Skip to main content Skip to footer

MCGILL: Herd Knocks -- Camp has evolved since AD's playing days

Mike Hamrick.
Aug. 15, 2016

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – This is the second part of Word on the Herd’s football training camp series “Herd Knocks.” The two weeks of training camp are critical for the coaches and players. They are crucial to development and they are revealing because of the rigors and grind of camp.

The days are long and the circumstances challenging. It can reveal character.

But four decades ago, camp was challenging in a different ways. The “knocks” were a lot harder.

“It’s not even close,” said MU director of athletics Mike Hamrick, who played for the Herd from 1976-79. “Back in those days sometimes you would have two or three weeks of two-a-days. Sometimes we had three-a-days.

“There was no limit on how many times you could practice, there was no limit on time and there was no limit on contact. We practiced every day twice in full pads at Fairfield Stadium.”

This was, of course, long before Joan C. Edwards Stadium was erected on MU’s campus. From 1928 until 1990, Marshall called Fairfield Stadium home.

“If you know Fairfield Stadium, first of all, the AstroTurf was on asphalt,” Hamrick said. “There was no padding. It was hard and you got burned. We would have to wear sleeves on our elbows and our knees or we would get turf burn. Anyone who played on turf in the 60s and 70s and 80s knows that you get burned and the trainer would have to come in and put antiseptic on your elbows.



“Fairfield Stadium had no circulation at all, so sometimes it would be 118 or 120 degrees on the field and the trainer was constantly checking the temperature to make sure it wouldn’t get too bad.”

The accommodations for the student-athlete, in general, have come a long way.

“We went back to our dorm between practices, Hodges Hall, which had no air conditioning. We tried to take a nap in between practices, which was difficult. It was a different time. No restrictions on hitting, no restrictions on time, no restrictions on how many times you could practice.

“In 1979 when Sonny Randle came, it got worse. It was more about survival back then. Some people back then didn’t believe in giving you water; we just had certain times for water breaks. We never took our helmets off. Two-a-days today aren’t anything close to what they were back in the old days.”

Overall, the quality of life for the student-athlete has improved. This is the midpoint of training camp, and the football team has been through the acclimatization period and started hitting in full gear. They’ve scrimmaged and had a two-hour Fan Fest on Sunday at the stadium.

The day before the first practice, however, the student-athletes were educated on compliance issues and domestic violence; they heard examples of social media pitfalls and were briefed on how to handle media interviews.

This aspect of collegiate athletics has evolved significantly since Hamrick roamed the field.

“The reason why that’s happened is back when I played if you got in trouble with law enforcement or something like that, they called the coach and the coach came and got you,” Hamrick said. “The media didn’t put the scrutiny on the student-athlete that it does now. When the student-athlete has an ingrown toenail, it is a major story. If a student-athlete gets into any kind of trouble, it is a major story. You have to educate these kids to protect them.

“Now, with social media, everybody knows what everybody is doing, and with cell phones and cameras and video … there’s no privacy anymore. You have to educate these kids on how to act, what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. We talk to them about social media, we talk to them about dealing with the regular media, we talk to them about domestic violence, we educate them on NCAA rules and what they can and can’t do.

“When I was a student-athlete we didn’t know what the NCAA rules were, but now that book is 500 pages long so we do a lot of things for our student-athletes.”

That, Hamrick said, is something that makes him proud to be the AD at Marshall. There is a common goal.

“That’s all part of the process of helping them grow as people, as individuals,” he said. “That’s paramount at Marshall – with our coaches and with me as the director of athletics. We want everyone to grow.”