taxpayers (around $225 million in 2012 dollars), was viewed by many as a symbol of the collapse of real estate prices in the Detroit metropolitan area.
Others blamed the incompetence of city management and their not having a vision or future plans for the stadium and surrounding area.
The Silverdome reopened in 2010 and hosted several events but was closed again three years later.
The fiberglass fabric roof was deflated in 2013 and then soon collapsed.
In 2014, some of the stadium’s contents were auctioned off for more than $1 million and now the once mighty Silverdome now lays in ruins.
With no roof overhead to protect it from the weather, the Silverdome seats and concrete are now beginning to decay.
It’s unclear what lays ahead for the Silverdome.
Further decay and eventually the wrecking ball seems most likely.
For more than 20 years, the Silverdome hosted many of the greatest spectacles in entertainment.
In addition to the Super Bowl win by Joe Montana and the 49ers, the stadium also hosted major events such as concerts by Led Zeppelin, The Who and Pink Floyd and a visit by Pope John Paul II.
The Silverdome also made history in the 1980s as the WWF’s Wrestlemania III set an indoor attendance record with more than 93,000 fans cramming into the stadium to see the Main Event match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.
With a seating capacity of 82,000, the Silverdome was the NFL’s largest stadium of its time.
The NBA’s Detroit Pistons also played there from 1975-88 before moving out to the Palace of Auburn Hills and set many league attendance records, including a game with the Boston Celtics which drew nearly 62,000 fans.
The Silverdome also played host to the NBA Finals in 1987 and 1988 between the Pistons and Magic Johnson’s LA Lakers.
In 1994, World Cup soccer matches were also held there, as well as the 1979 NBA All-Star Game and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Marshall University and its football team was a part of the Silverdome’s history with its initial bowl games.
The 3-1 run in the Motor City Bowl was to be a foretelling of what was to come for the Herd in their bowl game success.
There’s no roar of the crowd anymore at the Silverdome.
An eerie silence.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1730, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).