I talked Monday with Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick about Western Kentucky’s upcoming move to Conference USA.
Hamrick created some buzz last week by telling the Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette that C-USA would be adding WKU, and Marshall has been one of the schools thrown around as a prime opportunity for programs like WKU and Middle Tennessee to foster a new rivalry.
Hamrick talked Monday about the benefits of adding WKU, creating a “regional conference” with smaller travel distances, and the possibility of settling the Conference USA basketball tournament into a city like Nashville with MTSU and WKU now on board. Here are his thoughts:
MIKE HAMRICK, Marshall athletic director
What does Western Kentucky bring to the table? “They bring a recognizable program. I think people recognize the name and the brand of Western Kentucky University because of the success they’ve had, especially in basketball. As we looked at Western Kentucky, I think we sensed a commitment to their athletic program. I’m not sure who gets credit for that, but I sensed with improved facilities, you’ve got a brand, a tradition, facilities and a university that’s sending out a message that, ‘We’re committed to Division I athletics.’ They’re very attractive.”
What do you see for the 2014 C-USA alignment? “With the additions that we’ve made, I think we’ve become more of a regional conference. With Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, we’re right up the road. You throw in UAB, Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, Charlotte, we’ve got that core group of regional schools. Our fans are very excited because they travel, and it’s a lot shorter to drive to Bowling Green than it is Tulsa, Okla.”
Possibility of centralized basketball tournament: “We desperately need a place in Conference USA to have our basketball tournament that’s kind of a destination spot. Nashville is one of my favorite places. … I don’t know that there’s been any formal talks, but informally, sure. I was the athletic director at UNLV for seven years before I came here to Marshall. I saw what a destination city can do for a basketball tournament. Vegas is Vegas, but Nashville is a pretty special town. I’m just speaking on my behalf, but I’m a big advocate of finding a good, centrally located destination city, and Nashville would be great, especially now with WKU to the north and Middle Tennessee to the south.”