Seton Hall’s athletics department was a mess when Pat Lyons took over in 2011. Now the Pirates are enjoying a renaissance, and the university is rewarding him for it.Lyons is being promoted to executive vice president & chief of staff, the No. 2 administrator behind incoming president Joseph Nyre, whose tenure begins Aug. 1. Nyre announced the appointment Monday. This is a new post being created for Lyons and will include oversight of the athletics department. He will lead the search for his successor as AD. "For the past eight years, Mr. Lyons has served as Seton Hall University’s Vice President for Athletics and Recreational Services, leading the University through a period of remarkable success in competition, academics, infrastructure growth and conference realignment," Nyre wrote in an email to the Seton Hall community. "In his new role, Mr. Lyons will continue to serve on the Executive Cabinet and oversee Athletics, Facilities and Operations, Human Resources, strategy and the Office of the President. Mr. Lyons will lead, and immediately commence, the national search for the next Director of Athletics at Seton Hall University."RELATED:Pat Lyons talks facilities, scheduling, the Big East and moreThe promotion, which goes into effect July 1, means Seton Hall will be hiring an athletics director who reports to Lyons. It’s unclear what kind of effect that reporting structure will have, if any, on the search — most Division I ADs report directly to the president.
Lyons has turned the Pirates' athletics department around since coming aboard in 2011. Who could replace him?
What’s clear is that Lyons intends to remain at Seton Hall even as his profile rises in college athletics. He had the foresight to retain men’s basketball coach Kevin Willard despite intense pressure to fire Willard in 2015 (after five seasons without an NCAA Tournament appearance), and now the Pirates are coming off four straight Big Dance berths and will be ranked in the preseason Top 25 for 2019-20 as co-favorites to win the Big East.Lyons also hired Tony Bozzella, who turned around a moribund women’s basketball program, and spearheaded a fundraising campaign that fueled $30 million in facilities projects. A long-awaited upgrade to the men’s basketball practice facility is in motion, and in April Lyons negotiated a raise and contract extension for Willard, fending off big-money interest in the coach from Virginia Tech.Lyons is well-regarded enough that he received serious interest in the Boston College AD vacancy in 2017 before withdrawing from consideration. He already knows Nyre because they took the same path to Seton Hall — both came from Iona. Their tenures there overlapped by a few weeks in 2011.
"I am very excited to take on this new role under President-elect Nyre's leadership and I am thankful for the opportunity serve Seton Hall in this expanded capacity," Lyons said in a statement. "For the last eight years, I've had the honor of serving as Seton Hall's athletics director, and I am grateful for having led a department with so many tremendous student-athletes, coaches and administrators who have developed a culture of excellence in the classroom and on the field of competition."I very much look forward to selecting and working with the next athletics director to continue elevating Seton Hall Athletics and providing a first-class experience to its student-athletes."In terms of potential replacements for Lyons, Seton Hall’s family tree has produced two other Division I ADs who could be candidates if they are interested. Bryan Felt, formerly Lyons’ right-hand man, has served as Saint Peter’s athletics director for the past two years. And Patrick Elliott, who has been athletics director at Binghamton since 2011 and held the same post at Saint Peter’s before that, was an assistant coach with the Pirates under P.J. Carlesimo. Both Felt and Elliott are Seton Hall grads.
Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and the college basketball beat since 2003. He is an Associated Press Top 25 voter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seton Hall: Raw scenes from Mike Nzei's Senior Day ceremony Jerry Carino, @njhoopshaven