After losing its athletics director to another school, the University of Pittsburgh has a new athletics director ready to get to work. Heather Lyke , previously of Eastern Michigan, will reportedly take on the job at Pittsburgh according to multiple reports including The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Detroit Free Press and Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com.
Lyke, a Michigan alum and former senior associate athletic director at Ohio State, will replace Scott Barnes, who left to take on the same role at Oregon State. She will be the first woman to be an athletic director in Pitt’s history.
Lyke was a trailblazer during her time at Eastern Michigan. She was the first ever MAC Cartwright Award winner for all-around athletic department excellence in the 2013-2014 academic year. Among the accomplishments at EMU under Lyke’s tenure include the highest overall athletic GPA in school history and the highest graduation rates for athletes in school history. Last season saw the most successful football season in school history in decades leading to the first bowl trip for the program since 1987.
Lyke will leave EMU at a time the school is potentially set to invest in improving athletics facilities in a big way, and her leadership will be a big part of the reason why the university feels it appropriate to even consider spending so much money to improve the athletics programs even if students and faculty on campus have concerns about such budget proposals.
As for the future of the Pitt football program, the hiring of Lyke seems to have no drawbacks. Pat Narduzzi has done well since being hired to be the head coach, so there is little reason for Lyke to be looking to make a change on the sideline to hire her preferred coach. Narduzzi was actually on the selection committee for finding a new AD, so it stands to reason the new AD has the support of the football coach. This is not a situation where the new AD will be asked to make a quick change, so that’s good for Narduzzi and the football program. Whether Lyke has any desire to figure out a long-term stadium solution on Pitt’s campus might be worth watching, although that might be a reach.
Expect one of the football-related questions to Lyke be about the non-conference scheduling plans. Among those first questions will be Lyke’s thoughts about the Penn State series. The two in-state schools (now with two women athletic directors), resumed their previously abandoned series last fall and will meet again for the next three seasons. As is custom, new ADs tend to draw their line in the sand on such in-state rivalry questions.
And if she says the football team is going to bring back the mustard-yellow helmets on a full-time basis, then she may be the best hire Pitt has made in years right out of the gate.