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Hamrick leaves Las Vegas with ‘mixed emotions’

Rebels athletic director returns home to lead Marshall program

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AP Photo/The Herald-Dispatch, Lori Wolfe

Marshall University named former UNLV athletic director Mike Hamrick as its athletic director during a press conference Monday, July 20, 2009, in Huntington, W.Va. He replaces Bob Marcum, who retired after seven years.

Beyond the Sun

Mike Hamrick wouldn’t have left his post as athletic director at UNLV for any other program, other than his alma mater, he said late Monday afternoon from Huntington, W.Va.

A few hours earlier, at the Cam Henderson Center, Hamrick was introduced as the next athletic director at Marshall, where he played linebacker for the Thundering Herd in the late 1970s.

“I have mixed emotions,” he said by phone. “I will miss UNLV and Las Vegas. I have many close friends there, and we were turning it around.

“But anytime in your life when you get a chance to go back to your alma mater … they need some help here with some of the same issues we had at UNLV. I probably wouldn’t have left for any place else. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave UNLV.”

Hamrick, 52, will finish the UNLV chapter of his life over the next three or four weeks, then he will head home to Huntington for good.

He grew up in Elkview, less than an hour drive from Huntington, and friends and family live in the area. Some attended Hamrick’s introductory press conference early Monday afternoon.

Hamrick graduated from Marshall in 1980, married his wife, Soletta, a year later, when he earned a master’s degree from Ohio University, and then moved to Las Vegas, where he served as a UNLV intern in sports promotions and marketing.

He was athletic director at East Carolina for eight years before former UNLV president Carol Harter hired him for that job in August 2003. Bob Marcum retired as Marshall's athletic director three weeks ago.

“I am home,” Hamrick said Monday. “My wife is from here and we have some family issues. It’s just something my wife and I decided we wanted to do.”

Hamrick adamantly said the changing climate at UNLV had no bearing on his decision to leave for Marshall.

David Ashley, Hamrick’s former boss, recently was demoted from the presidency of UNLV to the faculty. Hamrick said he and interim president Neal Smatresk have had pleasant conversations.

“No, it had nothing to do with that,” Hamrick said of the change above him. “Absolutely not … I was comfortable with (Smatresk).”

Hamrick said the Texas executive search firm of Eastman & Beaudine, which specializes in athletics, first called him about the Marshall position almost four weeks ago.

He never interviewed with the firm in person in Dallas.

Hamrick said those talks steadily progressed, and he and his wife were invited to Huntington on Sunday. He said negotiations were finalized Monday, when he signed a contract.

“My experience at UNLV was great,” Hamrick said. “They’re in better shape than when I got there. We have a big financial surplus, we tackled recent budget cuts, (Lon) Kruger has the basketball team in great shape and football will be better under Mike (Sanford).”

Hamrick is proud of the strong academic progress UNLV student-athletes have made in his tenure and of the increased fund-raising efforts that have been achieved.

“Obviously, you can’t please everybody with everything you do,” he said. “But whoever takes over (as UNLV athletic director) will take it to another level.

“So it is tough to leave, but it’s home.”

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  1. Great, No President or AD, just what UNLV needs right now.

    Hamrick did a good job and ran a solid and clean program and I think he will be hard to replace. I guess its tough to turn downn a chance to go home and a guranteed three year contract.

    Mike should be appreciated for what he has done at UNLV. Best of luck at your alma mater Mike and thanks for being a professional and working hard for the Rebels.

    -Randy

  2. This is one of the greatest days for UNLV. I am so glad he is gone. Maybe we can actually make good sports hires from now on.