The room was crowded one-half hour before the start time of 10:30am. Normally used for football team meetings, the classroom also serves home to Marshall football post-game press conferences. It's where we all meet after the game, coaches, players, and media.
But this time, the feeling was strange. Not so much funeral-like, but definitely sad.
That is how much the members of the media that regularly cover Bob Pruett felt for the guy. He's been our guy all along, and your initiation was when Pruett cracked a joke that involved using your name in it. In his own way, that was his welcoming you into his world.
Pruett smiling is the way most will remember him.
"Whatever coach wants to do, he deserves the right to do it. He's earned the right, nobody has given it to him," AD Bob Marcum stood up and said.
Internet rumors speculated about one dozen theories why Pruett was retiring. And this was before the press conference. Only the internet folks were moving at the same speed as the local media folk on Wednesday morning, it appears.
"It's just time," Bob Pruett smiled and said. Then, he crushed the speculation right where it stood. "I don't know what the speculation is, but I've been a football coach for 40 years. It's time. It's time I step aside. That's it."
And like that, it was done.
This news caught everybody by surprise in Huntington. Including Pruett's own staff. Nobody saw it coming, but a lot of people felt that one day it might. Not a one of them, however, saw it happening two days before the start of spring football practice.
Gone was the 9 years as head coach, and all that goes with it. A 1-AA National Championship his first year, 1996. Five Mid-American Conference championships. A 5-2 record in bowl games. An overall record of 94-22, the most wins by a coach in his first nine seasons in Division 1 in more than a century.
In short; the winningest coach in Marshall football history. Gone.
Pruett wants to enjoy life, and said he'll stay in town and be visible on a daily basis. Can't blame the guy. He's been through a lot here, and sometimes, you just need a rest.
"I'm 62. I've got 10 years to live and 10 years to die," Pruett summed up. "And I want to live those 10 years with my grandkids."
Bob then pointed to assistant Larry Kueck to be the interim coach, beginning with spring drills that start on Friday. Kueck grabbed the bull by the horns, and said he looks forward to continuing what Pruett left as legacy. Kueck literally woke up on Wednesday as an assistant coach, and two hours later was the interim head coach.
Bang, just like that.
After answering all the questions, Pruett stood up, hugged his wife Elsie and walked out of the room. A quick thumbs-up and a cloud of dust, and it was over.
The media side of me recognized the moment for what it was. The Marshall fan side of me realized that The Coach was gone.
And there was nothing I could do. Life goes on in Herdtown.