Ex-Herd Pennington pays a visit

What’s next?

With a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for mid-August for the Marshall University Indoor Athletic Complex, school officials are ready to tackle a new project.

“Our Vision Campaign is coming to a conclusion,” said Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick, who joined former Thundering Herd and NFL quarterback Chad Pennington at the Grand Pointe Conference Center this past Monday for the annual Scholarship and Vision Campaign Fundraiser. The event was hosted by The Marshall University Alumni Thundering Bison Club of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

“From an athletic standpoint, this is a gamechanger -it’s a program changer,” Hamrick continued. “We’re not sure there is a better indoor facility in the country. At the end of the day, we will have spent well over $34 to $35 million in new facilities just with those projects.

“We have done some other minor projects, but once we get that finished we will move ahead and figure what we need to build next. We will keep building. We’re not going to stop.”

The groundbreaking for the indoor facility occurred almost exactly one year ago. The components feature a 120-yard football field, a six-lane 300 meter track with an eight-lane straightaway and seating for 1,500 people.

“The idea of a facility has always been just an idea, and I think a lot of people may have doubted Mike Hamrick and the Vision Campaign,” Pennington said. “But when we had the groundbreaking ceremony, now you could see the indoor facility going up. This idea has become a reality.

“The size of the facility will make you proud to be a son or daughter of Marshall.”

In addition to the athletic complex, funds generated from the Vision Campaign will support a student-athlete academic center, a Hall of Fame and a sports medicine and research center.

“What this does is give us a level playing field,” Pennington said. “It allows student athletes to come in and feel like they have an equal opportunity to achieve their dreams and goals. Not only on the field, but off the field as well.”

Pennington, who lives in Lexington, Ky., with his wife and three boys, joined forces with Marshall alum and current NBA coach Mike D’Antoni as co-chairs for the Vision Campaign. They were instrumental is bringing fellow alumni on board.

“We couldn’t have done it without Chad and Mike,” Hamrick said. “Just their names alone gave the project credibility. They were both generous in their donations and very generous with their time, obviously.”

During his career at Marshall in the late 1990s, Pennington and his teammates didn’t have the luxury of practicing indoors. At the same time, he figures the success of the Thundering Herd in that era – which included a perfect 13-0 season in 1999 – laid the groundwork for what the school has achieved in the present.

“The Vision Campaign first started because of our success on the field,” Pennington said. “That led to the foundation and showed what we were capable of.

“Up until that point, we didn’t know what we were capable of as a football program. And through (coach Bob Pruett’s) leadership we were able to show people that we could be the best in Division I-AA then move onto I-A compete and win championships. And have an undefeated season.”