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Great Expectations Heather Lyke brings new approach to EMU athletics

to keep the focus on the simple reason the athletic department exists to begin with: the student-athlete. T is approach comes naturally for Lyke,


the new athletic director for Eastern Michi- gan University. She understands the chal- lenges and rewards for students competing in Division I athletics because she lived that life as a soſt ball player on scholarship at the University of Michigan in the early 1990s. While she was earning her bachelor’s de- gree in education, she was a four-year let er- winner, a two-time team captain, a Big Ten champion and an academic all-conference selection. Lyke says her student-athlete experi-

ences are a touchstone for her approach as an athletics administrator. She believes successful athletic departments create a comprehensive support network for their student-athletes, but they also emphasize the importance of personal responsibility for the students. “You’re a product of this environment.

You’re a product of the academic expecta- tions that are placed upon you, and the athletic expectations, the expectations as a person and (for the university) you repre- sent,” she says. “And so I talk to our student- athletes a lot about that importance. I walked in their shoes. I have a whole lot of respect for what they are able to do. But I also (tell them that) there are only so many kids that get the opportunity to play at this

6 Eastern | FALL 2013

n an era when college sports are a com- plex mix of big budgets, big facilities and big donors, Heather Lyke prefers

level, at Division I, and they are among a very select few. And with that comes great responsibility and great expectations.” Great expectations also apply to Lyke,

who started at EMU on July 22 aſt er a glow- ing recommendation by a campus search commit ee that reviewed more than 80 applicants to replace Derrick Gragg, who leſt for the University of Tulsa last spring. In announcing Lyke’s hiring as vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics, EMU President Susan Martin says she talked to leaders of college athlet- ics around the country. “Everyone raved about her commu- nication skills, how bright she was, her experience with faculty in develop- ing curriculum, fundraising, construction projects, oversight of the golf course, hiring and fi ring coaches. And all strongly felt she was ready to lead as athletic director,” Martin says. Among those who recommended Lyke,

Martin says, was Gene Smith, the former EMU athletic director who now holds that position at Ohio State University. Lyke

worked for the last 15 years in various as- sociate athletic director roles at OSU, which is regularly cited as one of the top three athletic departments nationally in terms of size, budget and prestige. “Gene Smith talked about how great

she is at evaluating talent, her presence, her organizational skills, how great she is with people,” Martin says. “And given his knowl- edge of Eastern, he thinks she’s a perfect fi t.” Most recently at OSU, Lyke was a mem-

The Heather Lyke File • Intern for the NCAA, 1995-96.

• Bachelor’s degree in education, University of Michigan, 1992. Four- year scholarship softball player.

• Juris Doctorate, University of Akron Law School, 1995.

• University of Cincinnati assistant athletic director, 1996-98.

• Senior Associate Athletic Director (and other positions), Ohio State University, 1998-2013.

• Family: Husband David Catalano and children Elle, Sophie and Eli.

ber of the athletic department’s executive team and oversaw 10 of the university’s 36 athletic programs. She was responsible for the assessment, design and development of the department’s strategic plan, as well as budget oversight, revenue generation and facilities. Lyke, who has a law degree, pre- viously worked for the NCAA for a year in rules compliance. She also dealt with NCAA compliance for the University of Cincinnati before moving to OSU, where she also served on various Big Ten and NCAA commit- tees. Francine Parker,

chair of the EMU Board of Regents, cited that breadth of

experience in endorsing Lyke’s selection. “Eastern Michigan University Athlet-

ics is defi ned by success on the fi eld, in the classroom and the overall well-being of our student athletes. Heather Lyke’s back- ground and experience in athletics admin- istration, as a compliance offi cer and as a student-athlete, ensures Eastern’s focus on the entire student-athlete experience will remain a top priority.”

Photograph by Lynn Monson

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