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, as Hamrick has guided the program through a five-year period that has included $42.2 million in new facility construction and upgrades, topped by an Indoor Athletic Facility that will benefit all Herd programs.
Hamrick, in his fifth 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 has sought $20 million in private dollars as part of a $33 million plan to enhance Herd facilities.
The Vision Campaign has brought Marshall one of the best college soccer stadiums in the nation -- an $8 million project that opened in August 2013 -- followed by an indoor facility with a 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 new museum home for the MU Athletics Hall of Fame.
The IAF is scheduled for completion for the start of the 2014-15 school year.
Another improvement is the addition of four large 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. Those upgrades were completed prior to the 2013 football season.
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, 56 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 football Coach Doc Holliday. Holliday's 2011 team won the Beef `O' Brady's Bowl, and in 2013, the Herd went 10-4, played in its first Conference USA Championship Game and downed Big Ten-bound Maryland in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md.
Under Hamrick's watch, men's and women's basketball, swimming and diving 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 2012-13 school year, 166 Marshall student-athletes were named to the Conference USA Academic Honor Roll with grade point averages of 3.0 or better, and 30 earned C-USA Commissioners Medals for posting cumulative GPAs of 3.75 or higher.
Marshall student-athletes finished the spring 2013 semester with high marks. Over the 14 Herd programs (women's indoor/outdoor track and cross country counted as one), 55 percent of the enrolled student-athletes had a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in the spring term. Forty-nine percent enrolled student-athletes owned a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Eight teams had 60 percent or more of their athletes with cumulative 3.0 or better. Thirteen of the fourteen Herd programs had a term GPA average of 2.50. Eight of the 14 topped 3.15 in average GPA.
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, and has power conference members Penn State and South Carolina coming to the Henderson Center in 2014-15.
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.
He also has been among the administrative leaders as Conference USA underwent realignment, welcoming in eight new members and getting a geographic revision that brings C-USA closer to Huntington, W.Va., with schools like Charlotte, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and Old Dominion.
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 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 MU, 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 Marshall graduate, reside in Barboursville, W.Va.
The Hamricks have three children -- twin sons, Brett and Justin, 25, and a daughter, Mollie Ann, 22. Brett works for NIKE, in Portland, Ore., and Justin works in the culinary arts field. Mollie Ann is a Marshall graduate in social work, and is pursuing her master's degree at Kentucky.