There are major changes coming on the horizon at Ohio State.
Long-time athletic director Gene Smith announced Wednesday that effective June 30, 2024, he will be retiring from the position he’s held for the last 18 years.
The Columbus-Dispatch reported that the search for a successor will begin when Ohio State hires a new president, with former president Kristina Johnson stepping down in May.
It’s highly likely that Pitt AD Heather Lyke will be considered a leading candidate for the vacancy when a national search kicks off.
Lyke spent 15 years at Ohio State as an associate athletic director. She worked her way up from associate athletic director for sports admin, compliance & camp operations to associate director for sports admin to senior associate athletic director. And has expressed her love for Ohio State in the past.
She left Ohio State in 2013 to take her first athletic director position at Eastern Michigan and four years later, she took the same position at Pitt — where she has grown into one of the top ADs in the country.
“Under the leadership of Heather Lyke, Pitt Athletics is enjoying a remarkable and unmistakable ascension,” Pitt Athletics leads off Lyke’s bio.
Since being hired in 2017, Lyke has led nearly a complete turnaround of Pitt athletics.
The NACDA awarded her the 2023 Cushman & Wakefield AD of the Year, and she was a finalist for the Sports Business Journal Athletic Director of the Year award. In 2022-23 alone, Pitt hit its highest points total ever in the LEARFIELD Directors’ Cup and football, men’s basketball, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer and wrestling all experienced high levels of success.
In addition, Lyke has fundraised a record $67 million in the last two fiscal years, including the largest single donation in Pitt athletics history. She has also been influential in Pitt’s Victory Heights project, a new state-of-the-art, $240 million athletic complex that will house 14 of Pitt’s 17 varsity sports — and provide a new arena for volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics.
The Athletic has mentioned Lyke as an early potential candidate for Ohio State, and it certainly won’t be the last time her name pops up in rumor mills.
Of course, this isn’t to say Lyke is already out the door. It simply bears watching going forward given Lyke’s prior history with Ohio State and her outstanding track record.