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Ex-Bowling Green Aide Hamilton Enjoys Challenge Of Being Chicago State’s AD
CHICAGO- Darren Hamilton has learned plenty about football. First as a player at Penn State, where he lettered as a split end and was part of the 1982 national championship team, then as an administrator at Duke and Bowling Green State universities, where he worked closely with both schools’ football programs.
When it came time to take his first job as an athletic director at the Division I level, Hamilton knew enough about football to stay away from it. He recently took control of the athletic department at Chicago State, a member of the Mid-Continent Conference and a nonfootball-playing institution.
“Everybody always talks about finding the right fit, and at Chicago State I found something that was absolutely an ideal fit,” Hamilton said. “Football is insurmountable in terms of challenges, and since this is my first leadership position, it presented an opportunity for me to be successful without the challenges of a football program.”
At Chicago State, Hamilton oversees an athletic department that fields men’s and women’s teams in 14 sports.
“Here, like anywhere, the student athlete is the greatest resource we have,” Hamilton said. “There’s a great quote that says that top athletic programs are student-centered, coach-driven, and administrator-assisted, and I firmly believe that. I want to follow that framework.”
When he was hired by Chicago State, Hamilton became one of only a dozen African-American athletic directors at Division I institutions around the country, other than the historically black colleges – but he is one of just two with a doctorate to his credit. Hamilton earned his bachelor’s (1985), master’s (1988) and Ph. D (1991) all from Penn State, and he understands his work at Chicago State might draw some additional scrutiny.
“As an African-American athletic director, I am astute enough to understand that those things are out there, but don’t let it stress me,” Hamilton said.
“I could have some of my decisions second-guessed – I know that’s the case – but don’t let it get in the way. I don’t wear it on my sleeve, and there’s no chip on my shoulder. I am here to do a job – a very important and vital job.”
Hamilton came to Chicago State from Duke, where he was the director of football academic services and managed the tutoring and scholarship budget.
He also specialized in working on the academic success of high-risk student-athletes, and was part of a leadership team that monitored eligibility issues, academic compliance, drug and alcohol education, and the academic policy for Duke’s 12 Olympic sports.
Hamilton was assistant athletic director for academic affairs while at Bowling Green, where he was responsible for the academic administration of eight sports, and also worked in fund-raising, marketing and event management, and on a program to increase student-athlete graduation rates.
Prior to his stop at Bowling Green, Hamilton worked at Division II Cheyney State as assistant athletic director for administration.
He credits BGSU athletic director Paul Krebs and Joe Paterno, his football coach at Penn State, with helping him develop some of the critical skills needed to take on the program at Chicago State.
“Some of my greatest lessons and my most worthwhile time was spent under the leadership of Paul Krebs at Bowling Green,” Hamilton said. “The foundation for me to become an athletic director was in place because of Paul Krebs, and I can’t underscore that enough. I think my management style was partially developed at Penn State, where I found Joe Paterno to be a very articulate man, and a guy who always paid attention to the details.
“When I came on a recruiting visit, Joe Paterno said he didn’t care how many downs I played for the football team – all that mattered to him was what I would become after four years at Penn State. Yes, he wants to win, but more importantly he wants to be known for how he prepares his players for life in the world. He is a rare breed in today’s world.”
With that background, Hamilton turned out to be just what Chicago State was looking for. The school, which opened its doors in 1867 in a leaky, renovated railroad freight car, now has a 161-acre campus on the south side of Chicago with an enrollment of about 7,200.
“Dr. Hamilton has a passion and dedication for athletics that I think will have a positive effect on our athletes and our athletic administration,” Chicago State president Elnora Daniel said. “He has a clear understanding of NCAA rules and regulations and that will be beneficial in helping us establish ourselves as a premier Division I sports program.”
Hamilton said he plans to push for perfection in the only way he knows how.
“I don’t know much about maintaining the status quo, but I do know that everything will be done with high levels of energy, integrity, and excellence,” Hamilton said. “I’m very passionate about working with people, and at Chicago State I feel like I can make a difference in the lives of the students, coaches, and staff. I’m excited about the opportunity to take this athletic department to another level.”