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 sixth year as the Herd AD, has spearheaded The Vision Campaign, the most ambitious fundraising effort in Marshall athletics history. Hamrick has teamed with former Herd star athletes and campaign co-chairs Mike D'Antoni and Chad Pennington. The Vision Campaign was seeking more than $20 million in private dollars as part of a $30 million-plus plan to enhance Herd facilities.
The Vision Campaign gave Marshall one of the best college soccer stadiums in the nation, as Hoops Family Field at the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex opened in August 2013. Scheduled for an august 2014 opening was the prime piece of the project - the Indoor Athletic Facility with its 120-yard football field and 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 was the addition 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. This football season brings a new AstroTurf surface to Edwards Stadium, a $750,000 project.
In Hamrick's five years as the Marshall AD, the program's facility growth and enhancement has been more than $42 million.
"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," said Dr. Stephen Kopp, MU president. "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, 57 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.
He brought in Coach Doc Holliday to transform the football program, and the Herd has won two bowls in the past three seasons - including a 2103 Military bowl triumph over then-ACC member Maryland. MU finished 10-4 last season, the school's first with double-digit wins in 11 years - and played for the Conference USA title. Holliday's 2014 team has been forecast for a first C-USA championship and perhaps a major bowl berth.
In basketball, Hamrick brought in popular alumnus and MU Hall of Famer Dan D'Antoni from the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers in April to re-energize a program that in 2011-12 made the National Invitation Tournament field for the first time since 1988.
Under Hamrick's watch, women's basketball, swimming and men's and women'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 2013-14 school year, 157 Marshall student-athletes were named to the Conference USA Academic Honor Roll with grade point averages of 3.0 or better, and 37 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, East Carolina and Navy, rekindled a longtime rivalry with Miami (Ohio) with a four-game contract and renewed the "Battle of the Bell" series with Ohio. In men's basketball, Marshall has scheduled Syracuse, Kentucky, Louisville, Cincinnati and Villanova in recent seasons, and has gotten rare home-and-home deals with two power conference programs in Penn State and South Carolina.
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. A new, $155,000 playing floor was installed prior to the 2013-14 season.
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 and also a Marshall graduate, reside in Barboursville, W.Va.
The Hamricks have three children -- twin sons, Brett and Justin, 26, and a daughter, Mollie Ann, 23. Brett works for NIKE, in Portland, Ore., and Justin works in the culinary arts field. Mollie Ann, a Marshall graduate, is studying for her master's degree at Kentucky.