Lori Wolfe / The Herald-Dispatch
Tuesday, July 21, 2009 | 2 a.m.
In Today's Sun
- Hamrick leaves Las Vegas with 'mixed emotions' (7-20-2009)
- UNLV athletic director emerges as likely Marshall candidate (7-19-2009)
- Near tragedy still weighs on UNLV athletic director (9-4-2008)
- Has he made the grade? (5-8-2008)
- On top of their salaries, some eye-popping paychecks (4-25-2008)
- Hamrick keeps it close to his vest (11-30-2004)
- UNLV picks Hamrick (8-13-2003)
Beyond the Sun
- Huntington (W.Va.) Herald-Dispatch: MU alum Hamrick named as A.D.
To anybody who believes that becoming the new athletic director at Marshall University was Mike Hamrick’s idea, I would only say: Enjoy your second day on this planet.
It is a fortuitous coincidence that Hamrick was able to tell the good folks at Marshall that the only A.D. job he would have left UNLV for is the one at his alma mater, and that must have sounded wonderful to the good folks at Marshall on Monday morning.
I wonder if, while he was saying that, Hamrick was rubbing the boot mark on his rear end.
Once the state higher education regents made UNLV President David Ashley’s head roll, it was probably only a matter of time before they got Hamrick too. Like Sean Penn in the movies, he was a dead man walking.
Nothing against country roads taking you home and all that other quaint stuff John Denver sang about West Virginia, but the real reason Hamrick will soon get reacquainted with the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River is that after six years he had worn out his welcome here.
This is not a step up the NCAA administrative ladder. It’s not even a lateral move.
If you haven’t checked the standings lately, Marshall is not exactly what you would call a program on the rise. The Thundering Herd pretty much became a Dundering Herd once Randy Moss, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich exhausted their eligibility.
If you think the economy around here is lousy, it has been that way for two decades in the Rust Belt, of which Huntington, W.Va., is a wheezing card-carrying member. In researching the Huntington economy, I learned that during a 2008 study 24.3 percent of adults over 18 considered themselves in poor to fair health — and 48.1 percent of residents over the age of 65 have had all of their natural teeth extracted.
Let me state that I have a natural affinity for people from the Rust Belt who work hard to put bread on the table. My old man was one. But this is not a place for which you would normally leave a cushy job in Las Vegas. Unless, maybe, you are a dentist.
The irony when it comes to Hamrick is that you actually might make a case for him, were he not such an ... well, if you must use a word that starts with “a,” then “alienator” will have to suffice.
This might be simplifying it some, but most athletic directors are judged by two criteria: how many games their football coach wins and how many games their basketball coach wins — usually in that order. Here, it’s the other way around.
Although it was former UNLV Athletic Director Brad Rothermel who persuaded Lon Kruger to take the Rebel basketball job, years from now Hamrick will receive credit for it. Maybe he should. As athletic director, he could have brought in his own guy but deferred to those who knew better.
Hamrick was the one who hired football coach Mike Sanford, and the jury’s still deliberating that one. The football program finally showed some progress last season although it took way longer than expected. Still, when Hamrick gave the former Utah offensive coordinator his first head coaching assignment, it looked like a good move. Maybe it still will be.
UNLV players are also going to class more frequently than they did in the past, and a lot of them are even getting good grades. Hamrick deserves credit for making that a priority. Good grades are important in this day and age, except at Florida, where national championships are still more important.
As for the money that isn’t a direct residual of the basketball team’s success, I guess Hamrick has done OK, although OK might not cut it anymore, not with the economy hanging on by a thread.
This is how one of the posters on the Sun’s message boards summed up Hamrick’s UNLV tenure:
“Has any Mountain West school had an athletic director who has made a tremendous difference? I think the best an A.D. can do is keep a school from falling behind and hope to get lucky hiring some good coaches as time goes on.”
That, and not alienating those with whom he interacts.
The last time I spoke with Mike Hamrick was after the UNLV-Colorado State basketball game. The 2007-08 UNLV-Colorado State basketball game. He was trying to convince me the athletic department was rolling in cash, a concept I couldn’t understand considering that just that week he had slashed his coaches’ operating budgets across the board.
Voices were raised, words were exchanged.
We went a year and half without speaking. He never returned my calls.
Here’s the funny thing: I used to have a good relationship with Hamrick. He’s a Cubs fan, for cryin’ out loud. But we soured on each other long before our heated discussion after the Colorado State game.
For the life of me, I can’t tell you how, when, where or why that happened.
To paraphrase Dean Martin, ain’t that a kick in the pants?