March 22, 2007 |

Hamilton's shadow too large for Eastern

By JOHN McCALLUM

Editor

I don't know about you, but to me the circumstances surrounding the termination of Eastern Washington University athletics director Darren Hamilton's contract after only seven months on the job are just a little confusing.

It's one of those things that make me want to shake my head fiercely while saying, “aye, aye, aye, aye, aye, aye.”

(By the way, if you do that, please sit down, and have a bottle of ibuprofen handy.)

Allegations of sexual harassment, mixed with complaints about Hamilton's management style, and comments suggesting Eastern and Hamilton really didn't understand what the other was getting leave me a little disillusioned. Top it off with less-than-stellar athletic performances from a couple teams this past season, and you have to wonder what's going on up on the hill.

From the outside looking in it seems to be a case of misdirection. I hope this is the case. Eastern is pretty tight-lipped about the issue, and sometimes this can lead to unfounded rumors.

I think, in this case, a person possessing good presentation skills dazzled Eastern. They wouldn't be the first taken in by this—just ask us about someone known only as “she who shall not be named.” (It's kind of the Free Press's version of Harry Potter's Voldemort.)

The best comment I've read regarding this mess comes from Eagles basketball coach Wendy Schuller, a member of the search committee that interviewed Hamilton.

“To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what happened. He's not what we expected…and Eastern is not what he expected,” Schuller told Spokesman-Review reporter Dave Trimmer. “Sometimes when things aren't what you expected, your enthusiasm can wane.”

No doubt, but what was expected?

I had the opportunity to listen to Hamilton speak when he appeared with EWU President Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo last December at a West Plains Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

It was also the first time I heard Arévalo speak as well, outside of his acceptance speech at the press conference announcing his selection as EWU's president.

While his vocal style was a bit more low-key than former president Dr. Stephen Jordan, the way he spoke and carried himself struck me as very similar to EWU's last president, as well as Hamilton's predecessor at AD, Scott Barnes, and other university officials.

Hamilton was completely different. Enthusiasm? Heck, about 45 seconds into his remarks I was not only ready to whip out my checkbook and make a monetary donation I could not financially cover, but I was seriously considering returning to school and using whatever athletic eligibility I may have.

So essentially, Hamilton inspired me toward two death wishes.

As I left, I kept thinking about the differences in the two men. Arévalo struck me as being a little reserved, somewhat conservative and low key.

That, to me, is Eastern.

Hamilton was Southern Baptist revival, baby. Can I get an amen from the choir?

That's not Eastern.

What also isn't Eastern is an athletics department with deep pockets. Hamilton mentioned this as a concern last week when talking about why he left.

Thing is, Eastern has never been a wealthy institution athletically, even academically, and Hamilton should have known this going into the job. We've always been borderline NCAA Division I resource-wise.

Still, I thought Hamilton's enthusiasm might be good for the school, whipping up not only the donation dollars, but the staff and student body as well.

Turns out it didn't, so now my alma mater is back to square one in its search for a new AD. Call it a false start, the athletic department's version of golf's mulligan.

But if I can offer a little advice to the AD search committee, it would be this: Don't be persuaded by someone with a lot of enthusiasm who will take you in a new direction. Look for someone who is Eastern, and will build on the old.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com

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