Mike Hamrick's return to Marshall University as athletic director has been more than a personal homecoming to Huntington for the former Thundering Herd linebacker.
It's been a transformation for MU athletics, too.
Hamrick, in his fourth year as the Herd AD, has spearheaded The Vision Campaign. It is the most ambitious fundraising effort in Marshall Athletics history, and Hamrick has teamed with former Herd star athletes and campaign co-chairs Mike D'Antoni and Chad Pennington. The Vision Campaign is seeking $20 million in private dollars as part of a $30 million plan to enhance Herd facilities.
The Vision Campaign will bring Marshall one of the best college soccer stadiums in the nation - an $8 million project scheduled for an August 2013 debut -- followed by an indoor practice facility with a 120-yard football field and six-lane, 300-meter track; a Sports Medicine Translational Research Center; a 14,000-square foot home for the Buck Harless Student-Athlete Program for academics; and a museum home for the MU Athletics Hall of Fame.
Another improvement will be the addition - in time for the 2013 football season - of eight suites to the sky deck of Joan C. Edwards Stadium, plus new bathrooms and other fan-friendly changes to that level of the pressbox, including a third elevator.
Hamrick's success as AD on the campus he walked as a student-athlete was verified in April 2012 when Dr. Stephen Kopp, Marshall's president, gave Hamrick a five-year contract extension, through June 2017.
"It's clear from the progress we're seeing with Marshall athletics since he was hired that we made the right choice when we asked Mike and his wife, Soletta, to return to Huntington," Kopp said in announcing Hamrick's extension. "I'm most proud of the results we're seeing in the classroom and with the caliber of student-athletes we are recruiting.
"The wins on the field and more fans in the seats are obviously a reflection of the quality of the program he is building here at Marshall. It's something I know all of the Herd Nation wants to see continue."
Hamrick, 55 and a 1980 MU graduate, was named to the AD post on July 20, 2009. He wasted no time in reaching out to former Herd letter winners, alumni and friends of MU to build a consensus on what Thundering Herd supporters sought in the program. The response has been strong.
In his first year on the job, he brought in new head coaches in the marquee programs - Doc Holliday in football and Tom Herrion in men's basketball. Holliday's 2011 team won the Beef `O' Brady's Bowl. Herrion's 2011-12 club reached the Conference USA Tournament title game - a Herd first - and made the National Invitation Tournament field for the first time since 1988.
Under Hamrick's watch, women's basketball, swimming and men's golf have gotten new head coaches, too. All of the Herd programs have gained more academic and financial support since Hamrick's arrival, and their progress in the classroom and on the field is one of Hamrick's core efforts and desires.
In the classroom, Marshall's student-athletes also continued to excel. In the 2011-12 school year, 165 Marshall student-athletes were named to the Conference USA Academic Honor Roll with grade point averages of 3.0 or better, and 40 earned C-USA Commissioners Medals for posting cumulative GPAs of 3.75 or higher.
Hamrick's arrival also has brought a challenging scheduling upgrade to the Herd's major sports. He has landed home-and-home football series with Louisville, Purdue and Navy, and rekindled a longtime rivalry with Miami (Ohio) with a four-game contract. In men's basketball, Marshall has scheduled Syracuse, Kentucky, Louisville, Cincinnati and Villanova in recent seasons.
In his second year, Hamrick established a Football Enhancement Fund effort that committed nearly $2 million to the program. His efforts have also led to rapid growth and development in the Big Green Foundation and in Marshall's M Club (former student-athletes) that has increased donation levels by 50 percent. The M Club has increased its membership to a record 500-plus. Big Green membership has risen to 3,200, ranking among the top three schools in athletic fundraising club membership in Conference USA.
He negotiated a marketing contract extension with IMG College in the summer of 2010 that poured nearly $3 million in needed facility enhancements into Marshall's athletics venues, including major video board and sound system upgrades to Edwards Stadium and significant signage and lighting improvements to the Cam Henderson Center.
More recently, the Henderson Center's fan comfort was enhanced again with an air flow and distribution upgrade and an improved public address sound system.
Hamrick served as AD at UNLV for six years before returning to his alma mater. Prior to his position at UNLV, Hamrick was Director of Athletics at East Carolina University from 1995-2003. He also has been AD at Arkansas-Little Rock, Assistant AD at Illinois State, and Assistant AD at Kansas.
Hamrick played football at Marshall University from 1976-79, starting at linebacker his last two seasons. After receiving his bachelor's degree in education from Marshall, he earned his master's degree in sports administration from Ohio University in 1981.
Hamrick is a native of Clendenin, W.Va. - in Kanawha County, near Charleston. He is a graduate of Herbert Hoover High School. He and his wife, Soletta, a Huntington native who is also a Marshall graduate, reside in Barboursville, W.Va.
The Hamricks have three children -- twin sons, Brett and Justin, 24, and a daughter, Mollie Ann, 21. Brett works for NIKE, in Portland, Ore., and Justin works in the culinary arts field. Mollie Ann is a Marshall senior, majoring in social work.