Heather Lyke Leaving EMU (Good Riddance, IMO)

The Freep web site reports “Sources: Heather Lyke to leave Eastern Michigan to take Pitt AD job.” There are a couple of interesting tidbits in this article. First, the piece rehashes a lot of the ongoing controversies about spending and football at EMU. But second, it gives a bit more of a taste of what the plans for spending upwards of $35 Million on athletic stuff might look like:

The plans currently call for the outdoor track to be removed from around the football field. The existing soccer fields would be reoriented in direction and a new track placed around it.

The existing football building in the far end zone of Rynearson Stadium would be torn down. In its place would be a new 70,000-square-foot building that would have a turf field inside for the football and soccer teams to use. There would also be a 300-meter indoor track and improved weight room, big enough for entire teams to train at one time. The building would also allow the university to have nine or 10 suites facing the football stadium. The current 68 premium seats in the stadium are sold out. A new scoreboard would be added to the stadium.

A new 22,000-square-foot building for wrestling and gymnastics would also be built, allowing them to move out of Bowen Fieldhouse and Warner Gymnasium. That space would then be available for academic programs and intramural sports to use, most likely.

Sure, why not? The best thing EMU could spend money on right now is this nonsense, right? Oh, and the “improvements” to intramural athletics and things like the REC/IM are basically going to amount to letting students use these other spaces once the athletic programs move out.

I wrote a bit about Lyke in a blog post on my own site last May, “An Open Letter/Blog Post About Sports at EMU.” I was following up on an open letter from the administration about the HBO Sports story about the ridiculous amount of money being wasted at EMU (and similar places) on football and also about an interview Lyke did with Michigan Public Radio.  Just to quote myself a bit about Lyke here:

It turns out that the guy interviewing Lyke, Lester Graham, has a child attending EMU. At the 4:35 or so mark in that interview, Graham asks flat-out “how does my EMU student benefit” with EMU being in Division 1 athletics.

Lyke responds “What your student gets, you know… when you chose Eastern Michigan, and the time that they chose they knew they had division 1 athletics–”

“–not a factor,” Graham interrupts. “Was not a factor.”

Then Lyke, digging furiously, says something like “Correct, so it’s, um, it’s not a factor in wether or not they um they… you know, I would hope that that student find value in adding diversity to the, you know, landscape and the culture of the university. There are kids that have unbelievable talents in all sorts of things. We have an unbelievable forensics team, we have an unbelievable slam poetry team at Eastern Michigan, we have fabulous art…” and so forth.

Graham pointed out that none of these things have anything to do with support to the athletic department, and Lyke goes back to the earlier statement that we are not thinking about getting out of the MAC or football, full stop.

So yeah, I don’t see a great loss in leadership here. Goodness knows I don’t know how these kinds of hiring decisions are made, but hey, good luck, Pittsburgh.


5 thoughts on “Heather Lyke Leaving EMU (Good Riddance, IMO)

  1. In her presentation to AP staff, Heather was asked flat out what the ROI is for athletics spending at EMU. In other words, what financial benefits – either in “real” dollars or Goodwill – Eastern received for the hundreds of millions we’ve spent over the years. Crickets. She couldn’t answer what I would assume to be the fundamental, central question of all this “front porch” nonsense. If the U has no idea how this spending is directly benefitting our University, it should be unacceptable to keep repeating this BS of “athletics spending benefits us all.” That’s a guess based on the egotistical notion that we need to be featured on ESPN for “prestige.” How pathetic. I would challenge our administration to do the research to support these assumptions. Because that’s all it really is – a big bag of assumptions tied around EMU’s neck as the rest of the U drowns in aging buildings, lack of support staff, crumbling infrastructure and outdated technology. Now do a study which examines the impact of spending $25 million each year on staying ahead of the technology curve, building new facilities, adding new programs, updating infrastructure, and improving the very facilities students do care about when deciding where to attend college – rec/im, dorms, eateries, common areas, classrooms, the library, etc. Can any reasonable person assume the latter wouldn’t drastically out-perfom the former?


  2. We could save a lot of money by eliminating the role of Provost and AD and creating a new position of Chief Atheldemics Officer….


  3. When Lyke was hired by EMU, the AD position was given the new title of Vice President for Athletics. This title inflation was ill suited for the AD’s duties and was a title rare for MAC Athletic Directors. I hope EMU resets the job as an AD in title and duty; Heather was ill served by a title that implied she had responsibilities and comprehension of the broader university. Go eagles….


  4. Meanwhile, Student Affairs at EMU has an Associate Vice President (not a VP). Student Affairs provides student activities, diversity & inclusion efforts, disability services, health services, housing… which benefit a much larger portion of the student body. Why don’t we have a Vice President for Student Affairs?


    • Lorraine, good questions! EMU has a VP for student affairs until about 4 years ago when the Academic & Students divisions were merged, and all put under the Provost. This served some bureaucratic/political ends at the time, but in the long run, it ensures even less attention at The Top of the administration to student and academic affairs. The associate VP for student affairs remains in the hands of a nice guy, hired by the former provost that arranged the merger of divisions, but he lacks familiarity with EMU student culture and the campus generally, and he got where he is by never exhibiting Courage.
      I agree with you Lorraine — EMU students deserve a VP for student affairs!


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