Here is a news video bit that shows a little of Heather Lyke’s personality… full video at end
As any Pitt fan not living under a log somewhere already knows we hired a new Athletic Director yesterday… Ms Heather Lyke from Eastern Michigan University. Her accomplishments there appear to be constructive in nature, both physically in facility building, and within the academic and competition arenas.
Her list of accomplishments is long and impressive and it is hard to read between the lines when you are looking at someone’s resume that they wrote themselves. That isn’t to say it is ‘doctored’ or anything untoward, just that this info is what she herself released.
So one of the things to do is going to the ground level media and see what her university’s fans feel about the news that she’s leaving them. Not surprisingly everything I could find was positive with one or two vague references to some sort of ‘problems’ in the department.
Here is an example of the ‘problem’ from the Detroit Free Press newspaper:
The move comes as the football team comes off its best season in decades, including a trip to the Bahamas Bowl. But there also has been a renewed debate about athletics at Eastern Michigan in the past year, including a HBO Real Sports segment on athletic department spending that was critical of the school. A number of faculty and students have called for the university to drop out of Division I football — either completely dropping the program or moving down in division, which would decrease the cost. In recent years, Eastern Michigan, with about 21,000 students, has spent more than $27 million a year from the university’s general fund on sports.
But that is exactly the same type of opinions that you would find at 90% or so of universities that have major sports teams (football and basketball) and academicians who dislike spending what they thing should be academic money on sports .We hear it at Pitt from time to time also.
Here is a clip from that HBO show “Arms Race” featuring EMU and the subject discussed above. Basically this isn’t a black mark or anything negative in any way regarding her hire – it seems to me they could have done a show on any college that had major sorts and the gist would be the same.
So I think what we are seeing from people much more familiar with her and her works in the past is overwhelmingly positive.
She appears to be a good fit in all respects for Pitt and I welcome her to the world of Pitt fandom also. She is aggressive and accomplished at in-fighting, with resulting consensus building, and that is what we need at Pitt. For too long we have had factions of Pitt athletics pulling apart rather than coming together.
Which is what Steve Pederson made his not so sterling reputation as doing – the pulling apart side that is. When you have the long-term mutual dislike and no respect for each other as Pederson and Dave Wannstedt had it bleeds out and infects the whole of the department. Paul Chryst then Scott Barnes inherited that mess and they both helped stabilized things. Now Heather Lyke can focus on moving the departmental relationships forward and strengthening them.
What is Job #1 for her now that she has her office furniture in place? Without a doubt it is athletic fundraising which is the most important job any athletic director has these days.
The Free Press revealed at the beginning of March, Lyke’s plans to spend $35 million to improve the campus athletic facilities. Athletic department officials have been quietly raising funds for the improvements and have $9 million of the total cost committed already pending board approval of the entire project. That amount includes $6 million from one, unnamed donor, which would be the largest cash gift ever given to the university. How the remainder would be funded hasn’t been determined yet.
In 2013 Pitt ranked #62 of the then 65 BCS schools in athletic revenue. Since then of course the NCAA created the FBS/FCS designations but the base info is about the same – Pitt lags woefully behind in athletic monies received.
Here is an excellent article by the Washington Post on the subject; note that Pitt was one of a few universities who did not to release the financial information.
That is because “as a state-related university, Pitt receives an annual, non-preferred financial appropriation from the state and offers discounted tuition to students who are Pennsylvania residents. In addition, Pitt’s Board of Trustees includes a minority of state-appointed representatives. Legally, however, state-related universities are separate and private entities, in contrast to state-owned schools. This public-private hybrid system of higher education is unique in the nation.
Which means they can tells us ‘None of your business‘ and keep the books closed.
That said there are some numbers out there for the latest 2015-2016 fiscal year that are somewhat surprising. These are official NCAA numbers thus public.
For example it costs over twice as much to field men’s BB as it does woman’s as seen at $940K for the ladies and $1,900K for the men.
I have to ask why that is. We play basically the same schools as the women do so traveling expenses are probably somewhat alike. But I’ll bet the big difference is in the quality and comfort of the players clubhouses. Maybe I’ll get a chance someday to find that out in person.
Here is the latest breakdown for Pitt’s male and female athlete participants… you can see that males outnumber the females by a 284 – 215 score.
Not keeping up with the Jones’ in the ‘public’ monies garnered by Pitt sports is why private donation fundraising is so damned important. Lyke’s getting $6 million from a single donor is damn impressive. I won’t hesitate to say Pitt hasn’t gotten that much from one person in the history of Pitt sports. Correct me if I am wrong with that but that is a ton of money for a small school folks.
The Pitt News ran a good article on this issue last year…
With the second-largest alumni base in the ACC, Pitt has potential for high donor engagement. But given Pitt’s 300,000 living alumni, athletic donations are meager — the University’s athletic donor engagement rate is the second lowest in the ACC, according to Pitt Athletics spokesperson E.J. Borghetti.
In 2015, 25,062 alumni donated a total of $29,260,124 to the University overall. Out of those 25,062 people, 8,000 donated to the athletic department.
The engagement rate was about 2.6 percent last year, close to half the average percentage for ACC donor engagement, Athletic Director Scott Barnes said at a town hall meeting in January. The number of alumni donors at Pitt has decreased every year since 2012, when 25,728 people donated to the University.
My last take on this hire. I like it. That said I give her a max of three years at Pitt before she moves on to greener pastures and goes for the bigger money. This hire, while good, is typical of Pitt’s financial intentions in that we hire someone withing our (low) budget then allow them to leave when we don’t match higher salary offers later on.
For all the mushy-talk about his having to get back to the West Coast for family reasons no one talked about the fact that he’ll be making at the very least around $400K more base salary there than he was here.
Given the fact that we are going to pay Lyke less than Barnes was getting (and we sure will) then don’t be surprised when the big offers come her way and she takes them.
Fans don’t like to hear this but it has been proven over and over again that Pitt is a resume’ building job for the majority of coaches and ADs hired here. Because of that, and because Pitt doesn’t have the incoming money other schools do, that is going to be a Pitt fact of life for some time.
She herself has to do the hard fundraising work toward making Pitt able to give herself the pay raise she deserves. If she does that, and does it well, she could make herself a rich woman.
Until then I am going to have an optimistic outlook that she has the chops to get things moving and done well in short order.
Well Heather, good luck, welcome aboard and go get those dollars!!!