Akers, a Marshall graduate in 1974 and former owner and Vice-President of Akers Magnetite, Inc. of Matewan, W.Va., has donated $25,000 to a scholarship for students who serve as Marshall managers in athletics, the Bill Taylor Equipment Manager Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship donation for student-managers was made in the name of Bill Taylor, a long-time volunteer on the Herd football sidelines.
Taylor, employed by Verizon and with the telephone company all during his 30-plus years of service at Marshall, has helped with the Herd's sideline telephones since 1975, and began traveling with the team full-time in that capacity back in 1979. Taylor and Pepper Weinberger, another long-time employee of the phone company, have both used vacation and personal time to travel with Marshall all through the Southern and Mid-American Conferences as well as Conference USA, and have seen the phone systems go from the old hard-wired, operator-type of headsets and handsets to today's wireless systems and high-tech headset rigs.
Akers and Taylor, who is a native of Beckley, W.Va., became friends in 1968 as members of the U.S. Marine Corps while stationed in Vietnam during the war. Taylor moved to Huntington when he joined C&P Telephone in 1970, and he and Akers renewed their friendship at Marshall games at Fairfield Stadium. Taylor answered a call for someone to service phones for the Herd in the mid-1970s and has been a mainstay every since, as has Akers and his Thundering Herd Road Crew van at games at home and on the road.
"This is half of what is needed to fully endow this scholarship," said Akers, who has helped on the Herd sideline himself over the years with phones, equipment or other areas. "I thought it would be nice to help and to honor Bill, who has has performed a great service for the University and football program while not asked for anything in return for himself. I never knew how much work the equipment managers do until I worked with Bill a few times. They are really under noticed for their many tasks," said Akers.
Taylor was overwhelmed with the honor. "To have someone to do something like this is very humbling," said Taylor. "Yes, David Akers is truly a friend." Akers explained Marshall will have two years to raise the remaining amount to fully endow the scholarship at $50,000, "It's my goal to reach $50,000 on this one, too," said Akers, and that is something current Head Equipment Manager Rich Worner intends to get done.
"We had begun to work on this the past couple of years, and David's gift in Bill's name is huge," said Worner, a student-manager from 1988-92, then worked in the facilities at MU from 1993-95 before becoming head equipment manager for Carl Lee at WV State and earning his degree at the Institute campus. Worner, who also has worked at Virginia and Tulane, was not sure how many scholarships there were nationally for student-managers, but a Google check listed some scholarships being funded in different ways at Louisville, Fresno State, Iowa and Notre Dame, and Worner was sure LSU and a few other schools had some scholarships but not necessarily endowed.
The Athletic Equipment Managers Association, who runs a national certification program, offers six $500 scholarships to student-managers who are members of the AEMA each year. "Dave's gift also gives us a chance to show former student-managers how they can help persons who are doing what they did to get an education at Marshall. We hope to rally the 15 or so people in the equipment business to get the word out, and contact the people who came through the equipment room, work in the private sector and are now financially able to help fund this scholarship," said Worner.
Marshall is one of the leaders in the nation in placing former student-managers into equipment jobs as certified equipment managers around the nation, including Worner and his assistant, Zach Littleton, at Marshall. Matt Lewis is at TCU, Erik Lewis is one of three from MU at East Carolina, Rodney Powell is the head equipment manager for the NBA's Orlando Magic and there are former MU people at Harvard (two persons), Tennessee State, Minnesota (two), North Carolina, Tulsa, Tampa Bay Bucs/Orlando Predators and Columbus (Ohio) Clippers minor league team. Others are affiliated with athletics like Jim Woodrum of ISP Sports; Bill Woodrum at WV State University; Scott Morehouse, Associate AD at Marshall; David Wagg, a manager of Amway Arena in Orlando, where the Magic plays; Matt Wildt, ticket manager at UAB; and even former MU head equipment manager Brian Coutras, who is now the equipment manager for the Blazers.
As many of you know, before Woody Woodrum became a writer for Herd Insider and joined ESPN 930 AM/Thundering Herd Network, I worked in the MU equipment room as a student-manager, assistant equipment manager and head equipment manager, as well as with the Oklahoma Thunder summer professional football team and Western Michigan University. Bill Taylor and I both started at MU in 1975.
Marshall's head sets under Taylor and Weinberger have advanced from rather primitive equipment and basic phone lines from Bell Telephone through Porta Phone Systems under George Chaump and David Clark Phone Systems under Jim Donnan, which required the two phone men and the student-managers to run wires from the Herd sidelines to the press box for road games, to prevent the home team from pulling any "monkey business" with the visiting team's communication, a real problem in the 1970s and 1980s. These days, the Coach Com wireless systems has less leg work to set up, but still requires repair and other maintenance to keep the coaches on the sidelines in contact with the coaches in the press box.
Thanks to David Akers, some student-manager who may help set up those phones will now have a scholarship in the name of Bill Taylor, who has kept those phones working now in his 34th season with the MU football program out of the equipment room. To donate to the scholarship, contact the Big Green at 866-443-7310 or 304-696-4661, or contact Rich Worner at 304-696-5411 at the Shewey Athletic Center in the north end zone of the Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Sam Stanley of the Marshall Big Green Scholarship Foundation added to this story for Herd Insider