HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — (AP) — After a plane crash killed most of Marshall University’s football team in 1970, school administrators could have resorted to the simplest choice — dropping the losing sport altogether. They didn’t. They couldn’t bring themselves to do it.

From the 75 lives lost in the worst sports disaster in U.S. history, the program slowly rebuilt and eventually triumphed. A half-century later, those who lived through the tragedy — some by happenstance, others by fateful decisions that seemed mundane at the time — marvel as they recall the feeling that they had to keep playing. “We felt the guys would want us to go on,” said Ed Carter, a sophomore offensive lineman who was supposed to be on the team plane but wasn’t. “We just felt we needed to continue the program.”

The team’s long, determined crawl back to success was chronicled in the 2006 movie “We Are Marshall ” — a title borrowed from the chants that resonate at Thundering Herd games. Today the team is undefeated and ranked No. 16 heading into Saturday’s home game with Middle Tennessee.