Last week, the final 2018-19 Learfield Cup standings came out, and the all-sports rankings of the top 20 programs of each NCAA Division I school weren’t kind to Pitt, as the Panthers finished 137th, their lowest finish in at least 15 years.
Later in the week, Yahoo! sports did a rolling analysis of the past five years of results of all 65 schools in a Power Five conference and rated the Panthers a dead-last 65th.
That’s not a very positive set of reviews of an athletics department that most Pitt fans and boosters seem to believe is trending in a positive direction under second-year athletic director Heather Lyke.
Lyke, speaking after announcing the hiring of women’s lacrosse coach Emily Boissonneault last week, addressed Pitt’s standing in the Learfield Cup.
“I think it’s a very reliable indicator (of the success of a program),” she said to Pittsburgh Sports Now. It does measure your top 20 teams and it measures based on success across the board and its based on NCAA participation. There’s no question.”
Lyke did caution that the Learfield Cup standings are just one way to measure the success of an athletic department, and she pointed to other ways she feels the Panthers have achieved.
“It’s one measure. It’s a competitive measure, right? So it doesn’t measure the quality of our student-athlete experience and the amount of life skills, mentoring and development that we put in, career enhancement. It doesn’t measure your academic success and graduation success rates and things like that.
“But it certainly measures competitive success. It’s something that we focus on and definitely aspire to improve.”
With second-year coaches in men’s and women’s basketball, women’s soccer, baseball and softball, and successful football, volleyball and wrestling teams returning most of their cores, there should be plenty of room for improvement on Pitt’s score in 2019-20.