News

March 20, 2017

EMU ATHLETICS: Pittsburgh names Heather Lyke as its new athletic director

Lyke had led Eastern Michigan's athletic department since 2013
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The Eagles won 17 MAC Championships during Heather Lyke's tenure as vice president and director of athletics from 2013-2017.

YPSILANTI --  (EMUEagles.com) — Champions Built Here has been more than an athletics mantra during Heather Lyke's tenure as Eastern Michigan University's Vice President and Director of Athletics, as it has defined a new era for the department.  On Monday, March 20, Lyke announced she will depart the University after accepting the position of director of athletics at the University of Pittsburgh. Her final day at EMU will be Monday, March 27.

"Heather Lyke has done a tremendous job for Eastern Michigan University and our Athletics Department," said Eastern Michigan University President James M. Smith. "Her outstanding  leadership at Eastern has been demonstrated in many ways. Those include building the foundation for the improvement of our football program, along with the outstanding work of Coach Creighton and his coaches; her work leading our other programs and the many Mid-American Conference Championships achieved since her arrival; the strong academic success of our student-athletes; and the growth in revenues and fundraising generated by the Athletics Department and the development of the Champions Advisory Board. I wish her much continued success in the future"

Lyke was introduced to the Pittsburgh community during a news conference this afternoon.

"There is no better time to be at EMU than right now," said Lyke. "Eastern Michigan University is a truly special place and this has been one of the most successful and transformational times in school history. EMU Athletics is in position for sustained success. Our fantastic student-athletes, coaches, and staff are the real reason for our success, and I want to thank everyone who had a part in building our championship culture."

"The opportunity to work in a Power Five conference, and at an institution that is 90-minutes away from her family, represents a logical personal and professional move for Heather," Smith added. "She will remain with Eastern through next Monday. We will name an interim Director of Athletics before her departure and will launch a national search for her replacement. All ongoing programs and initiatives currently underway in Athletics will remain in our plans and continue to move forward, allowing such time as necessary for a new athletic director to be brought on board to lead these initiatives in the future."

Lyke, the 13th athletic director in Eastern Michigan history, oversaw the Mid-American Conference's most comprehensive and one of its most successful collegiate athletics programs. The department sponsors 21 fully-funded varsity sports with more than 500+ student-athletes who have won the most conference championships, 139, since joining the MAC in 1973, regularly competing for league championships and NCAA Championship selection.
 
With a firm commitment to student-athlete experience and comprehensive excellence, Lyke set about raising the bar for the MAC's most dominant athletic program. Under her leadership, EMU Athletics hired 10 head coaches, including Head Football Coach Chris Creighton, and 13 key administrators. During her nearly four year tenure, EMU coaches and staff have won 19 MAC Coach of the Year Awards, one National Coach of the Year Award, and mentored 17 MAC Team Champions, 21 MAC Players of the Year, 91 MAC individual champions, 248 All-MAC student-athletes, and 389 Academic All-MAC honorees.
 
Lyke's unwavering emphasis on academic achievement has supported student-athletes who have broken and re-broken EMU academic records under her watch. In 2013-14, EMU student-athletes turned in a then all-time high overall GPA of 3.159 in the fall, and followed it up with the second highest all-time GPA (3.145) in the winter. 67 student-athletes earned 4.0 GPAs during at least one term and 68 percent of all student-athletes had a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. EMU's Graduation Success Rate of 77 percent and Federal Graduation Rate of 61 percent were also both new EMU records.

Not to be outdone, the 2014-15 EMU fall student-athlete GPA of 3.242 set another all-time record, only to be bested once more when the winter GPA registered at 3.259. The academic year included 73 percent of all student-athletes, and 16 of 21 teams, achieving a GPA over 3.0. An astonishing 67 student-athletes achieved a 4.0 GPA during at least one term for the second year in row. EMU also held steady at its record 61 percent Federal Graduation rate and achieved its second highest ever Graduation Success Rate of 75 percent.
 
2015-16 was distinguished by the number 81, with a record 81 student-athletes who earned a 4.0 semester GPA and a new record Graduation Success Rate of 81 percent. EMU's 178 Academic All-MAC selections were the most in the league by 37 over the next closest school.

However, the fall 2016 semester has proven to be the most decorated in Lyke's tenure and EMU Athletics history. EMU student-athletes achieved the highest term GPA (3.238) and cumulative GPA (3.266) in Athletic Department history, led by 46 student-athletes who earned a 4.0 GPA. Five teams also set program records for GPA, including football, who broke their team GPA record in the classroom while they secured the university's first bowl invitation in 29 years on the field.

Lyke is fond of saying great coaches and student-athletes need great teaching environments, and she has wasted no time spearheading a number of necessary  capital upgrades, including: substantial completion of the EMU rowing boathouse, ADA improvements and restrooms at softball's Varsity Field, bleachers and an ADA walkway at soccer's Scicluna Field, a new Daktronics scoreboard, bleacher motors and electrical upgrades at swimming's Jones Natatorium, new football turf field, new basketball and volleyball practice court, basket stanchions, ceiling and electrical upgrades (basketball and volleyball), remodeling and design of the EMU nutrition/fueling station, renovation of the gymnastics practice gym, renovation of the men's and women's basketball locker rooms, new loge seating and renovation to the athletic suite for football donors in Rynearson Stadium, a new baseball turf infield, upgraded scoreboard and outfield fence at Oestrike Stadium and a complete interior re-branding of the Convocation Center atrium, office suites, hallways and Eagles Nest suite with the Champions Built Here theme.  
 
During the spring of 2015, she and her administrative team also began designing the future of the EMU Athletics footprint. EMU Athletics contracted with construction design firm, AECOM, to create a Championship Building Plan, which set forth the vision and priority plan for all facility improvements in the next five years.
 
Lyke's penchant for facility trend-setting and creative branding was on full display almost immediately with the installation of college football's first gray Revolution Field Turf football field in 2014. As phase one of a comprehensive branding plan for EMU Football and Rynearson Stadium, the new turf received immediate recognition, as a USA Today fan vote ranked EMU's new field No. 2 in the nation behind only the University of Tennessee.
 
With a field designed for players 'tough enough to play on a parking lot,' Lyke and her team have embraced Southeast Michigan's blue collar roots and automotive history, inspiring an organic re-branding of Rynearson Stadium to become "The Factory." This comprehensive campaign included Factory signage upgrades throughout the stadium, a re-design of the football team's student-athlete lounge, Factory driven merchandise options, and in-game elements. The campaign was emboldened by the ever-present slogan 'Champions Built Here.' Now a fixture throughout EMU facilities, social media, and marketing materials, Champions Built Here aggressively pronounces that at EMU, and in "The Factory", we build champions on the field, in the classroom, and in life.  
 
In just the fourth year of her tenure, Champions were built at Rynearson Stadium as Eastern Michigan's football program finished the regular season 7-5 and received an invitation to the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, EMU's first bowl invitation in 29 years.  The team defeated two schools that played in their respective conference championship games and set school records for total offense, passing yards, total points, and touchdown passes. All the while, the team led the MAC in team GPA for the second consecutive year, and the fans came out to watch, with a 100 percent increase in total season ticket growth from 2014 to 2016.
 
It takes champions to build champions, and from day one Lyke set about upgrading the business model of Eastern Michigan Athletics. Just a few of the companies that have developed first-ever partnerships with EMU during Lyke's fouryear tenure include: IMG, Learfield Licensing, Aspire, Follett, Fanatics, and Google. She has also re-negotiated pouring rights and apparel contracts with Pepsi and adidas that position EMU's agreements as some of the most lucrative competitive in the MAC.
 
Lyke's resource development focus also led to the creation of two critical groups already making major contributions to the future of the department. Eagles Pride was founded in 2014, complete with benefit structure, renewal process, and a dedicated website to encourage enrollment. The fund is committed to providing financial support for all EMU teams and providing donors a platform to impact EMU Athletics and its student-athletes. This vision for engagement has yielded record breaking numbers in fiscal year 2016 with both the most cash received and most donors in EMU history.  Total donations received have increased 45 percent over fiscal year 2015 and number of donors has increased by 21 percent.  Fiscal year 2017 has started strong as well, with Athletics accounting for 64 percent of all University cash and pledges to date.  Total donations received this year have increased by 52 percent, already ahead of  fiscal year 2016.  Lastly, Lyke has also inspired her staff to lead by giving with three straight years of 100 percent participation in an Athletics Staff 'All-In' campaign to give back.

2015 also saw Lyke's recruitment of the EMU Champions Advisory Board. This group of 17 stakeholders plays a number of key roles for EMU Athletics as ambassadors, advocates, advisors, and major donors to the department. The group is currently engaged and invested in the master Championship Building Facility Plan process.
 
Lyke's ability to build relationships has also extended into the Ypsilanti and Southeast Michigan community. With her undergraduate degree in education and a passion for reading, Lyke immediately set about establishing EMU Athletics as a key partner with the 2nd and 7 Foundation, whose goal is to "tackle illiteracy" by having student-athletes visit, deliver books, and read to second grade classrooms. In total, EMU averaged better than 10 community service hours per student-athlete in 2014-15 and 2015-16 with 5000+ hours of service performed. In 2014-15 she also served as Chair of the Washtenaw County American Heart Association Heartwalk, setting a university record for fundraised dollars and registered walkers. Lyke has also reached out to some of Detroit's most underfunded neighborhoods and schools by striking a long-term partnership with buildOn, a program for inner city youth to overcome the cycle of poverty through community service leadership.
 
The vision for EMU Athletics success was solidified in 2015 with the implementation of 'The Blueprint', EMU Athletics first strategic plan. With an emphasis on practicality and accountability Lyke designed the six 'Pillars' that guide the Athletic Department's values, then bolstered the department's measurable success with the 'Cornerstones,' a set of quantifiable goals by which the department measures itself annually. A truly living document, EMU coaches and staff literally walk past the Blue Print's key concepts each day at work, as they were incorporated into the EMU Convocation Center's graphic re-design in 2015.

An ardent proponent of growing the profession, Lyke is a sought after national speaker, presenter and leader in the business of college athletics. In 2014, she became the first woman ever to chair the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Committee, and led the Mid-American Conference as chair of their Cost of Attendance Task Force. She is an active member of the NACWAA Board of Directors, Girl Scouts, Heart of Michigan Board of Directors, and the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Convention and Visitors Bureau Sports Commission.
 
Lyke came to EMU after working for 15 years at The Ohio State University, where she was a member of the athletic department's executive team and responsible for the assessment, design and development of the department's strategic plan. She directly oversaw 10 of OSU's 36 athletic programs and managed/supervised 31 full-time coaches and staff. She also had oversight over all facets of the athletic councils involving budget oversight, revenue generation, and facilities, as well as the golf course operations. Additionally, she supervised the sport performance division of the department, which includes the strength and conditioning coaches, athletic training staff and sports medicine staff. In 2013, she developed the first ever student-athlete internship program within the Department of Athletics, 'Bucks Go Pro.'

Her previous roles at OSU included associate athletic director for sport administration (2002-12) and associate athletic director for sport administration, compliance, and camp operations (1998-02). Prior to Ohio State, Lyke was at the University of Cincinnati for two years, serving as the assistant athletic director for compliance, as well as the senior woman administrator. Lyke began her athletics administrative career at the NCAA national office as an intern in the enforcement and student-athlete reinstatement department. She also has worked for the Big Ten Network as an analyst for softball games for five years.

Lyke grew up in Canton, Ohio, and attended the University of Michigan on a softball scholarship. While at U-M, she was a four-year letter winner as a first baseman, two-time team captain, Big Ten champion, and Academic All-Big Ten honoree.  She earned a Bachelor's of Science in Education from University of Michigan and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Akron School of Law. She was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1995.

Lyke and her husband, David Catalano, have three children, Elle, Sophie, and Eli.

About Eastern Michigan University Athletics
Eastern Michigan University has been a member of the Mid-American Conference since 1971 and has been among the league's most successful members. The Division I program boasts 139 MAC team championships, the most of any team in the league during that span. EMU's varsity intercollegiate program features 21 different sports, nine men's teams and 12 women's teams, the program employs more than 70 full-time staff, and supports more than 500 student-athletes. Eastern Michigan, which has had a representative at every summer Olympics since 1960, has  won 15 team national championships and 54 individual national titles since 1932.

Eastern Michigan University Athletic Directors Through the Years
Wilbur Bowen - 1903-28
Joseph McCulloch 1931-47
Elton Rynearson 1948-63
Dr. Keith Bowen - 1963-66
F.L. "Frosty" Ferzacca - 1966-73
Dr. Albert E. Smith - 1975-76
Alex Agase - 1977-82
Paul Shoults - 1982-86
Gene Smith - 1986-93
Tim Weiser - 1993-97
Carole Huston (Interim) 1997-99
Dr. David Diles - 1999-05
Bob England (Interim) - 2005-06
Dr. Derrick Gragg - 2006-13
Dr. Melody Reifel Werner (Interim) - 2013
Heather Lyke - 2013-17

Contact Geoff Larcom, glarcom@emich.edu, 734.487.4401

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