MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Shortly after West Virginia University parted ways with former director of athletics Shane Lyons, the school’s interim AD tried to put things in perspective.
“No one has any position forever,” Rob Alsop said, indicating that people and organizations go through cycles, and that no one is immune to change.
When those cycles bring about change, Alsop said, it’s important for newcomers to both appreciate the work done before them, and find new ways to improve.
“We have a strong tradition in the WVU athletic department, and Shane certainly built on that,” Alsop said. “He is a good friend, a great man and he was a good leader for our athletics department.”
When WVU pinpoints a man or woman to succeed Lyons, who served as AD at his alma mater for eight years, that person will inherit a department whose foundation has been strengthened by vast improvements to its athletic facilities.
That was one of Lyons’ primary goals: bolstering those on-campus facilities, some of which date back to the 1970s, and enhancing the gameday experience for fans.
“These facilities are important,” Lyons said at a 2018 press conference to reveal WVU’s “Climbing Higher” campaign. “We want to take what we have and reinvest to our student-athletes for them to have first-class facilities to be able to compete and train at the highest levels.”
He, and others, felt it was a necessity for West Virginia athletics programs to compete on a national scale. As the nationwide facilities upgrades race burned, Lyons kept West Virginia in stride with some of the NCAA’s most well-equipped athletic departments.
During his tenure as director of athletics, Lyons oversaw numerous improvements across the WVU sports landscape. Some are obvious, even to fans who only closely follow revenue sports like football and men’s basketball:
- Various improvements at the WVU Coliseum, including new seats, a new video board, upgrades throughout the concourse, and the recently opened Club 35 behind one of the baskets.
- A pair of larger, new video boards at Milan Puskar Stadium, as well as improvements to various parts of the concourse.
Lyons also oversaw the completion of Monongalia County Ballpark, a project that was started by his predecessor, Oliver Luck. That facility replaced the outdated Hawley Field, and has already been an NCAA Regional Tournament site.
But beyond those gameday venues, Lyons guided WVU through various other facility upgrades that impact the student-athlete experience on a daily basis, including:
- $55 Million renovation to the Puskar Center, home of the WVU football team. The improvements have been universally well-received by players and coaches.
- $45 Million Aquatics Center and Track Complex at Mylan Park in Morgantown. These facilities have become a new home for WVU track & field and swimming & diving. The new aquatics center has already hosted multiple championship-level events at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels of competition.
- $10 Million upgrades for new Athletic Performance Center for Olympic sports teams, such as track & field and rifle. This project increased the building’s training capacity by nearly 2,000 square feet and is a training site for all athletes who don’t play football, basketball, or baseball.
“You get into this business because of student-athletes, and again, we have very high-level performing student-athletes, and how could we make them better? This was part of that formula to say what access do they have to an elite facility,” Lyons said when introducing the Athletic Performance Center in April. “So, through time and through vision, it became paramount to saying we needed to get this done for our Olympic sport athletes.”
Lyons also gained the respect of his collegiate in athletics at the national level. The former deputy athletic director at Alabama has served as the chair of the Division I Council and as a member of the Division I Football Oversight Committee since 2018.
In those positions, he played an integral role in the preservation of the 2020 college football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For his efforts, he was recognized as the Athletics Director of the Year in 2021 by the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors.
WVU parted ways with Lyons on Monday. A national search for his replacement is underway, and is expected to conclude sometime in the next three to four weeks.