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Heather Lyke approached by Michigan State about AD job

Lyke: “I’m very happy at Pitt. ... I expect to stay here and hope to make that arrangement work.”

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke revealed on Friday that she had been in contact with Michigan State regarding the school’s open athletic director position. The role has been vacant since Aug. 5, when Bill Beekman stepped down from his post at East Lansing after three years on the job, but Lyke did not sound eager to move on from Pitt when questioned about the opportunity.

“I’m very happy at Pitt,” Lyke said, according to Craig Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m thrilled to work for Chancellor [Patrick] Gallagher, and I expect to stay here and hope to make that arrangement work.”

Lyke has served as Pitt’s athletic director since 2017 and has made a number of impactful changes during her tenure. She notably fired Kevin Stallings and replaced him with Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel in her most high-profile move to date. But she also brought on coaches like Mike Bell and Randy Waldrum, who have reinvigorated the baseball and women’s soccer teams, and extended volleyball coach Dan Fisher, football coach Pat Narduzzi and men’s soccer coach Jay Vidovich, all of whom have enjoyed some degree of postseason success at Pitt.

The Michigan State athletic director job has earned a reputation as a challenging role over the last few years for a number of reasons. Notably, Mark Dantonio resigned from his position as the school’s head football coach in 2020 amid allegations of multiple NCAA recruiting violations, and men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo has found himself under scrutiny for a variety of reasons over the last several years. But the school’s association with Larry Nassar, the former U.S. gymnastics team doctor and convicted sex offender, has been its most notable issue, and it brought about the abrupt retirement of former Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis in 2018.

Despite Michigan State’s tumultuous recent history, East Lansing could be an appealing destination for Lyke, who made a name for herself in the Wolverine State as Eastern Michigan’s athletic director from 2013 to 2017. In her four years in Ypsilanti, Lyke improved Eastern Michigan’s athletic facilities, and the Eagles won 17 MAC championships. Prior to that, Lyke attended Michigan as a student from 1988 to 1992 and went on to serve as an assistant athletic director at Ohio State. So her ties to the state and the Big Ten Conference are considerable to say the least.

It is unclear if a formal offer has been extended to Lyke, and she did not disclose any financial aspects of her discussion with Michigan State. However, Lyke made $805,125 in 2020 and $710,000 in 2019. And that compares favorably to the salary of Beekman as Michigan State’s athletic director, which was $750,000.

With all that said, Michigan State’s search for an athletic director is being conducted by Todd Turner and Collegiate Sports Associates, which is the same search firm Pitt hired to replace Jamie Dixon after he left for TCU in 2016. Turner and CSA came up with Stallings, one of the coaches Lyke fired, as the successor to Dixon, so whether or not they can land an athletic director of Lyke’s caliber remains to be seen. However, it will be a situation to monitor, as a change in leadership could present issues as Pitt attempts to improve its athletics.