Podcast Alert: Heather Lyke – University of Pittsburgh
WP_User Object ( [data] => stdClass Object ( [ID] => 12 [user_login] => Navigate [user_pass] => $P$BpPAtnWWup46VpMPm.BNZjg5NitVph. [user_nicename] => navigate [user_email] => Info@nvgt.com [user_url] => [user_registered] => 2020-07-29 19:21:52 [user_activation_key] => [user_status] => 0 [display_name] => Navigate [type] => wpuser ) [ID] => 12 [caps] => Array ( [editor] => 1 ) [cap_key] => n2v1t_capabilities [roles] => Array (  => editor ) [allcaps] => Array ( [moderate_comments] => 1 [manage_categories] => 1 [manage_links] => 1 [upload_files] => 1 [unfiltered_html] => 1 [edit_posts] => 1 [edit_others_posts] => 1 [edit_published_posts] => 1 [publish_posts] => 1 [edit_pages] => 1 [read] => 1 [level_7] => 1 [level_6] => 1 [level_5] => 1 [level_4] => 1 [level_3] => 1 [level_2] => 1 [level_1] => 1 [level_0] => 1 [edit_others_pages] => 1 [edit_published_pages] => 1 [publish_pages] => 1 [delete_pages] => 1 [delete_others_pages] => 1 [delete_published_pages] => 1 [delete_posts] => 1 [delete_others_posts] => 1 [delete_published_posts] => 1 [delete_private_posts] => 1 [edit_private_posts] => 1 [read_private_posts] => 1 [delete_private_pages] => 1 [edit_private_pages] => 1 [read_private_pages] => 1 [manage_podcast] => 1 [wpseo_bulk_edit] => 1 [wpseo_edit_advanced_metadata] => 1 [editor] => 1 ) [filter] => [site_id:WP_User:private] => 1 )
Heather Lyke – Director of Athletics at the University of Pittsburgh – breaks down the current landscape in collegiate athletics. She explains why the ACC’s combination of strong academics, as well as athletics, positions them to compete nationally despite the larger budgets found in the SEC and Big Ten.
- 4:10 – Heather’s experience as a student-athlete at the University of Michigan
- 8:30 – NCAA rule changes
- 19:00 – Heather’s time at Ohio State
- 27:40 – Rapid Fire Questions
Heather Lyke: [00:00:00] Student-athletes by nature learn the ability to balance all the demands, to manage school, to manage their sport, to figure out how to do it all. And I think that skillset will take them far in life. I think it’s an extraordinary experience that they get a lot out of.
AJ Maestas: Hello and welcome to the Navigating Sports Business Podcast. I’m your host, AJ Maestes, Founder of Navigate, a data-driven consulting firm, guiding major strategies and decisions in sports and entertainment. We started this podcast hoping to share the interesting stories and experiences of the amazing people we get to work with at Navigate.
And even though they’re visionaries [00:01:00] and famous, in many instances, their true stories aren’t often heard. Since they’re not on the playing field, our hope is you get to know them better and learn from them as we have.
Today I’m happy to be joined by Heather Lyke, Director of Athletics at the University of Pittsburgh. How are you doing Heather?
Heather Lyke: I’m doing great. How are you AJ?
AJ Maestas: Good, very good, life and everything is better than I deserve, that’s for sure. Do you remember how we first met?
Heather Lyke: Gosh, I think it was back at Ohio State, decades ago now.
You look the same. I’m not sure. I think we met you know, through a project that you were working with us at Ohio State at the time.
AJ Maestas: Yeah. The name I was fishing for was our mutual friend, Jeff Kaplan.
And I love the way he introduced you. He said you’re working with Ohio State Athletics and you haven’t met Heather Lyke?
She’s the next big thing. She’s gonna be an AD at a giant university. By the way, this is Gordon Gee’s right hand man, number two at Ohio State. He served in significant political [00:02:00] roles in the state of Ohio, played football at Yale himself, he’s one of those exceptionally impressive executives that I’m fortunate to call a friend.
But yeah, he had never said this about anyone before or after. He said, you must meet this person. This person’s the future. You’re so lucky that you’re in Columbus at the same time she is. And my wife was working in Columbus at the time, so I used to spend a bunch of time there. So anyway, shout out to our friend Jeff Kaplan.
And he’s still avid. You know, he still loves talking about the state of college athletics. Still involved at Ohio State, believe it or not.,
Heather Lyke: Absolutely. No, he’s a special one. It’s funny, I totally forgot that original connection because there’s been so many people that I’ve come across that have been connected to Jeff as well.
So, you know, I think in the world of college athletics, it always feels like one degree of separation as opposed to seven degrees of separation. No, that’s great. I appreciate the recall.
AJ Maestas: Well, for our friends listening, there’s this really cool exercise. I think it was in Tipping Point, or maybe it was in, I can’t remember the book.
I think it was a Malcolm Gladwell book, but in the back of it, they had you do this exercise. They [00:03:00] said, on one column, in a spreadsheet, write down your 40 most important friends or loved ones or clients, or whatever subject it is you wanna cover. And then only after you’ve written that list are you revealed that you’re supposed to write in the next column next to it not the person who’s a mutual good friend of that person, but the person who made the original introduction. Cause sometimes that person makes introduction and then fades outta your life. Right? Or they only pop in, you know, with leads for you as an example. But you know, you’re not in day to day contact and inevitably two or three people dominate that list.
And so let’s call that Jeff Kaplan as one of those people. It’s crazy. You know, we worked with Syracuse on their stadium renovation work and he was consulting with the president there and he’s so well respected in the world of collegiate athletics, but as an administrator of which virtually no one knows who he is in our world, right In the sports world.
But anyway, good exercise for our friends who are listening to do, to kind of remind yourself of who is that little angel in your life, or who are those two or three people that are always there for you, even when you haven’t spoken to them in years. [00:04:00] So more about you. You were a student athlete yourself.
Two time captain, Big Ten champion with Michigan softball. I would love to have sort of your perspective sitting in the top seat now, running in an athletic department and multiple athletic departments in your career. When you look back, I mean, how does that frame what you do having been a student athlete?
Heather Lyke: You know, you’re a product of the industry that you work in.
Right. And I think the most important lesson I probably learned from my coach. Carol Hutchins, who retired this year. I think she coached 39 years at Michigan. She’s the winningist softball coach in NCAA softball history. She’s the winninggnest coach in Michigan history, and I think what I took away from the experience, not just all the good competitive lessons you learn and you know, just athletically what she taught me, but most importantly, she loved what she did for a living.
She absolutely loved it. She loved coaching and teaching the game of softball to college student athletes. And she loved being at Michigan. So I knew I didn’t wanna coach, but [00:05:00] I thought to myself if I could ever have a career that I love as much as Hutch loves coaching softball, that would be meaningful. So I think that’s the biggest lesson I took away from that experience.
And, you know, being able to provide student athletes with the kind of experience I had at Michigan is something you aspire to do every day. And we work hard at it. And you know, I just want our student athletes to have a lot of takeaways, have a meaningful experience, and have one of the most extraordinary experiences in their life, really. Not THE most extraordinary because I want ’em to go on and do great things. But up until this point, I hope a student athlete at Pitt is one of the most extraordinary experiences in their life.
AJ Maestas: That is impressive by the way that she holds that record for wins in the north. You know, you just look at softball and it’s all in the west and south and there’s just, there’s a reality of climate and I did not know that about her, but that is very impressive.
Sticking with athletes for just a second and thinking about that, do you think we’re being fair to them when you think about their time demands? You know, now with name, image, and likeness, you think of the free transfer policy, [00:06:00] which is giving power and choice back to those athletes, but you know what that schedule’s like.
And Michigan is an excellent academic university. Balancing those things is no joke. Do you think we’re being fair to ’em? How do you feel that the experience is today versus, you know, our time?
Heather Lyke: Yeah, I absolutely do. I think the lessons that they learn will take them so far in life. You know, I kind of approach every day, it’s like a suitcase. How much can you pack in it, right? Like I don’t wake up and go like, I have two things to do today. It’s like, yeah. You know, it’s like how many things can you get done? And I think as a student athlete, that’s sort of a programmed structure that you create.
You can kind of quote, waste a lot of time. If I don’t have anything planned in a given day, you can waste a lot of time. So I think student athletes by nature, learn that skillset, learn the ability to balance all the demands, to manage school, to manage their sport, to have a schedule, to pack it in, to figure out how to do it all.
And I think that skill set will take them far in life because they’re gonna [00:07:00] be able to manage a lot of responsibilities in their careers. I think they’re gonna have great expectations on themselves and their careers. I think it’s an extraordinary experience that they get a lot out of. There’s no question they put a lot into it, but they do get a lot out of it. I think at the end of the day when they finish their eligibility and graduate, or, you know, go on and do whatever it is that they aspire to do.
AJ Maestas: Like that. You know, that is true in real life, you’re gonna win and lose, right? In real life, if you’re doing anything useful with your life, you’re gonna be busy and you’re gonna have more options than time.
So I like that. There’s a book I read last year, what Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Marshall Goldsmith, I’m pretty sure is that, have you read that one too? But I believe there’s a portion there talking about high expectations for employees and that people actually appreciate that, you know, they want to grow, they wanna rise to the occasion.
If there’s no expectations set on anybody and it’s easy, then people move on. You know, they’re not inspired, so it might not be a bad thing, I guess. To have all those demands. Cause it is true. There’s all these stats I’ve shared so many times on this podcast. I won’t repeat ’em now, but [00:08:00] for student athletes and what they go and do in their life, if you could only isolate that and understand if they hadn’t learned that lesson at such a young age.
Well, I’ve asked too many people about this because we’ve had so many collegiate guests in the last year with all the crazy things going on in college athletics. But I would love your perspective on transfer policy, name, image, and likeness, realignment, all these crazy things that are going on. How do you feel about it?
Do you think we’re doing the right thing?
Heather Lyke: I think big picture. I think the whole world and, and I say that very, you know, with probably quotes, but I think everybody loves the concept about college sports. There’s a reason why, you know, it’s valued at what it is. There’s a reason why it has continued for a hundred plus years and obviously for women, not as long, but it certainly has such great attributes.
It’s a part of the collegiate fabric. Athletics becomes this piece of pride for your university. Kids are going to school, they’re having the chance to continue on in their [00:09:00] athletic careers. So I think all of it is on the big overarching thing, I think we wanna preserve the best of the best about what college sports is.
Do we need to modernize a little bit and create a little bit more flexibility? That’s fine. You know, the transfer portal. I just think it became, I mean, I’m all supportive of it, I just think it became a little bit too vogue, if you will, and maybe I say that word in a, you know, or it became like a, you know, we call it the portal, like it . Became a thing, and obviously for all the sports you were always allowed to transfer except for, football, men’s and women’s basketball and hockey and baseball.
So when we changed that, again, this concept about, you know, transferring and immediate eligibility that existed for many, many sports. The only thing I don’t love about it is a potential, what does it teach student athletes about the concept about stick-to-it-iveness you know, I mean, life is hard and it’s not meant for, it’s challenging, I should say.
There’s [00:10:00] always constant challenges, and so if the minute it gets tough or challenging, we run and think that things are always better at another location. I’m not sure that that’s the right lesson to learn. There are certainly good reasons to make decisions to transfer. Absolutely. And that’s okay.
But I just don’t want it to become in vogue like it is what happens. I think that there’s a sense of earning your spot, and sometimes maybe we set them up. I mean, if you think about it, the best athletes in the country have done everything, have been all-everything their whole life. I mean, you know, I don’t wanna say I was one of them, but you know, I won state championships, I played everything that I ever did, I was good at.
AJ Maestas: State champion, all Big Ten academic, four-year letter winner.
Heather Lyke: It just became, it just became natural, right? So as a freshman, you go into a new setting. With a new coach and new teammates and you are not starting, like what? Like I’ve never not been picked first, [00:11:00] like it’s never happened in my life.
And the senior, All American was starting in front of me in my position. I played first base. And so, what do you mean I’m not gonna start? Like I wasn’t gonna start. And so how do you manage that? How do you deal with that? How do you work through life isn’t perfect, you know? Or like you have some adversity.
And also how do you learn from the person above you? I mean, if you take the first job, you’re not the CEO, right? So you’ve got to learn your way and take the best traits of the people that are around you versus like, I could have said like, look, I wanna go somewhere, I’m playing, like instantly.
I don’t know. I, I think it’s a journey. I think it’s a, a lesson. So I’m all for the transfer portal, but I do think that there’s a lesson and it’s, I think it’s also a reality not just for kids, but for their families and parents. And you have gone to every game of your child’s life and they’ve always played and they’ve always started and they’ve always been probably the superstar.
At whatever [00:12:00] level, when you get to play in college, you’ve mastered a certain skill set. You’re gonna get better. You’ve been pretty good. So your parents have an expectation, and so that’s really hard on parents too. And I understand that, but I mean, I have three kids, you know, so I certainly understand that, but I, again, I think it’s understanding the process and how do you get better, how do you get the most out of that experience?
How do you learn and grow and, and get better every day? So that’s sort of my take on the transfer portal. You know, name, image and likeness is an evolution. Obviously the legal world has come into the world of college athletics pretty aggressively. And so kids can be compensated based on their name, image, and likeness.
I think it’s okay. The challenge becomes, you know, when it really affects recruiting, if the dollars, I just don’t know that the model that we currently have is really sustainable long term. That’s my biggest concern with name, image, and likeness. You know, can we really get federal legislation and can we get antitrust exemption for colleges and really kind of protect the model?
I don’t think anyone [00:13:00] wants us to destroy college athletics, just to allow student athletes to be compensated for a short period of time. You know, we are dealing with 18 to 22 year old kids. It’s hard to manage social life, social media, personal growth. You know, where’s my career gonna go? All that sort of thing.
And then now I have a lot of money to deal with. Are they gonna make the best decisions or not. And I think there’s some growing pains there.
AJ Maestas: You just picture the purchases I would’ve made at that age, first beer that, and that would’ve definitely derailed a lot of things. It kind of almost did anyway. Somehow without money. I can only imagine.
By the way, in your description of that student athlete experience and growing up and the parents, one of your daughters is a freshman at the time of this recording, a freshman in volleyball at Clemson right now, does this mean that there’s no sign of you or David being a helicopter parent and she’s forging her own way without you?
Is that fair to say?
Heather Lyke: Yeah. You know, you empower them. You support them. I think you have to be a listening ear, and I think that’s challenging when some kids [00:14:00] don’t have that but, hey, work hard, be ready. You know, I mean, positive attitude. And I think that you impart that. It’s not something you start imparting at 18, you know, when they’re 18.
It’s something people grow up with. And again, we inherit students from all different walks of life and so realize that this becomes their family. Our coaches are the people that have the most direct impact on their experience. So the quality of coaches that you have in your organization is essential because, you know, they didn’t all grow up with circular driveways and the things that some kids do grow up with and some don’t have a support system back home to help them through these times.
So yeah, I think you have to be there and again, I rely heavily on our coaches and the quality of people, surrounding our student athletes.
AJ Maestas: Well, just a big picture thought because this is fun. You know, we get the chance. Thank you again for being able to be a part of your team on so many meaningful things and we get to have these debates internally.
One of the things we’ve talked about regarding realignment and the future of collegiate athletics and all these media [00:15:00] deals is, you know, Navigate’s predicting roughly 25 football coaches making 10 plus million a year by 2028, 2029.. Somewhere in that range, if I remember. So you look at the dollars, you look at coaching salaries, and then you take into our conversation up to this point, right?
The transfer policy, athletes earning money, name, image, and likeness. Like look what the coaches are earning. I mean, there’s nothing holding them back. How does one stay competitive when the Big Ten or SEC can swoop in and hire your coach? Right? Not anytime they want, but they can make an incredibly lucrative financial offer.
What do you do in a world where you’re competing on a field with people who have 50, 60, 70, 80 million dollars more than you per year and resources?
Heather Lyke: We feel very strongly about the quality of institutions that make up the ACC currently. These are personal choices, you know, I mean, if you have a coach who’s in it for money, I mean, I don’t think our coaches are undercompensated by and large, so if that is their driving force, probably not why we all got [00:16:00] into this industry was purely about finances. And so, you know, again, I think it’s so much more to a coach than that. And again, the quality of coaches that we hire and the type of people that I wanna have in our organization, it’s much more than that. And you stay competitive because of the quality of the experience that you have.
You know, whether it’s, you know, the combination of academics and athletics in the ACC, you can’t beat it. You cannot beat it. And the overall competitiveness of our conference is exceptionally strong when you look at all the national rankings. So I think it’s about the quality of the student athletes experience putting them in a position.
Now, again, this is where I think if NIL is, again, I don’t believe it’s fundamentally sustainable. I don’t think that, I don’t care how many people want to support it at institutions time and time and time again. I just don’t think, It’s kind of like when we, when we told student athletes they could start working and everyone’s like, oh my gosh, the sky’s falling.
We’re gonna have all these fake jobs, we’re gonna be paying kids all over the place. There was a lot of hype and little bit of concern. [00:17:00] I think there’s a lot of hype, but with NIL I think kids, certain kids are certainly getting NIL money and rightly so. And doing some really meaningful things with it.
And then I think some are gonna certainly abuse it and they’ll be short lived and that’s, it might be why, what they’re valuing too. So it’s a lot of value judgments, it’s a lot of decisions that have to be made individually based on what you prioritize and value.
AJ Maestas: Oh, that’s well said. I appreciate that.
I thought you might be. There’s reasons you could feel burned. I mean, there was a suspicious looking transfer, in my opinion, from your football program. One from the outside without inside knowledge could say, that doesn’t look like a coincidence. You know, that kid’s being paid to transfer and, but that is a really good point, right?
The right people in the right places for the right reasons. Just so you know, you’ve made some great hiring, no question. You’ve made great hires and I know so many ADs are judged by that. Right? Winning in football at a level that hasn’t been seen at Pitt in a very, very long time. Think you got the right stuff going on in basketball.
If your ears were ringing, I did a podcast recently with [00:18:00] Patti Phillips, you know, the CEO of Women Leaders in College Sports. And we gave you some good air time which I all believe is true. I completely and fully believe that. But that’s easier said than done. You know, most people, you’re gonna bat less than .500 on those key hires and we all think we’re hiring the right person.
And yeah, it’s tough. The money thing makes it tough. So we have to talk about Ohio State as a Michigan woman, as an alumna of Michigan. And with all that decorated success on the softball field, you spent 15 years at Ohio State. Did that feel dirty by any chance?
Heather Lyke: I don’t know if it felt dirty.
It probably felt I think I was hazed. No, I’m kidding. I think my diploma got turned upside down a few times, but no, you know, I think it was certainly one of the best decisions I ever made was to go to Ohio State to work for Andy Geiger. And then I had the good fortune of working for Gene Smith.
Spent 15 years there. It’s not just a pinnacle place. It’s about the leadership. You know, It’s about the people. It’s about the people [00:19:00] at any organization. It really is. But I had the privilege and probably could write the book on what it’s like to work for the greatest ADs in the country, right?
People who gave me the chance to learn and grow, you know, get exposed to projects and decision making that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. And no Michigan Wolverine would choose to go to the Buckeye land on their own volition, unless it was the people that drove you there. And so I consider it an incredibly lucky time where I had the chance to learn, you know, from both Andy and Gene.
AJ Maestas: Now, those are some legends. No question. And for anybody who’s enjoying our chat with Heather, we have one on the books with Gene, which is, I think, a pretty meaningful way to get to know Ohio State and him and his vision better as well. And there’s so many people that Gene has mentored there too, right? I mean, I consider Pat Chun exceptional.
You and Pat are in this like elite category in my mind. So you look at his tree of mentees and where they’ve gone and what they’ve done and so, smart even if your friends, I’m guessing, called [00:20:00] you a sellout when you went to work at Ohio State. You were a color analyst for softball as well in your Ohio State days before taking the AD job at Eastern Michigan.
Do you mind sharing a little bit about that? I don’t know if that gives you any sort of empathy for those people. On the television side of our business.
Heather Lyke: It was when the Big Ten Network was first launching. And they were, I had good friends who worked at the Big Ten office and obviously they were looking for talent, people who had experience and understood what the world of College Athletics is about.
And then obviously, I played at Michigan and you know, they’re the best softball team in the Big Ten. So I’ll just say it right out and no. I had zero experience. Zero. And literally learned ground up, and I did work with them for five years. Again, it was a chance that I remember telling Gene about it and he gave me a chance to like, you know, I did a handful of games each season.
You know, I didn’t do 35 games, but I got the chance to have a profound appreciation for what they do. I mean, it is an [00:21:00] art and it is a real skill. You know, I went to the first one and put the headset on backwards, they’re like Heather, the headset goes the other way.
I had rehearsed my open in my hotel room. I knew exactly what I was gonna say, and I got up there and I started rattling off this open. They’re like practice an open, I’m like Googling, what’s an open? It’s the opening, you know, intro. And I had it all written out. I had memorized it, and I get to the set and you know, the director is in your ear saying, oh, no, no, Heather, that’s way too long. Sound bites. Sound bites. That is way too long. I was like, no, no, that’s what I memorized. That’s all I know.
I can’t adjust and so you have to adjust a lot on the fly. I have such profound respect for what the people do. I mean day in and day out and game after game and people go from baseball to softball to basketball.
I mean, they flip sports. It’s really exceptional, particularly the play-by-play staff that really have to know a variety of sports. So, yeah. The only funny story is, one day my brother was listening or, you know, [00:22:00] watching the game, and I guess I was, everybody that came up to bat, he was like, Heather, everybody cannot be a leader.
Like, why are you describing everybody as a leader? Like, oh, this is a leader in the clubhouse. Oh, this is a leader on the team. Oh, this is a leader, he’s like, Heather, no, everybody can’t be a leader. And I’m like, okay. And then he’s like, don’t worry if you screw up, nobody’s listening. You know, but nobody’s watching except for, you know, mom and dad.
And I’m like, hey, there’s more people watching them than just mom and dad. But anyway, it was a lot of fun, a great learning experience and really taught you to think on your feet, and analyze situations and speak in front of a microphone and in a podium. So it was great.
AJ Maestas: It’s so cool. I think there’s so many lessons from that too. And you are showcasing these athletes, to more than just their families. To err on the side of being too generous with leadership. I like that. I’m for that.
Heather Lyke: It’s funny, I was talking to a person today, he’s a third-year law student trying to get in the world of college athletics.
Just gave up the law firm world and, you know coming back. . And he said, really, what is the most important skill that you need to have leading an athletic [00:23:00] department? Right. Which I thought was a good question. And you know, it is such a people business, right? You have to have the ability to get along with people and connect with people and, but it’s a highly complex organization that you have to manage under a microscope, I think.
Is what I tried to explain, because your decisions are highly scrutinized. You’re not a CEO of a business that you know people don’t worry whether you change out your executive VP or your CFO, but here, every decision you make is under a microscope because it’s pretty visible to everybody. And so it’s just highly complex and I would say that, you know, the importance of your leadership at your university is invaluable.
It really is. And that’s a really important relationship that you have to work at and, and hopefully you are aligned because you can get a lot done and build your athletic department into a real source of pride for your university when you can.
AJ Maestas: Boy, I really appreciate that. I’m so fortunate that we get to work with university presidents, CFOs, GCs and [00:24:00] stuff like that.
And so many of these sort of transformational moments that we’re, you know, getting fortunate enough to work. And that is so well said. You know, when you’re getting that first job, you’re so eager to be an AD, you know it’s not guaranteed to happen, right? It happens for an elite few. And then when there’s that big promotion, let’s say that next giant opportunity and you’re moving to a well-resourced school or whatever it might be, you know, there’s just that eagerness to find yourself in that seat.
It’s pretty hard to exercise that discipline to say, Is this the right leadership and are we connected? I’ve seen exceptional athletic directors run into real problems, right? When there isn’t that alignment, and boy, it takes real discipline to interview your way out of a job, right? Or to select your way out of a job when you don’t see that.
But that’s true. You’re just going nowhere with some of these administrators. There’s so much risk aversion. I know I talk about this too much in the collegiate world that holds us back from being what we could be, but people aren’t gonna cost themselves their jobs, or usually they won’t. A few brave people have, by going too far too fast for the appetite of others. In fact, in , almost all those scenarios, I think the risk that person was taking was [00:25:00] acceptable. And any of the mistakes that came from it were reasonable tradeoffs for moving forward into the future, but it cost ’em their job. And that’s not what people do.
They, they keep their job as opposed to doing what’s right for the entity. The only way to avoid that conflict is to be in total alignment, right? Choose the right university leadership.
Heather Lyke: And it can change AJ, you know, I mean, the reality is it changes. And so you have to stay connected to those who matter. And frankly, everybody matters.
AJ Maestas: You have a new president coming and you don’t know who that person will be, right?
Heather Lyke: No, it’s, you’ll adjust and adapt and, and you have to. So, and I’ll just say, you know, publicly, like I think you know, AJ, I appreciate the friendship and Navigate’s been a great resource to us as an external viewpoint.
Sometimes bringing up ideas that we might not see because we live in this collegiate space and on a campus and in a university environment. And so I just appreciate the knowledge that you guys have imparted to us at times, the helpful data, the looking at a problem differently. You know, it’s been an asset to me as a leader, but [00:26:00] certainly our department.
And I think the relationships that you’ve built, certainly at Pitt and along the way with colleagues and friends, it’s been meaningful and genuine. So I appreciate that.
AJ Maestas: Thank you for saying that. I mean, you know, as well as anybody that we’re not perfect and no one can perfectly predict the future, so I really appreciate you saying that because we are trying to do right by everybody and I am so grateful that you’re in my life, you know, and that we’ve had the chance to kind of go on this journey, and all these different stops together, and I know it’s not over. I know that there’s a brighter and bigger future for you and Pitt in front of us, but, thank you for those kind words. I’m not sure if we’re deserving it, but I’ll take it . Well, before we part ways here, if you’re willing, I just got a couple rapid fire questions I’d love to ask you.
Top passions and hobbies.
Heather Lyke: My family running and hot chocolate.
AJ Maestas: And hot chocolate. That’s great. Running, family, I’ll remember that. Thank you. Greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Heather Lyke: Don’t let others put limits on yourself.
AJ Maestas: Alright. Who gave that advice to you? I love that.
Heather Lyke: My dad.
AJ Maestas: Oh, nice. Go Dad. What do you do to [00:27:00] relax and recover?
Heather Lyke: Oh, probably run. I love the movies, but I never, I mean, I can only sit if I go to the movies. So like, when COVID hit and like, we haven’t been to the movies as much. I like to go to the movies. I love the movies because, but I can’t watch a movie at home.
I can’t sit still. I’m not, I’m not that kind of a person that just sits and watches a movie very often.
AJ Maestas: Wow. We share hot cocoa, which is like a treat for me and the movies. The only time I have caffeine is a Coke and popcorn at the movies. It’s like an experience for me. Totally agree. I think it’s my ADD, you know, that dedicated space of audio visual.
By the way, you run to relax. I run when I’m trying to escape something, so I love it that you run to relax. Okay. Top life hack. What would you say is your top life hack that essentially gives you the biggest impact in your life relative to the investment that you make in time or money or whatever?
Heather Lyke: You know, time with my family, probably, you know, my parents, my brother, his family, my immediate family. [00:28:00] You can put a lot of time into it, but you sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to put into it, but you get a lot out of it. I believe in quality of the time, versus quantity because as as a leader and doing all the things that we do, you’re not going to have the quantity. Things are gonna have to give, but when you’re together, you better make it quality time.
AJ Maestas: Oh, I can only imagine. We know these are lifestyle jobs and we didn’t even talk about this, but how few ladies are leading Power Five programs and this lifestyle job and raising three daughters and on and on and on and on. So, kudos to you. I agree. You gotta really set in on that family time, because I know you don’t have much of it.
If anybody has any questions or comments for Heather, please email me or Heather. I think, you know, often there’s a fake public email address for athletic directors, but I’m AJ@NVGT.com. You can also connect with us on my personal LinkedIn page or the Navigate page if you have questions for Heather or any other follow up that we can be helpful with you.
But again, this is AJ Maestes with Navigate Joined by Heather Lyke, thank you for joining us on [00:29:00] Navigating Sports Business.