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Ypsilanti — Eastern Michigan’s athletic department lost $52 million the last two years, and ranks last in Division 1 football attendance according to an HBO Sports investigation.

The report appeared during a “Real Sports” segment that aired Tuesday.

Eastern Michigan athletic director Heather Lyke, however, doesn’t know how HBO Sports came up with $52 million, especially since she said no reporters talked to her about the story.

“I’m not sure where those figures came in,” Lyke said Wednesday. “They didn’t ask to meet with me or talk to me so I don’t know where those loss numbers are.”

Lyke, however, said the university will remain Division 1 in all sports.

“You face the challenge with a strong belief in what you’re doing,” Lyke said. “I came to Eastern Michigan because I believe it’s a place where you can have great success. I believe in the people we’ve brought on board and I believe in our vision and I’ve certainly have been a part of longstanding success at other places (she was previously at Ohio State) so I know what it looks like and I know what it takes.

“There’s no question the competitiveness is not where we need it to be (for football), but again we believe in what we’re doing and we’re working really hard to make a change and it takes some time. We’re building it the right way as well. A winning season, there is no question it’s important and no question our coaches, student-athletes, incoming recruits are focused on it. What we’re looking for is progress.”

USA Today reported Eastern Michigan’s athletic department’s budget at $33.9 million, with 80 percent coming by the way of institutional support.

The low attendance at football games — the average was 4,896 last season — could, in part, be attributed to Eastern Michigan’s last winning season being 1995. The last time it won a Mid-American title or played in a bowl was 1987.

Mike Morris, chairman of the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents, agreed with Lyke on the state of the program.

An an Eastern Michigan alum, he said they will continue to play football at the Division 1 level regardless of what any other regent says.

“We have always asked the athletic department to do a better job of managing their own costs and raising their own funds and they continue to be good on both of those equations, but there has been no serious discussion whatsoever by the entirety of the board about moving to a Division II class in football,” Morris said.

“When you look at our athletic program, some of them are dominating the MAC, like track, both men and women, indoor and outdoor, the basketball teams have played well, the golf teams do well, swimming, both men and women. We’ve just been challenged in football for a long time.”

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

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