I remember the day Oliver Luck announced he was leaving as West Virginia University’s athletic director.
“Oof,” I thought. “Good luck replacing Ollie. All he did was finagle WVU into the lucrative Big 12 – rather than tread water in the soon-to-be AAC – and set Mountaineer facility building on the right course.”
Later, in early January, I spoke to Luck privately after his replacement, Shane Lyons, was hired.
“Shane,” Luck told me, “will do well.”
And today, May 28, 2019, I can say Lyons has unequivocally done well. Better than well.
Too, perhaps it’s time Mountaineer fans recognize Lyons’ work and accomplishments and tip the proverbial caps.
I started to think about it last week, when WVU released the rendering of the new Coliseum basketball floor, which is to be put in place this summer. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here: https://bit.ly/30O3iuT. It’s tremendous. It’s stylish. And it was roundly applauded nationally on Twitter. (Thank goodness, right? It will be in place for years to come.)
It got me thinking.
Consider some of the accomplishments of Lyons and his team, which includes key members like Matt Wells, Ben Murray, Keli Zinn and Steve Uryasz.
First, there’s the announced football series upcoming in 2026 (Morgantown) and 2027 (Tuscaloosa) with Alabama. I think we can point directly at Lyons for that one. He moved from Tuscaloosa to Morgantown to accept the AD job.
Wanna sell out your season ticket packages? Throw Alabama on there and see how it goes.
There was the way Lyons handled the tricky Dana Holgorsen situation. Did he want Holgorsen long-term? Probably not. Was he sure Holgorsen was out of bullets? Maybe. Maybe not. And, perhaps for all involved, an amicable divorce was negotiated. Nicely done.
Of course, that leads to the hire of new WVU football coach Neal Brown. He’s been widely hailed, not only by those who follow college football closely, but the entire Mountaineer fan base. He’s the anti-Holgorsen. He projects as Don Nehlen II.
And the WVU fanbase hasn’t just accepted Brown, they’ve embraced him by buying more season tickets at this point than last year – when the 2018 season loomed with Will Grier, David Sills, Gary Jennings and high expectations. No one has high expectations about the 2019 Mountaineer team, yet…
Now, of course, WVU’s baseball team is on fire. The Mountaineers will host an NCAA regional for the first time since 1955. (That’s even before MY time!)
Lyons shepherded in to Morgantown the NCAA rifle championship.
He’s somehow helped the new Mountaineer golf team make an early splash.
On top of everything else, he’s solidly a part of the NCAA’s governance structure. He’s represented the Big 12 on the Division I Council. He’s the chair of the Football Oversight Committee. That’s quite a heavy chair.
You get the drift. Lyons has done very well in his four years as WVU AD. He doesn’t shy from tough decisions. (See the firing of wrestling coach Sammie Henson.)
He’s in the proverbial trenches. And for that, WVU fans should be most thankful.
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