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.”
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.