Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 4, 2013

Hamrick outlines MU facilities growth

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Why build an $8 million soccer complex? Why build a 14,000 square foot academic center or include a 120-yard regulation sized football field in a new indoor practice facility?

Many schools would be satisfied with a field half that size. Not Mike Hamrick.

The Marshall athletic director has been asked all those questions and more since wide-spread construction began on the Huntington campus, and his response is simply, ‘Why not?’

“...If we can’t do the best, we are not going to do it...” Hamrick said. “...If we are going to do it, do it right. Why build a 14,000 foot academic center?

“Because it will be the biggest and the best and that is what we want to try and do.”

In just over a year, Hamrick plans to unveil a slew of completed projects on the Huntington campus that have been focused on bringing Marshall’s athletic facilities up to the level of the rest of the schools in Conference USA.

“I will invite you down in a year and a half from now and those facilities will be finished,” Hamrick said. “Soccer will be finished in August, but they will be amazed at how the face of Marshall athletics has changed...

“August of next year we will have as good a athletic facilities as anyone in our conference.”

That was the plan when Hamrick — who played football at Marshall and graduated in 1980 — left UNLV to return to his alma mater to replace Bob Marcum in 2009.

“When I got here almost four years ago, it took me about a year to figure out what we needed,” Hamrick said. “We laid out a plan and what we needed to make our programs competitive to attract quality student-athletes.”

Thus, began a building project that continues in Huntington.

“The thing that is really helping us right now, there is $33 million worth of athletic facilities that are being built right now as we speak,” Hamrick said.

Hamrick was at the Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton Tuesday as part of the Marshall Coaches Tour, which followed a Monday visit to Beckley, after spending two days last weekend at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs.

“We love coming to Princeton. We have a significant amount of alumni here in this area, and we have got some student-athletes coming out of this area to Marshall,” Hamrick said. “We get some athletes out of this area and there is a large Marshall alumni base here in this area.

“We enjoy it. We enjoy coming here because the people just treat us so good and it is just good to see all these people here in Kelly Green.”

It didn’t take Hamrick long to realize when he arrived at Marshall four years ago that changes needed to be made.

“The football stadium didn’t cost $33 million when it was built,” Hamrick said. “We really hadn’t built anything at Marshall to help athletics, we had built a little here and a little there, but we never undertook a major capital campaign to raise money to build athletic facilities.”

That has changed.

Marshall is currently involved in an aggressive $33 million campaign to build various projects on campus, with $20 million coming through what is being called the ‘Vision Campaign’, with the funding drive being led by former Marshall athletes Mike D’Antoni and Chad Pennington.

Among the top contributors has been Marshall alum and former Thundering Herd golfer Jim Justice, the owner of The Greenbrier, who donated $5 million to the cause.

“You throw all those projects together, it is about $33 million right now as we speak,” Hamrick said. “Every penny of that is private fundraising or ticket revenue that we have bonded some of the money from what we call our ‘Vision Campaign.’

“We started that about a year and a half ago to raise $20 million of the $33 million and we are over $15 million.”

The first of the projects to be completed will be the $8 million soccer facility that will open with a doubleheader by Marshall’s soccer teams on Aug. 23. Included on those clubs are local products Ian Lovern (Bluefield) and Jessica Inman (Princeton).

Another $3 million is being spent on luxury suites for the football stadium, while the majority of the contributions will be used to construct an indoor practice facility that will include a 120-yard regulation football field, a six-lane track, a 20,000 square foot sports medicine center, a 14,000 foot academic center, and space will be available for a sports hall of fame.

Two sports, baseball and track, currently have no facilities on campus. Hamrick said a baseball diamond will be the next project, while the women’s track team will finally have a track in the new facility after having to practice by running in the halls of the Cam Henderson basketball facility in the past.  

“My point is these facilities will attract quality athletes, and athletes need an academic center, athletes need a good sports medicine facility,” Hamrick said. “I mean 20,000 square feet, it will have everything that we need so we have significantly upgraded our facilities to where we can compete.”

It was with that thought in mind that Hamrick went to work to improve Marshall athletics.

“I just realized when I arrived from UNLV in 2009 that we got left behind...,” Hamrick said. “We have been very successful, we still have a little ways to go, but we are very confident we will finish that up here real soon.”

Hamrick is confident that the upcoming season will be a memorable one for the Thundering Herd, beginning with the football team which is considered a favorite on Conference USA in the fall. He also expects a much-improved men’s basketball program.

“I think in the next four years you are going to see some of the best that Marshall has to offer,” said Hamrick, whose Thundering Herd softball team won the C-USA title this year. “We had a great spring, and I think most of the publications are picking our football team to be very good.

“I saw the highest ranking, one had us 38th in the country and Doc (Holliday) is in his fourth year and he has his players...”

For that reason Hamrick thinks that Marshall athletics, which has long been used to competing for championships, will do the same in the near future. Perhaps as soon as the 2013-14 school year.

“We are, and we have got to get back to that and I am confident we will this year,” Hamrick said. “I don’t think there is any question we will.”

—Contact Brian Woodson