ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported Sunday evening that Eastern Michigan athletic director Heather Lyke has reportedly accepted the same position at Pitt.
Eastern Michigan AD Heather Lyke is leaving to become Pitt’s new athletic director, source told @ESPN— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) March 20, 2017
Lyke, who began her tenure July 2013, was the 13th person to be named EMU’s athletic director at the time of her hire and was also the first woman in university history to be named to the role.
Lyke served as a senior associate athletic director at Ohio State University for nine years under Gene Smith, a former EMU athletic director and a total of 12 years in an administrative role in Columbus. Lyke was also an assistant athletic director for compliance as well as the senior woman administrator at the University of Cincinnati for two years prior to her service at Ohio State.
Lyke was responsible for the hire of Chris Creighton, who took EMU football from the cellar of FBS-level football to its first bowl game in 29 years this past season.
EMU also experienced success in various other sports during Lyke’s tenure, including the indivisual successes on the track and field teams, a 100-plus home meet winning streak in swimming and back-to-back championships in women’s gymnastics.
During her tenure, EMU coaches and staff under Lyke have won 17 MAC Coach of the Year Awards, one National Coach of the Year Award, and mentored no less than 15 MAC Team Champions, 17 MAC Players of the Year, 79 MAC individual champions, 213 All-MAC student-athletes and 389 All-MAC Academic Award winners, according to EMU’s website.
Lyke is also responsible for creating “The Blueprint,” EMU’s first officially-recognized athletic strategic plan, in 2015. As part of this Blueprint, Lyke oversaw major renovations to the Convocation Center, Rynearson Stadium and various other stadiums and student-athlete facilities.
Lyke and her team were also responsible for re-branding Rynearson Stadium as “The Factory” and creating the slogan “Champions Built Here,” a comprehensive campaign meant to highlight EMU’s emergence as an academic and athletic leader.
Perhaps the most visual change Lyke implemeted was replacing the green turf at Rynearson Stadium and turning it “parking lot grey”. The newly-turfed stadium was instantly named the second-most recognizable in the country according to a USA Today fan vote.
Lyke, a Canton, Ohio native, played softball for four years at the University of Michigan. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Michigan and her Juris Doctorate at the University of Akron Law School, gaining admittance to the Ohio Bar in 1995.
Lyke’s tenure faced a bit of a PR storm when HBO’s “Real Sports” documentary highlighted EMU’s challenges as an institution in terms of spending money in athletics. There was also controversy over whether or not to shut down the football program, which a group of students and administrators said was a pointless investment.
Lyke managed to weather those storms and in the same season the open letter was penned, EMU finished 7-6 on the season and participated in the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl in Nassau. Lyke also raised more than $800,000 in cash donations in 2016, a school record, while increasing the donation base by 21 percent, according to MLive.
As of publication, there is no official word from either university if the hire has been confirmed.