Coach Jack Lengyel is best known for being the head football coach who took on the daunting task of rebuilding the Marshall Thundering Herd football team after the tragic plane crash of November 14, 1970; a crash which killed all 75 people on board. The movie, We Are Marshall, debuted in December of 2006, and stars Matthew McConaughey as Jack Lengyel. Jack Lengyel has had a long and distinguished career in collegiate athletics. Mr. Lengyel, who began his career as the freshman football coach at his alma mater Akron University, has been involved with intercollegiate athletics since 1957. Mr. Lengyel’s diverse career has taken him from the gridiron to the administrative ranks to the private sector.
As a coach, Mr. Lengyel served as assistant football coach at Akron (1959), Heidelberg College (1961-62) and Cornell (1963-65). Mr. Lengyel was named head football and lacrosse coach at the College of Wooster in 1966 and remained there for four years. However, Mr. Lengyel’s greatest task and achievement as a coach was rebuilding the football program and community at Marshall University after the tragic airline crash involving the entire team. Mr. Lengyel was head football coach at Marshall from 1971 to 1974.
After three years in the private sector at Gamble Brothers, Mr. Lengyel moved into the intercollegiate athletics administrative ranks as the associate director of athletics at Louisville (1980) and the University of Missouri (1981-84). Following his stint at Mizzou, Mr. Lengyel was named the director of athletics at Fresno State, which won the men’s basketball NIT Championship in 1984. Mr. Lengyel returned to Columbia, MO as their director of athletics in 1986.
Following his three-year stay at Missouri, Mr. Lengyel was named as the director of athletics at the United States Naval Academy. Mr. Lengyel remained at Navy for 13 years from 1988 – 2001, overseeing a 30 sport athletic department and was responsible for major sports facility new construction and renovations. During his tenure at Navy, Mr. Lengyel received a Lifetime Service Award from the Annapolis Touchdown Club (2001), was appointed to the US Naval Academy Foundation Board of Trustees (2001) and the athletic training facility was named in his honor.
Following his retirement from Navy, Mr. Lengyel has been active as a consultant and serving in leadership positions in various community and professional organizations. Mr. Lengyel has served as the interim athletics director at Temple University, Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Colorado providing leadership and stability through the administrative transition. Mr. Lengyel has used his vast experience to provide strategic operational reviews and analysis for Towson State, Northern Arizona University and Texas State University at San Marcos.
Active professionally and within the community, Mr. Lengyel has served in leadership positions in the National Association of College Directors of America (NACDA), the Division I-A Director of Athletics Association, the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, the United State Sports Academy, the College Football Association and the NCAA Committee Membership.
Among the honors and awards presented to Mr. Lengyel during his illustrious career include the John L. Toner Award (2005) and the Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Athletics Award (2005) presented by the National Football Foundation; The Homer Rice Award (2005) presented by the Division I-A Athletic Director’s, and NACDA’s James J. Corbett Award (2001) to just name a few.
Mr. Lengyel is a widely sought after motivational speaker; speaking all around the country to business and civic organizations, as well as overseas speaking to members of our Armed Forces.
Jack Lengyel was AMAZING!!! He is very kind and it was a pleasure meeting him. He is WONDERFUL!! All of our attendees and staff enjoyed it! We had so many who were touched by his story, many tears! Thank you so much for all your help!