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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Thursday, August 14, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Positive vibes from all parties over Hamrick selection


Mike Hamrick has accepted the athletic director's position at Nevada-Las Vegas, which is subject to approval by UNLV's board of regents in Reno, Nev., on Friday. Carol Harter, UNLV president, didn't waste any time offering Hamrick the position late Tuesday night with a phone call to
his home in Greenville.

UNLV search consultant Max Urick, a former AD at Kansas State, identified Hamrick as the top candidate and Harter apparently agreed, wasting little time on her decision after the last finalist had finished his interview process earlier in the day.

Harter and Urick recognized results, and in Vegas, as much as anywhere in the world, results are the bottom line. It's a city whose economy is based on winners exploiting losers.

Hamrick has been at ECU since taking the job in April of 1995 after working as AD at Arkansas-Little Rock. During that time, ECU's athletic budget has doubled, there have been roughly $40 million in facilities improvements, the Pirates have joined Conference USA and football scheduling with the Big Four schools has resumed.

Hamrick is scheduled to fly out today and be on hand to meet the board of regents on Friday.

"Mike has done an excellent job for us," said ECU chancellor William V. Muse. "The athletic program is substantially better off than it was eight years ago."

Hamrick said Harter was interested in a clean program, academic integrity, student-athlete welfare and winning championships.

"All the things I want," Hamrick said.

Hamrick began his career in athletics administration at UNLV in 1981.

"Mr. Hamrick has a wealth of experience in college athletics and wonderful credentials in athletics administration," Harter said. "I am confident he will do an outstanding job leading UNLV's athletic programs."

Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive worked with Hamrick when Slive was commissioner of Conference USA.

"I have worked with Mike Hamrick since the days when he was instrumental in bringing East Carolina University into Conference USA, first in football and then in all sports," Slive said. "His foresight, energy and dedication were largely responsible for the success of East Carolina's athletic programs. His ability to make honest assessments and hard decisions is something I have long admired in Mike. I know he is excited and enthusiastic to return to UNLV, and I know he will do a terrific job there."

Former Southern Cal football coach John Robinson coaches the Rebels on the gridiron. The health problems of Robinson's wife led him to resign the AD position at UNLV on May 20. Charlie Spoonhour, who formerly led an overachieving program at Saint Louis, is the men's basketball coach.

"We're all looking forward to working with Mike Hamrick," Spoonhour said. "He is an excellent choice for our university. He has had experience dealing with such issues as the BCS and television. I know we're all behind him and we look forward to the new ideas and leadership he will bring to UNLV athletics."

Hamrick is ready for a new challenge.

"Nevada-Las Vegas has a significant amount of potential," Hamrick said. "It's a program on the verge of taking off. They have excellent coaches, outstanding administrators and outstanding facilities. Anytime you've been somewhere eight years, you leave with mixed emotions. I'm excited about a new challenge but I'll always have a great love for East Carolina."

Hamrick noted that his three children have spent a significant portion of their lives growing up in Greenville.

"They've grown up as Pirates and that passion will stay with us," he said.

UNLV competes in the Mountain West Conference, which, like Conference USA, does not get an automatic bid for its football champion to play in a BCS bowl. It is a situation that Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson has repeatedly called attention to. Thompson and Hamrick have some history, having worked together when Hamrick was AD at Arkansas-Little Rock and Thompson was commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference.

"I want to congratulate UNLV on hiring Mike Hamrick as its news director of athletics," Thompson said. "Mike is an experienced athletics director who knows how to run a successful athletics department, but is also familiar with national issues facing the Mountain West Conference. I look forward to working with him again."

My personal opinion is that Hamrick was a strong administrator who could have used some occasional help on public relations. He had his detractors, such as Dan Kinlaw of the board of trustees, but even Kinlaw said the situation seemed to be working out all the way around.

"It's God-driven," Kinlaw said. "Everybody wins."

Whether you liked Hamrick or not really isn't important as he moves to Las Vegas. As recent hall of fame inductee George Koonce put it, ECU is at a crossroads.

"This hire may be the most important hire in the history of East Carolina athletics with the situation involving conference affiliations," Koonce said. "If we don't have a guy in place who can make things happen for East Carolina, we could be on the outside looking in. We have to have a guy who can come in and get the program where we think it should be."

That means the Big East or better.

Who can do that? The unofficial preliminary list of candidates includes:

— Auburn senior associate athletics director Hal Baird, an Ayden product who played and later coached baseball at ECU.
— Dave Hart, a former ECU AD whose athletics administration at Florida State has been possibly shaken by several player incidents in football.
— Hart's son, Rick, an assistant AD at Oklahoma.
— Jeff Barber, an ECU alumnus who heads the Gamecock Club at South Carolina.
— Brad Edwards, associate AD at South Carolina for business and development.
— Richard Giannini, AD at Southern Miss.
— Dennis Young, executive director of the Pirate Club.
— Charlie Carr, who formerly worked at ECU and is now at Florida State as senior associate athletics director.

That list is by no means inclusive and the selection process has not yet officially started. Hamrick hasn't even been formally approved at UNLV. Chancellor Muse is vacationing in the far reaches of Michigan this week. Hopefully, he returns rested for another crucial search.

The timing is such that ECU may have to wait until after football season to talk to top candidates. But the Big East isn't planning to expand before the winter of 2004.

So there's ample time to find the right person to take the helm of the Pirates ship — as well as a great need to do so.

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02/22/2007 11:53:53 PM

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