EMU AD Heather Lyke leaving for Pittsburgh

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Two Mid-American Conference rivals could be doing some battle off the field in the coming days.

Eastern Michigan is losing its athletic director, Heather Lyke, to the same position at Pittsburgh, both schools announced Monday afternoon.

Central Michigan already is searching for a new AD, after Dave Heeke was named the new athletic director at Arizona late last month.

Lyke will leave Eastern Michigan in a week.

Heeke, meanwhile, is winding down his final days in Mount Pleasant, and Central Michigan has named a 16-person search committee —- headlined by football coach John Bonamego and NFL star Antonio Brown —- to pick his replacement, rather than paying for a national search firm.

Heeke was at Central Michigan for more than a decade.

Lyke’s stint at Eastern Michigan was significantly shorter, as she was hired in 2013, after more than a decade in Ohio State’s athletic department.

"Heather Lyke has done a tremendous job for Eastern Michigan University and our athletics department," Eastern president James Smith said in a statement. "I wish here continued success in the future."

Lyke was identified by reports over the weekend as one of two known candidates to replace Scott Barnes at Pittsburgh.

Barnes left in December to be athletic director at Oregon State.

"There is no better time to be at EMU than right now," Lyke said in a statement. "Eastern Michigan University is a truly special place and this has been one of the most successful and transformational times in school history.

"I want to thank everyone had had a part in building our championship culture."

Lyke faced her fair share of challenges in Ypsilanti, especially last summer, when national news reports took direct aim at the long-awful Eastern Michigan football program and its ugly balance sheet, heavily subsidized by student tuition dollars.

Still, amid calls from some on campus and in the media to cut the program or at least drop to Division II, Lyke said no, and the university strongly supported her. The school then recently announced plans to upgrade athletic facilities, including building a new, lavish football practice facility.

This comes after Eastern Michigan’s football team went out this season and had its first winning season since 1995, and made its first bowl game since the 1987 California bowl. It finished 7-6 after losing in the Bahamas Bowl.

Lyke hired the current football coach, Chris Creighton

At Pittsburgh, she’ll be in a much more high-profile position, working in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"Heather Lyke's track record exemplifies her dedication to student-athletes," Pittsburgh chancellor Patrick Gallagher said in a statement. "I am thrilled to welcome her and her family to Pitt."

Like at Eastern Michigan, Lyke will be the first female athletic director at Pittsburgh.

Lyke, who earned a bachelor’s from Michigan and is a former Wolverines softball player, has been up for other jobs before, including, most recently, Missouri. In the past, she’s also worked at the University of Cincinnati, the NCAA and the Big Ten Network.

She earned a base salary of $245,000 at Eastern in a contract that was to run through 2020. She also had several bonus clauses, but no buyout clause, nor is there a requirement for her to submit any specific length of notice if leaving for another job.

Lyke and her husband, David Catalano, have three children, Elle, Sophie and Eli.

Eastern Michigan didn't announce an interim athletic director, nor a search procedure or timetable for a replacement.