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Eastern fires athletic director

Eastern Washington University terminated the contract of athletic director Darren Hamilton late Thursday afternoon after less than seven months on the job.

“We made a mutual agreement that I would resign from Eastern,” Hamilton said. “It just wasn’t a good fit.”

Dave Meany, media and campaign communications specialist for the university, said Hamilton was terminated and the university would have an official statement today.

First-year EWU President Rodolfo Arevalo made the decision but was unavailable for comment.

When asked to elaborate, Hamilton, who came to Eastern from Chicago State, said. “I just thought it was best to separate. I have high expectations, and I’m not so sure if that’s the direction that Eastern’s ready to go right now, given some of the other things they have on their plate.

“As a result, I’m a highly motivated guy, I’m a highly principled guy, I believe in the highest level of integrity. I’m satisfied with my character. I grew up with adversity, it’s another obstacle that I must cross. I’ve done it before.”

Eastern officials recently fielded separate complaints by two athletic department employees against Hamilton, both involving possible sexual harassment stemming from a department Christmas party at his house.

The first complaint, made by a third party, alleged Hamilton touched a female coach inappropriately.

The investigation by the university’s Human Resources Department concluded, “It is more likely than not something may have happened … but it did not rise to the level of sexual harassment, and certainly did not rise to the level of third-party sexual harassment.”

The second complaint, filed in the past couple of weeks, alleges that Hamilton tried to kiss a female employee on the lips as she was leaving, a charge he denies.

“There were no findings, no substantiation,” Hamilton said. “I told you before I respect the process, I was cooperative and I was satisfied with the outcome.”

When asked if that included the second complaint, he added, “Yes but there was no substantiation, no findings.”

However, the investigation has not been concluded, according to sources.

There have also been complaints about Hamilton’s bullying-style of management, poor communication skills, failure to listen and a lack of understanding of what the job entails, especially where fundraising is concerned.

Most athletic department employees refused to talk on the record for fear of losing their jobs. One said Hamilton once said he was vindictive “should anyone cross me.”

Associate athletic directors Mike Allen and Pam Parks met with the president last week to discuss their concerns. This week, all the head coaches, as a group except for one who was out of town, went to the president.

Hamilton, a former football player at Penn State, said he didn’t know about the coaches’ meeting.

“The president does conduct his business in a very professional manner,” he said. “He’s a very brilliant man and a very thoughtful person. Given that he has that level of professionalism, he’s not going to divulge what he spoke about if he had a meeting. That’s not my business, he does not report to me. I report to the president.”

Asked if he thought anyone was out to get him, Hamilton said, “It’s unproven. How do we know? Who knows? I think it just wasn’t a good fit.”

Hamilton said the “termination for convenience” clause in his contract was invoked for his dismissal. He will receive nine months of his yearly salary, which is $110,000.

He also said he was pleased with some of the progress he made in a short amount of time.

“I launched a budget plan that will balance the budget in FY08 (2008 fiscal year), and I think we’ve launched a great athletic program,” he said. “For the first time, six home (football) games in I don’t know when. I think we have a very good, competitive men’s basketball schedule and a lot of home games on the women’s basketball schedule. Those programs should be very, very fruitful next year.”

The limited budget at EWU concerned Hamilton.

“Another unfortunate piece when you talk about the resources at Eastern, the hardest part about it is going to work every day knowing your coaches are starving,” he said. “That’s like me being a parent and knowing my kids are hungry, and you can’t feed them. The resources are definitely below what they should be for a Division I institution.

“That’s the challenge. I do believe I’ve done my very best, carved out my own niche, in terms of fundraising endeavors. I think I’ve treaded on waters no other A.D. has. … I had 29 one-on-one visits with donors or prospective donors. I’ve certainly carved out some things that have never been done before at Eastern as an athletic director. I’ve certainly exceeded the $400,000 goal that I was expected to procure.”

He said he wants to remain in college athletics but closer to his wife’s family in south-central Pennsylvania. However, they will stay until the end of the school year because Sherry Hamilton is on the Eastern faculty in the Physical Education, Health and Recreation Department.

“I still see Eastern as a gold mine,” he said. “When they’re ready to take that step (jaws will drop).”