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Minter is Herd head coach for bowl game only

DETROIT — Rick Minter is making a brief cameo as the head coach of Marshall.

His one-game run will come in Saturday’s Pizza Bowl against Ohio.

Minter, Marshall’s defensive coordinator, was selected as the interim head coach when Mark Snyder resigned at the end of a 6-6 season.

“I’ve never been in this position before,” Minter said. “I’ve been a head coach, and I’ve been an assistant, but never both at the same time.”

Minter asked to be considered for the full-time job, but athletic director Mike Hamrick hired West Virginia associate head coach and recruiting specialist John “Doc” Holliday on Dec. 24. Holliday was an assistant under Urban Meyer when Florida won the national title in 2006.

“This is probably the most important position in our athletic department, so this was a very, very critical hire,” Hamrick said. “I don’t think you can get better than being the associate head coach at Florida when they win a title, except for being the head coach, and Urban won’t return my calls.”

Holliday, though, won’t take over until after the bowl game, Marshall’s first since in 2004.

“This is a one-game season for all of us,” Minter said. “That’s always been my approach to bowl games, but it is even more true this time. These are still Coach Snyder’s kids.”

At 6-6, including a 3-5 record in Conference USA, Marshall wasn’t a lock to get a bowl bid.

Marshall’s didn’t help itself with a 52-21 loss to UTEP to finish the season, nor with Snyder’s resignation, but Notre Dame’s decision not to accept a bowl bid and Army’s final-game loss helped the Thundering Herd get a spot in Detroit.

“No one on this team has played in a bowl game, so this is a good moment for Marshall football,” junior tight end Lee Smith said. “Hopefully, we’ll start going to bowl games every year again.”

The game is a return to the roots of both Minter and Marshall. The Thundering Herd, featuring players such as Randy Moss, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich, represented the Mid-American Conference in the first four editions of what was then known as the Motor City Bowl.

Marshall left the Mid-American Conference to join Conference USA in 2005.

In the last of Marshall’s Motor City Bowl appearances, played in 2000 at the Pontiac Silverdome, Marshall defeated Minter’s Cincinnati Bearcats 25-14. Minter also coached Cincinnati in the 2001 game, losing 23-16 to Toledo.

“Who says you can’t go home again?” Minter asked. “It’s an honor to be back here. A lot of things have happened to these kids, so we’re elated to be here. This is going to be for our seniors and for the Marshall football program.”