Mike Hamrick wasn’t the best athletic director in Marshall University history.
Nor was he the worst.
Instead, like most Division I athletic directors, Hamrick ranked somewhere in the middle. He made good decisions and bad ones. He made beneficial moves and harmful ones. He had fans of his leadership and detractors.
That is the way of the world for collegiate athletic directors.
Hamrick had his strong points. For example, he excelled at building facilities. It was by far his greatest attribute.
The veteran athletic director spear-headed the construction of the Chris Cline Athletic Complex. Besides housing a 120-yard artificial turf football field, it also includes an eight-lane indoor track allowing Marshall to host meets.
The Chris Cline Athletic Complex also is home to the Chad Pennington Hall of Fame, Marshall University Sports Medicine Institute and Buck Harless Student-Athlete Center.
It is an impressive building.
Next, there is the Hoops Family Field in the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex. It features an artificial turf field and is home for the Thundering Herd men’s and women’s soccer field.
But to be fair, Hamrick had to build a soccer complex of some sort. Since the old soccer field was positioned on ground that was needed for the Chris Cline Athletic Complex, Title IX dictated that a new soccer field had to be built to replace the old one.
Also to be fair, the Hoops Family Field is impressive.
Those are highlights on Hamrick’s resume. But there also were some low-lights.
The first one that comes to mind is the notorious reseating plan at Joan C. Edwards Stadium that was implemented in 2014 much to the dismay of long-time Marshall fans. Many people lost seats they had occupied since the stadium opened in 1991.
As expected, they were very unhappy with the situation. One fan that had two season tickets, was so upset she canceled a $1 million pledge that she was going to donate to the athletic department at her death.
There were many like her that never returned. That obviously has impacted attendance over the years. Although there still will be big crowds for big games, the overall attendance never has seemed to recover from the reseating.
Why, one obituary even referenced the reseating, saying the deceased was a loyal Marshall football fan until his seat was taken away.
Then, there was the incident involving former Marshall football players who were having a reunion. Some of the players wanted to watch part of the game from the sidelines. But, stunningly, Pinkerton guards were instructed to escort the players off the field.
The former players felt so alienated even the revered Chad Pennington vacated his sky box in “The Joan” and didn’t attend a Marshall home game for several years.
Another football reunion wasn’t held in Huntington for years until new head football coach Charles Huff orchestrated an alumni weekend during the spring of 2021.
Then, there’s the tenuous situation between Hamrick and MU head basketball coach Danny D’Antoni. The pair reportedly haven’t had a conversation for three years.
And don’t forget the money situation. The athletic department was losing so much money on a consistent basis, Marshall’s Board of Governors slashed the normal $31 million budget to $25 million for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
Another sore subject is maintenance of athletic facilities. The football locker rooms in the Shewey Building need renovated so badly the proceeds from the 2021 spring game were ear-marked for that need. Also, former football players who played in the 1990s have raised $200,000 they are donating to update the locker rooms.
Meanwhile, at the Cam Henderson Center, Mike and Danny D’Antoni paid for a four-part sign reading “Bring … On … The … Herd” lettered across the back wall behind a terrace on the west end of the arena. Right now, the signage says “Bring … On … The.” The “Herd” has fallen off the wall onto the floor and nobody has bothered to pick it up and put it back in place.
What it all amounts to is it was time for a change.
That’s why former head football coach Doc Holliday’s contract wasn’t renewed. And, now, after 12 years it’s why Hamrick’s contract as athletic director isn’t being renewed.
It all comes down to one salient point.
Marshall needed a face-lift.