PITTSBURGH—The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) announced that Pitt’s Heather Lyke has been named a recipient of the Cushman & Wakefield AD of the Year Award.
The award highlights the efforts of athletics directors for their commitment and positive contributions to student-athletes, campuses and their surrounding communities. Lyke was named one of four honorees representing the Football Bowl Subdivision, joining Mark Harlan (Utah), Jamie Pollard (Iowa State) and Gene Taylor (Kansas State).
Lyke will be recognized at the 58th Annual NACDA & Affiliates Convention on June 13 in Orlando, Fla.
“Heather’s driving vision is one of comprehensive excellence, and this well-deserved award recognizes her success in transforming this ambitious vision into reality,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “She has raised the bar for University of Pittsburgh athletics, student-athletes and athletics staff, and the results truly speak for themselves. Team Pitt—already counting her as a star—is incredibly proud to see Heather honored by her peers in this way, and we wish her a heartfelt congratulations!”
“It is more than humbling to be recognized along with some extraordinary colleagues,” Lyke said. “This honor is the result of an outstanding team of people in Pitt Athletics who make great decisions and work hard every day to help our coaches and student-athletes have success. It is truly a privilege to lead Pitt Athletics and this award also represents the exceptional belief and confidence of our coaches, student-athletes and staff.”
This is the latest national recognition for Lyke, who is concluding her sixth year at the University of Pittsburgh. She previously was named a finalist for the Sports Business Journal Athletic Director of the Year award. The winner of the SBJ honor will be announced on May 24.
Under Lyke’s direction, Pitt Athletics is enjoying a new golden age. The Panthers are achieving at unprecedented levels in the competitive arena, classroom and community.
The 2022-23 athletics year will long be remembered as one of the most exciting—and accomplished—in Pitt history.
· Football defeated UCLA in the Sun Bowl and earned back-to-back Top 25 finishes for the first time since 1982-83.
· Men’s soccer advanced to the College Cup for the second time in three seasons.
· Volleyball advanced to its second consecutive Final Four, firmly establishing the Panthers as a national power.
· Women’s soccer made its first NCAA Tournament appearance and earned a Sweet 16 berth.
· Men’s basketball returned to March Madness, winning multiple NCAA Tournament games for the first time since 2009.
· Wrestler Nino Bonaccorsi won the NCAA 197-pound championship, becoming Pitt’s first individual wrestling national champion since 2008.
· Ilse Steigenga was a first team All-American in the indoor long jump, becoming the first Pitt woman to earn such stature in that event since Panthers’ Hall of Famer Trecia-Kaye Smith in 1999.
· Men’s cross country was represented at the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1994.
· This past weekend, men’s swimming and diving had its largest representation ever at the NCAA Championships—12 competitors—and placed 33rd nationally.
The Panthers also continue to score important victories off the field. Seventeen of Pitt’s 19 programs finished the fall semester with a 3.0 team grade-point average or better. Moreover, Pitt Athletics ranked No. 2 among all NCAA schools in the Teamworks Community Service Standings.
Enthusiasm is also being generated by ambitious capital projects, including “Victory Heights,” a series of state-of-the-art athletics facilities that will provide 16 of Pitt’s 19 teams with national-caliber competition, training, sports performance and sports medicine facilities.
Construction has already begun on a 3,000-seat arena for gymnastics, volleyball and wrestling, as well as a sports performance center that will serve 16 teams and the Spirit Squads.
Generating resources and support for Pitt Athletics has been a major priority for Lyke’s administration. Those efforts produced a record $40 million raised during the 2021-22 fiscal year. That total included a historic $20 million gift from 1997 alumnus Chris Bickell, the largest single donation in Pitt Athletics history.
Bickell’s gift was the latest monumental donation received during Lyke’s tenure. Previously, former Pitt All-American Aaron Donald, who now stars for the Los Angeles Rams, made a seven-figure financial commitment to the Pitt Football Championship Fund, the largest donation ever by a Pitt football letterman to the program.
Lyke’s leadership has been crucial for Pitt in a quickly changing collegiate athletics landscape. This has been especially evident in the realm of Name, Image, Likeness (NIL). Upon the new NCAA legislation taking effect, Lyke launched the Pitt NIL Program, an innovative initiative designed to equip Pitt’s student-athletes with the knowledge and resources necessary to maximize their personal brand, platform and opportunities.
Pitt Athletics recently unveiled a five-year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic plan—Panthers United—aimed at fostering an inclusive environment for its student-athletes, coaches and staff. The strategic plan includes five areas of focus: recruitment and hiring; retention, development and success; a culture of belonging; positively impacting the community; and raising awareness and celebrating Pitt’s DEI efforts.
Prior to Pitt, Lyke served as vice president and director of athletics at Eastern Michigan from 2013-17. She additionally held ranking athletic administrator posts at Ohio State and Cincinnati.
Lyke is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Akron School of Law. She and her husband David have three children: Elle, Sophie and Eli.
Source/Image: E.J. Borghetti/Pitt Athletics