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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Thursday, July 31, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Will Hamrick swap cozy setting for desert glitz?

Headhunter: Hamrick proven in 'intense environment'


Max Urick thinks Mike Hamrick is an excellent athletics director, one who could tap into the potential Urick sees at Nevada-Las Vegas.

UNLV retained a national law firm to identify candidates for its AD position. The firm’s Kansas City office specializes in assisting universities with athletics issues, including screening candidates in personnel searches. Urick works as a consultant for the firm.

UNLV president Carol Harter will ultimately make the decision that will define the future leadership of the athletics program. John Robinson resigned the UNLV AD position in the spring but will remain as football coach. Harter specified that she wanted someone with active AD experience to follow him.

Urick, once an assistant at Duke on the football staff of former Blue Devils and ECU coach Mike McGee, has been an athletics director at Kansas State and Iowa State. His review produced five candidates for UNLV, two of which have since withdrawn from consideration. That’s left Wayne Hogan of Montana, Mike Bohn of Idaho and Hamrick from Urick’s initial list.

Hogan interviewed Monday and Tuesday and was impressive with his direct approach and energy, according to one media source. UNLV history professor Andy Fry, who heads the search committee, plans to announce the next candidate to be interviewed on Friday.

UNLV might appear to be a lateral move for Hamrick. Its athletic budget is slightly larger than ECU’s but its football tradition is not as strong. The Rebels’ high-water mark was an NCAA championship in men’s basketball in 1991 but that crown was corroded by NCAA violations that led to the departure of coach Jerry Tarkanian.

But Urick says UNLV is a sleeping giant. It’s in a major metropolitan area without competition from a major professional sports team. The potential for corporate support would appear to exceed that in the somewhat economically-challenged region of eastern North Carolina.

“The school (UNLV) is kind of teed up and ready for the right person to make things happen,” Urick said.

Hamrick, 45, could be the right person. He probably sees the potential, too, or he wouldn’t be interested in taking a look.

“I’ve observed Mike work and he’s one of the top young athletics directors in the country,” Urick said. “He’s ushered in a terrific period of growth at East Carolina. They’ve moved forward in conference affiliation. He hasn’t been afraid to make tough decisions and he’s come out on the long side. He’s what I call a very effective person.

“He’s put together a fine department and staff of coaches. I’m a fan of Mike Hamrick. That program has excelled beyond its resources at times.”

Urick feels confident in all three of his candidates who remain in contention at UNLV.

“All three of these people have strong topsides,” he said. “They have excellent people skills. They cut their teeth coming up through development and fund-raising, the external segment of athletic programs. The environments they’ve worked in are similar but I think Mike Hamrick has worked in a more intense environment.”

Hamrick began his professional career working at UNLV in promotions in 1981.

Ultimately it won’t matter what Urick thinks but rather who Harter perceives to be the right person to lead UNLV. Hamrick can sell ECU’s graduation rates and its lack of NCAA violations, always a popular topic with university CEOs, perhaps of even more interest at UNLV, considering its tainted past and the immediacy of the influence of gambling to its campus.

Urick speculated that UNLV’s salary range would be around $200,000, without bonuses. Hamrick makes $180,000 annually at ECU, not counting bonuses, on a contract that currently runs through June 30, 2005.

The factor in a possible move to UNLV that might be a hangup for Hamrick could be personal. He has always advocated Greenville as a great family place. His family of five seems to have enjoyed what Greenville and the region has had to offer. Hamrick enjoys hunting down East.

His two sons are involved in athletics at Rose High. One son, Brett, may play tight end as a sophomore on what could be an outstanding Rampants team. Not only will Rose feature senior running back Andre Brown, but offensive lineman Nick Grimes, the son of new ECU offensive line coach J.B. Grimes, is touted as a major college prospect.

Would Hamrick uproot wife Soletta and the kids for a new life in the desert?

The glitzy gambling capital in the context of a family place would seem to pale in comparison to Greenville, but maybe that’s just an incorrect perception from someone who’s never been there. Vegas may be a great opportunity for Hamrick — a new challenge professionally and a break from his detractors at ECU.

He would leave ECU in better shape than when he arrived in many respects.

The UNLV AD search certainly has more than casual interest for ECU. Its resolution could lead to a similar search in Greenville.

Baseball poised to step up

East Carolina baseball coach Randy Mazey made the most of what he had in his first season in charge of the Pirates program and the ECU board of trustees has rewarded him with a one-year contract extension which will run through the 2006 season.

The health problems that forced former coach Keith LeClair to resign had slowed recruiting the last two years but Mazey still managed to guide the Pirates into the NCAA Tournament for a fifth straight year, an unprecedented achievement in the ECU program’s rich history.

Mazey and staff have put together an impressive incoming recruiting class that will bolster in particular the depth and talent of the pitching staff. There is a good nucleus of position players returning and ECU’s Lawhorn factor will increase by 100 percent with Trevor Lawhorn joining twin brother Darryl in the Pirates lineup.

Things are also getting ready to take an upturn in terms of facilities with approval by the board of trustees of schematic drawings for ECU’s new baseball stadium. Although original plans called for home plate to move to left field, it will remain at its present location at Harrington Field. That will allow the preservation of “The Jungle” fan area beyond the outfield.

The $8 million, 3,000-seat stadium will also give Mazey a recruiting tool that will be one of the best in the country. Construction on the new stadium is scheduled to begin after the 2004 season and plans are for it to be ready for the 2005 season. It will feature coaches offices, locker rooms, picnic areas, a clubhouse, a training room, an equipment room, indoor batting cages and a state-of-the-art press box. Approximately 900 of the seats will have chairbacks.

Perhaps the best feature of the new stadium is that it will be suitable for hosting NCAA Tournament games. The days of ECU going on the road as a No. 1 seed in the postseason event will be over. Perhaps the Pirates can realize the goal of getting to Omaha if they’re able to play regionals and super regionals at home.

Mazey also received a raise that will put his annual salary at $83,500. He appears poised to raise the competitive level of the program as well.

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02/23/2007 12:40:35 AM

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