HUNTINGTON, W.Va.— Each year a team from a non-power conference captures the attention of the nation by knocking of a heavy favorite in the NCAA Basketball Tournament and making a memorable run. Schools such as Wichita State, Butler, George Mason and others are consistently factors in the tournament and have even reached the Final Four.
So Marshall Athletics Director Mike Hamrick wonders why can’t Marshall join that list?
“What’s the difference? If they can get in the NCAA Tournament, why can’t Marshall University?” questioned Hamrick during Friday’s press conference announcing the resignation of basketball coach Tom Herrion.
The difference is those schools were able to build on success and advance their programs. Marshall’s was never able to build on Herrion’s first two seasons. The Herd appeared to be poised to make its first legitimate shot at the tournament in the 2012-14 season. The year prior, The Herd played in the Conference USA title game and received an bid to the postseason NIT. But that never materialized. Instead the program tumbled out of control over the last two years.
“Marshall fans love good, exciting basketball. And those who have been around here have seen, whether you watched the games in the Field House or you watched the games in the Henderson but until we went to the NIT two years ago it was a long, long drought,” said Hamrick.
In fact, Marshall’s appearance in the NIT in 2012 was the first time it played in the postseason tournament in 24 years. Hamrick is not going to settle for .500 seasons and reaching a postseason tournament once every quarter century. The next Marshall basketball coach will have time to rebuild the program but Hamrick wants the program to relevant on a national level.
“I’m not interested in going to the NIT. I’m interested in winning the conference and going to the NCAA,” emphasized Hamrick.
Marshall basketball crumbled under the expectations of taking the next step two years ago. Now, will Tom Herrion’s replacement be able to restore the program to respectability and take it to where Herd fans want to go? Hamrick believes Marshall can reach that level, and it has to.
“Basketball is critical to the success of our athletics program,” insisted Hamrick. “We have to be successful in basketball and I believe we can.”