March 20, 2017

Pitt Has A New AD

Filed under: Athletic Department,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 7:38 am

A few days after the P-G put out an article listing the top candidates for Pitt’s next Athletic Director, the news broke fairly late on Sunday evening of the hire.

Heather Lyke, late of Eastern Michigan, is Pitt’s new Athletic Director.


EDITOR COMMENTARY: I hate that I feel the need to do this, but I’m going to get this out of the way before going any further. If you don’t like the hire, fine. There are legitimate reasons to think that, but be sure to explain them.

If you don’t like the hire because she is a woman, take it elsewhere.  If you don’t like the hire for valid reasons but still feel the need to express displeasure over the hire in a misogynistic or sexist way, I’m not going to waste any time with you. I’m not going to let you pollute the site. Instead, you will just be banned outright. Regardless of how long you have posted comments. Just as the old Diceman routine never held up that well, you’re not that funny. You aren’t railing against an overly sensitive, PC culture for it. You are being an asshole.


Heather Lyke is coming from what has been one of the worst football programs in the 1-A level. Last year they made their first bowl game in 41 years. The school remains mired in controversy as to whether they should even have 1-A football. To say nothing of the fact that like many small, struggling athletic departments they finance the department on the backs of the students and with help from the school’s general fund.

Against that backdrop, it is hard not find what she has accomplished at EMU fairly impressive. She has built up the athletic department’s fundraising from next to nothing to setting new records every year. In the face of the opposition to the athletic department, she has managed to push forward with a $35 million dollar expansion plan. If you are wondering about hiring history, she dealt with a fair amount of turnover. Hiring 10 different coaches, including football coach Chris Creighton, in her three years at EMU.

She played softball at University of Michigan. Got her J.D. at Akron. Worked in the Ohio State athletic department for 15 years as an associate AD. As an aside, the present OSU AD, Gene Smith, was EMU AD from 1986-1993.

Lyke makes no bones about the major sports being a vital part of a university’s front door.

“People aren’t proud of Eastern Michigan because the football team hasn’t been so good [in the past],” Lyke said. “Whether we want to believe it or not, football drives the attention, viewership, enrollment, fundraising. Having a successful football program to go along with the amount of success we’ve had in other sports was a real priority.”

[Emphasis added.]

The Pitt search committee included football coach Pat Narduzzi, so that sort of statement has to be music to his ears.

Now the flipside is she was running arguably the most obscure and overshadowed MAC program. While showed great skill at building up the athletic department from next to nothing, she isn’t coming into that situation. She will have to jump in to keep the planned expansions going. Pitt isn’t in need of an overhaul of the athletic department. Improvements, yes. Growth, absolutely.

She also will not be able to rely on student fees and the general fund to cover costs of the Pitt Athletic Department. There is a definite budget and restrictions. Which also makes it unlike Ohio State, where money is never a real concern. How does she walk the middle ground?

At the end of the day, I don’t know one way or the other on the hire. But that is just a general statement for athletic director hires by me. Barnes looked great on paper. Said all the right things for several months. Now he’s gone. Based on the list of candidates, Lykeseems like the as good as any of the others (and she didn’t hire Lane Kiffin).

She does seem to know how to run things. A very effective fundraiser. She should bring some stability in the department.

We’ll see.

Tallahassee – Jeff Long is generally look upon as being Pitt’s best AD since the late 70’s and early 80’s.

My overall point being that SP#1 and Jeff Long had less experience then Lyke. SP#2 and Barnes had more experience then Lyke.

It’s a crap shoot.

Lyke’s experience is on par with what Pitt has done in the past so the experience concern is a moot point in my opinion. She’s run her own athletic department and she was groomed in one of the most successful athletic departments in the country. Jeff Long came from Michigan, was Sr. AD at Pitt before becoming AD and was good enough here to get a job in the SEC.

Her experience more closely aligns with Jeff Long’s experience then SP or Barnes, so I’m hopeful and optimistic about the hire.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 03.21.17 @ 9:02 am

Chas, you let so many other pretty negative comments go without a peep. Now you want to be “sensitive”.

Comment by Goalie44 03.21.17 @ 9:08 am

1) I generally don’t police the comments due to time limits — and maybe I need to find a solution to that — and out of a desire to let conversation take its own direction.

2) There’s a difference between negative comments and out and out hatred directed at a person.

3) Given the nature of the way internet commentary towards women all too often veers, I gave a very explicit notice in ahead of time in this post as to how this would be handled.

4) Now, who needs a hug?

Comment by Chas 03.21.17 @ 9:30 am

There were PLENTY of comment about Barnes’s many wives and his Mormon beliefs but you said nothing. That’s hypocritical.

Comment by Goalie44 03.21.17 @ 9:11 am

Chas – you were pretty damn clear with your expectations on this particular post and where to tread and not tread. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I respect that. It’s a shame it was Emel but he knew the rules.

1618mt – I wouldn’t read too much into KS not being there. With the recent coaching changes, there is a lot of previously locked up commits that just became open again and if you don’t pounce immediately you’ll be eating left-over dead carcasses. Regardless if he stays or not, recruiting has to be his priority. I’m sure PR was a reason as wel,l but one thing I won’t be mad at KS for is if he’s out crootin’.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 03.21.17 @ 9:13 am

TT – You’re probably right, but I have 2 points: (1) He still should’ve been there, 1 day or recruiting is irrelevant unless he was about to lock up the next Lebron James, and (2) maybe in the back of my mind is some wishful thinking…

Comment by 1618mt 03.21.17 @ 9:26 am

I’ll just say one more thing. There have been outright hatred comments towards stallings and Barnes. what’s good for one should be good for the other.
Now how about that hug. Lol

Comment by Goalie44 03.21.17 @ 9:34 am

1618mt – LOL – I’m on board with the wishful thinking. I’m just trying not to set myself up for disappointment. I’m sure PR was a big reason but I thought I saw on Twitter he was visiting someone who recently re-opened their recruiting. Could be wrong.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 03.21.17 @ 9:45 am

Why would anyone be angry or have bad feelings toward someone else for leaving a position where they were successful in order to take what is a better position when it is their success that leads to the enhanced opportunity in the first place.

Doesn’t matter there is not a “P5” next to her AD credentials, but it does matter she has been successful at a place not known for much of it in the past, and apparently has done so without negative baggage.

She arrives with enthusiasm and the sincere desire to make a positive contribution to the athletics and student athletes of a well regarded university that has generally avoided the wrongdoings of other P5 schools.

She deserves the support of the entire Pitt community, and if she is so successful that a better offer is forthcoming it will happen when both she and Pitt athletics achieve that success.

Just an opinion.


Did the CMU AD also leave for P5 (Arizona)?

Comment by Manhattan Panther 03.21.17 @ 9:47 am

TT – yeah, I read that due to a rash of coaching changes, that there are some vulnerable situations right now where players may be up for grabs.

Comment by 1618mt 03.21.17 @ 9:52 am

I think you have to give Lyke a chance to succeed. There’s nothing in her resume that makes me think she’ll be awful. To be sure, I’d have loved to pilfer a more experienced AD from another P5 school. Short of that, I like the idea of hiring a meteoric up and comer who has managed to out perform expectations in a male-dominated field.

One question I have concerning Lyke is what does success at Pitt look like?

1. Will the alums accept her?
2. Can she fund raise?
3. Can she keep Narduzzi?
4. If Stallings is forced out, who will she bring in?
5. Can she engage the undergrads and local fans to fill seats?
6. Will she stay on course with the Pitt script?

Ok, that last one is a bit of a joke (or not?). for 1 & 2, I gotta hope the answer is yes and that the hiring committee had a sense of alumni reception and fundraising before giving her an offer.
Regarding #3, well, I don’t know if any AD in the country will keep Duzz here is he wants to leave. Hopefully she (and the rest of the admin) keep his mind on winning and not worrying about salary, contract deadlines, and asst coach salaries. Can she really do anything if a premier school comes knocking? Could any AD?
4. I think this is the one item that will rightfully fall directly on Lyke’s shoulders if/when the time comes. Let’s hope she had a lot of experience at OSU, because hiring for Eastern Michigan will be nothing like making that first P5 hire.
5. Good luck to her. The best way to fill Heinz field is to win. Even then, it’s an uphill battle.

Finally, I’d like to comment Pitt for not being afraid to make a (sadly) controversial hire. I hope they, like Chas, help her out by adopting a culture of inclusion. It will not be an easy job, but it is worthy of full effort.

Thanks Chas. Keep up the great work.

Comment by JoePatKnewSandoBlew 03.21.17 @ 10:23 am

As we all know, rarely, if ever does Pitt make a “splash” hire. That being said, as with all new hires at our university, I am hoping for the best and wish her much success. We Pitt fans finally deserve some.

Comment by longsufferingpittfan 03.21.17 @ 10:32 am

Not sorry to see Emel banned. And agree with Chas on the post that got him banned. His constant attacks on people who disagree with him I think kept many from posting…..though it will definitely cut down on number of posts on this site…he probably had ten times more posts than then anyone else.

I’m sure he’ll find a home on another board, my guess is he needs to be heard or he would cease to exist.

Comment by milobloom 03.21.17 @ 10:39 am

Chas – thanks for your policing sexist language. I read this site for Pitt sports – not for misogynistic comments.
Like others I don’t believe there can be a firm reaction to her hiring. Will she do a good job? Who knows? On paper she has the right background but how that will translate…?

But really, the AD is more like a second team player. The football and basketball coaches outrank her so long as they are successful. If they have to be fired the AD faces the cameras but the decision would be made by the Chancellor with input from the AD.

She is the athletic department administrator and rules over all the other sports, but as to the revenue sources, football and basketball, the AD takes orders from the Chancellor.

If the football team begins to reach the top 10 consistently, then the football coach truly has more power.

Does anyone think that Sabin answers to the AD?
Or that Roy Williams gives a damn what the NC AD thinks? Get real.

Comment by oakland comet 03.21.17 @ 10:50 am

Oakland comet – the salaries back up your assertion. Look at how much the AD earns compared to the football & basketball coaches? So, that makes sense to me.

Also, since we’re on the topic of etiquette and how it relates to the board… It seems this is more of a macro issue; we’ve lost the ability as a country to civilly disagree, which seems to be a product of the loss of our moral backbone as a country, and the subsequent disintegration of families (again, my opinion), so we see on message boards that people can’t behave themselves (even fans of the same team) and are unable to even form a contrary opinion and discuss it humbly- instead, they have to tear down everyone else’s opinion, insult, and act like children. It happens at ‘protests’ across the country, in every corner of politics, and now even infects once safe sports havens such as ESPN, to their demise. So… I’m all for a place where we can discuss civilly Pitt sports. If this site becomes such a place, then great!

Comment by 1618mt 03.21.17 @ 11:27 am

Tossing, i am not challenging his credentials. He was able to let Walt go without eating his remaining years….he hired wannstedt which at the time was huge.

But cmon man……even the best AD’s can make mistakes.

this scheme regarding seating is done for Kansas basketball and Georgia football. Long misread the tea leaves……it is a glaring hole in the basketball experience that needs to be fixed.

Comment by tallahassee panther 03.21.17 @ 11:43 am

Tallahassee – Gotcha. I wasn’t saying he was perfect either but only pointing out that he didn’t have a lot of experience and did well … for the most part.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 03.21.17 @ 12:01 pm

As we say in our business….let’s see how Heather does once the honeymoon is over. When the pissed off alums decline to give or attend events, when she realizes how awful the Bball situation is, how Pitt has a rabid base of about 35,000 fans and no matter how Football succeeds….there’s still only 35,000 fans, the atrocious state if the 18 minor sports are in…

Yeah, it’ll be all fun and games for about the next three months
What follows will tell the tale. I give her 2 years max!

Comment by Dan 72 03.21.17 @ 12:21 pm

My list of how I’ll judge ADHL’s, tenure:
1. Extend PSU series in football.
2. Leave the Script alone.
3. Lock up Narduzzi long term.
4. Fix men’s basketball, whether that means firing Stallings or leaving him alone to prove his methods can work in the ACC.
5. Raise football attendance at Heinz Field.

Anything she does beyond that is gravy.

Since they’re both women, I wonder if she’ll make more headway with Nits AD Sandy Barbour on extending the football series, preferably annually indefinitely? Can’t hurt, I suppose.

Comment by Imma Man! Im 40! 03.21.17 @ 1:21 pm

The most encouraging thing I think was her willingness to move the needle at EMU. Take on things that had strong support for the status quo.

To me, that would be the #1 quality for a Pitt AD, considering the past 10 years and the present.

I am very glad then that Pitt seemed to have gotten someone that is willing to take on the status quo.

Comment by DD 03.21.17 @ 2:43 pm

Chas – thanks for your policing sexist language. I read this site for Pitt sports – not for misogynistic comments.

Ditto Chas Thank you.

Comment by Pitt1983 03.22.17 @ 9:16 am

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