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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.

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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.

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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.





The sad truth:We care more than the administration does.
Go cheap, young man….nothing of consequence has ever been accomplished with that approach.

Comment by Gasman 03.20.17 @ 9:30 pm

Dan_72 – I was just offering another spin on it. It’s why I clarified that it depends on the industry. I sell software but what works for me doesn’t work for vendors that sell hardware.

I’d hardly call Pitt athletics big. Pitt is a mid-market P5 school. Logical step for an AD from the MAC.

Lyke’s 40+ years old with almost 20 years of experience working in an athletic department. Most of which came at one of the best in the business at Ohio State. A program that has launched a couple of future AD’s out of the program.

I’m not saying she’s a home run, although I seriously don’t know what’s considered a home run for an AD. If we hire someone from a P5 school with experience some will say they’re a retread. We hire who appears to be an up and comer and some attack for lack of experience.

SP was younger and had less experience then Lyke when he was hired and look what happened. Jeff Long had less experience then Lyke and he was excellent. Who the hell knows how she’ll do. Her experience is much more similar to Long then SP though. Long cut his teeth at Michigan as an assistant AD before coming to Pitt. SP was a recruiting coordinator or some crap.

Outside of Tressell, who had zero shot of coming to Pitt or any other D1 school, I didn’t hear any names posted here. In fact, I bet 99% of the posters couldn’t name 3 active AD’s out there.

AD is seriously a wait and see job. Most didn’t mind Barnes until he f’d up the Dixon exit and Stallings hire.

The search firm argument is tiresome. They’re and industry standard and almost every school uses one. Illinois was the exception with their new basketball hire but it’s pretty apparent that there wasn’t really a search. They already had their guy lined up. So no need for help.

Search firms are intermediaries between the school and the candidates to create plausible deniability, which is important in this industry. You can very easily be fired for being associated with another school. Privacy and background checks, etc. are an important part of the process.

What happened with Barnes and Stallings was different, however, and not the norm despite what Barnes tried to spin. One of the reasons you hire a search firm is to avoid cronyism and conflicts of interest. It was almost criminal in how blatant the abuse of power was.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 03.20.17 @ 11:02 pm

Pitt Dad, you are a man of letters!

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 03.21.17 @ 1:43 am

This lady will be OK,(I hope).

I would like to know more about her family; her husband.

Does he take care of the kids? How will moving effort his job? Does he have a job outside from the family? Hopefully she will live in Pittsburgh.

Guys, I am 74 and am curious about how you younger ones handle family life.

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 03.21.17 @ 1:59 am

2 Questions atm

1)Are either of her old parents alive?

2) And where do they live?

Comment by Emel 03.21.17 @ 2:02 am

Interesting factoid.

Otis’s first game as Pitt HC was against Eastern Michigan.

So this appears to be fate.

Comment by Emel 03.21.17 @ 2:36 am

We all know Pitt has no plans for these things. This cheap hire proves it. She will cut her teeth at Pitt and move on…either being fired or getting the pay she deserves with proven results commensurate with experience.

Comment by TX Panther 03.20.17 @ 7:46 pm

If she does a decent job and at Pitt there is no bell weather for a what a decent job is. Just maintaining the ‘status quo’ is our bell weather. 3rd rate bowl games and mid to bottom of ACC for bball with the occasional NCAA invite and resulting early exit.

Heather will be off for Ohio State or Michigan when either one of those jobs open up perhaps.

Gene Smith is 60 years old and been OSU AD for 12 years. He could call it quits or whatever at 65…and …..hello Heather.

Heather naturally leaves..for her ‘dream job’.
Ditto U of Michigan.

Comment by Emel 03.21.17 @ 2:46 am

Emel @ 2:36am – that fate has another factoid – Heather Lyke was in the Pete for Kevin Stallings 1st game vs E.Michigan.

She got to witness the offensive genius in person ???

Ms. Lyke was seated next to former Steeler and EMU QB Charlie Batch who thinks very highly of Heather.

Sir Patrick G has asked her to put on her lawyer hat and read over the Stalling’s contact to find a way to rid Pitt of that madness Barnes left behind. TMO

Patience…

Comment by Erie Express 03.21.17 @ 4:15 am

Wally – I received a response regarding my letter to Dr. Randy Juhl from a few weeks ago –

“I agree that in many ways this has been a disappointing season. Unfortunately, a change in coaching staff sometimes is accompanied by a season characterized by frustration and a less than stellar record as new personalities and a new system upset the unity one expects of a quality program.

We will continue to work with the coaching staff and our players to make clear the University’s expectations about their conduct both on and off the floor.”

I’ve done my part, now Heather Lyke can take the men’s BB program to a better place (my words not the good doctor’s).

Comment by Erie Express 03.21.17 @ 4:44 am

@erie..patience..

Comment by goalie44 03.21.17 @ 5:31 am

Of course no other ad was available at that salary. You have to make someone want to come to your university by throwing lots of money heir way.

Comment by Goalie44 03.21.17 @ 5:37 am

For the record, the only AD I can name off the top of my head is Lynn Swann.

Comment by JLE 03.21.17 @ 6:27 am

Interesting comments. Particularly like seeing people who have never posted before get upset that Chad asked to keep the discussion, essentially, on point and not move to anyone’s shortcomings/insecurities/prejudices regarding gender. Only for this, do they post.

Agree with Emel, and I sort of hope he is right. Meaning, some are saying a “real” P5 school would never hire her…and Emel says it is going to happen. Thus I can only assume the only way a “real” P5 school takes her is if she does really good things at Pitt. The nice things about ADs is their moves have shelf life…that has worked against Pitt in the past (no OCS, bad coaching hires, etc) but it can be true of good things too…lets hope she does good things and then if she leaves, well, that the next AD can just maintain the good she did.

But who of us really knows…this is an AD hire for heaven’s sake. I know enough to know I have little qualifications to judge her at this point. Resume looks pretty good…but we will see…

Comment by DD 03.21.17 @ 6:36 am

One thing I do wonder about is: besides fundraising, what was she hired specifically for at Pitt, at this specific time in history? This is critical obviously, yet none of us know the answer to the question… We can speculate, based on her history and Narduzzi’s involvement (as part of a team) in her hiring, that she will support growth in the football program, but what will be her role with regard to the toxic bb situation? Replacing coaches within the university? etc.? I think she hired 10 coaches in her short tenure at EMU, didn’t she? I know we recently lost a wrestling coach, for example. To Barnes’ credit, we got a great soccer coach. But I wonder what her focuses will be? I think if we all had a vote, we’d have a consensus on that one…

Comment by 1618mt 03.21.17 @ 7:44 am

If PSU can put together a 20 year plan why can’t Pitt? There seems to be no forward thinking by the administration, all knee jerk reaction at every turn. That’s a terrible way to run an organization.

Comment by Grizzly1 03.21.17 @ 7:45 am

@JLE, the other one is Jeff Long, our former guy now at Arkansas, and that of the hated Sandy Barbour at PSU. And Andrew Luck’s dad who used to be at WVU.

I have no way to judge this hire, other than to hope it’s a good one, and based on the interview she seems genuine and enthusiastic. Those qualities are at least upgrades.

Comment by KeyboardKev 03.21.17 @ 7:59 am

this hire tells me how pitt views athletics. as cheap as possible. we went cheap with stallings, and the new ad. whats next??

Comment by goalie44 03.21.17 @ 8:02 am

@Emel – the trib article today says that she played high school softball in Canton. So she’s close. And her parents flew in for the presser as they had been attending a wedding in Oregon, so they are both still mobile.

link to triblive.com

Comment by KeyboardKev 03.21.17 @ 8:03 am

her success might depend on who she hires as a bb coach in two years and if she can keep narduzzi.

Comment by goalie44 03.21.17 @ 8:08 am

Who on this board stated Jeff long was great???

Really??

Jeff long is the reason the Pete seating fiasco blew up in the faces of the season ticket holders. A horrible decision…..

For those of you worried about Heather’s impact on basketball…..The first thing? she can do (absent firing Stallings)…..Is scrap the current seating system and develop a seat license plan.

Comment by Tallahassee panther 03.21.17 @ 8:12 am

Was Stallings out recruiting? If not, why wasn’t he at the introduction? I’m thinking he was asked not to attend so that the questions wouldn’t be directed to the negativity surrounding the bb program.

Comment by VoiceofReason 03.21.17 @ 8:18 am

OPG….husband schmusband.

Heather wears the pants in the family.

The kids were probably daycared and raised by utter strangers.
This is the modern family way. (for the most part)

–Emel’s final comment.

Thank you Emel for all the comments and feedback over the years. I have always appreciated your passion and energy, even if I didn’t always agree. Sorry you didn’t want to comment here any longer. Good luck elsewhere.
–Chas

Comment by Chas 03.21.17 @ 8:19 am

Pretty weak Chas.

Comment by Goalie44 03.21.17 @ 8:48 am

I’m sure you will sleep much better tonight

Comment by Goalie44 03.21.17 @ 8:48 am

I’ll sleep fine. Now if I let someone post on this site with malice aforethought to claim a person is in a sham marriage, a lesbian and horrid parent. Then I would probably have a bad night of sleep.

Comment by Chas 03.21.17 @ 8:55 am

VOR – Good catch! I’m shocked nobody commented on this previously. I honestly can’t think of any good reason as to why KS was not at the presser. The angle of avoiding controversial questions is plausible, but there are ways around that, and that would be a really weak excuse for his absence… really weak… Out recruiting? Heather’s parents flew in from Oregon for the day…. Again, really weak… Anybody else with an angle on this one??

Comment by 1618mt 03.21.17 @ 9:01 am

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.

H2P

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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