CHAPMANVILLE — Marshall University Athletics Director Mike Hamrick has a vision for the future of Marshall Athletics.
It’s a $30 million vision with major upgrades, including a new indoor football practice facility, a new soccer complex, a Hall of Fame atrium, a new academic center and a sports medicine research center.
Hamrick spoke about the Marshall athletic department’s goals at Wednesday’s Marshall Coaches Caravan golf outing and luncheon at the Logan Country Club in Chapmanville.
Hamrick has brought on some big names to lead “The Vision,” including former Marshall and NFL quarterback Chad Pennington and Mike D’Antoni, a former Marshall basketball player, ex-NBA coach and current assistant coach for the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team.
As Hamrick spoke, he said work is currently under way back in Huntington to tear down the old Veterans Memorial Fieldhouse, the former home to the basketball team and the site of the memorial service to the victims of the 1970 Marshall plane crash.
When torn down, the former Veterans Memorial Fieldhouse site will be the home to the new Marshall soccer complex. Then, at the site of the current soccer field, a much needed state-of-the-art indoor football building will rise. The new indoor complex will have an indoor track for Marshall’s track and field teams and will also give Marshall’s baseball and softball teams place to practice in the event of inclement weather or during winter months.
“As we speak, they are starting to take down the field house,” Hamrick said. “Within three to four weeks it will be torn down.”
Sleek “Vision” brochures were handed out to all in attendance at the Logan event.
“Known as The Vision Campaign, this historic and unprecented $30 million facilities capital campaign has been created to enhance sports medicine and establish both academic and athletic centers of excellence that include an indoor practice facility with a NCAA-approved track, a soccer stadium complex, a sports medicine translational research center and a student-athlete academic center,” Hamrick said.
Pennington, who recently retired from his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins, has come on board as Vision Campaign Co-Chairman.
“This Vision Campaign is the most ambitious capital campaign that Marshall University Athletics has ever undertaken,” Pennington said in the brochure. “It will take the support of everyone to make this a reality. Some of the greatest years of my life were spent as a student-athlete at Marshall. I am proud and honored to join forces with Mike D’Antoni as together we reach out to everyone in the Herd Nation to help us create facilities that are required today in order to play for championships tomorrow.”
Hamrick said he’s also glad to have D’Antoni on board with the project. D’Antoni, a 1973 Marshall graduate and former Herd basketball player, is currently working with the U.S. men’s basketball team as it is set to play for its second straight Gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games.
“When Mike Hamrick asked me to be involved with the capital campaign I was very excited,” D’Antoni said. “Marshall will always be a special place to me and my family and I want to be a part of taking our athletic program to the next level.”
Vinny Curry, a former Herd football player, who was taken 59th in the NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, said an indoor practice facility is needed badly.
“A thunderstorm will no longer cancel a practice and cause us lost preparation time. No longer will we have to wait in line for a computer in study lab and no longer will we have to do without,” Curry said in the brochure.
Hamrick said Marshall’s football program is headed in the right direction with third-year coach Doc Holliday, who led the Herd to a 7-6 record last season and 20-10 win over FIU in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Marshall’s men’s basketball team, led by head coach Tom Herrion, is also coming off a successful season in which the Herd were second in the Conference USA tournament and qualified for the NIT.
“We now have some momentum with our program and we feel it,” Hamrick said at the LCC event. “We know what Doc did and we know what Tom did. Once you get that momentum, you can’t let it stop. I sense with our alumni and with our fans that we are starting to get our swagger back. I sense that. We are starting to feel better about ourselves.”
Hamrick said things are on the up and up at Marshall.
“Marshall is southern West Virginia’s university,” he said. “Our university is moving in the right direction. We’re getting ready to have a pharmacy school. We have a vision to what we want to do and we’re going to do it. We have a dream and we’re getting our alumni and supporters to buy into that dream.”
Hamrick said he enjoys coming to the Logan area event. Reportedly, the Logan event is one of the biggest moneymakers for the university on the entire Marshall Coaches Caravan tour schedule.
“This is a great area for us,” Hamrick said. “Logan always has been and always will be. We will continue to come here.”
Hamrick said Marshall is still happy to be in Conference USA, although there has been some changes over the last year in not only the conference but the entire college sports landscape.
Six new schools — Charlotte, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Old Dominion and Texas-San Antonio — are set to join in 2013. Old Dominion and Charlotte are expected to join in football in 2015.
Memphis, Central Florida (UCF), SMU and Houston are leaving for the Big East in 2013.
“Our conference is stable,” Hamrick said.
— More on the Marshall Coaches Caravan in Tuesday’s sports.