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WVU: New AD Shane Lyons was right pick by university to replace Oliver Luck

Shane Lyons got his dream job when West Virginia University announced the Parkersburg native as the new University Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Associate Vice President in a press release Monday morning.

“It is truly a dream come true for me to return to my home state and to WVU as director of intercollegiate athletics and associate vice president. I would like to thank Dr. Gee for the confidence he has placed in me,” Lyons said a release on WVUsports.com.

“I have followed the Mountaineers closely ever since I left Morgantown after graduate school, and I have been consistently impressed with the success that WVU student-athletes have had on the playing fields and in the classroom, as well as the positive impact Mountaineer student-athletes have in the community.”

The former Deputy Director of Athletics and Chief Operating Officer at the University of Alabama from 2011 through 2014 will take over his new position at West Virginia effective in February.

Lyons will be the 12th Director of Athletics in program history, and only the third over the past two decades. Like Luck before him, Lyons also will make $550,000 per year with incentives over a five-year contract that runs through February 2020.

President E. Gordon Gee spoke on his excitement to have a former Mountaineer in charge of the West Virginia athletic department.

“We are delighted to welcome Shane Lyons back to his home state of West Virginia and to his alma mater,” Gee said. “He brings a wealth of experience in both university and conference athletics administration. In addition, as a graduate of West Virginia University, Shane understands what it means to be a Mountaineer. We look forward to him joining our team and leading our athletic department to new heights.”

As Gee noted in his statement about Lyon’s ability, the same confidence should be shared by West Virginia Mountaineers fans with his track record and experience in college athletics over the past 26 years.

With college athletics becoming more money-driven than at any other prior point, Lyons, who worked with a $122 million budget with the Alabama athletic program, will enter his new position with an understanding on how to use the smaller, $77 million budget at West Virginia to help build all 16 varsity sports, not just football and men’s basketball, on campus.

With a smaller number of sports on campus than in comparison to the 21 in Tuscaloosa, Lyons can focus on and bring more attention to longstanding successful West Virginia championship-level programs, like Nikki Izzo-Brown’s women’s soccer and Jon Hammond’s rifle programs.

Lyons would be comfortable with the continued construction and renovations of current sports facilities across campus in Morgantown as he was involved with many facility projects at Alabama that totaled $85 million. Earlier this year, WVU released their facilities master plan which amounts to a similar $75 million, including the new WVU ballpark at the University Town Centre and other existing facility renovations.

Despite bringing a great deal of knowledge from his previous tenure at Alabama and in positions with the ACC and Texas Tech University, Lyons’ immediate success, at least in the eyes of West Virginia fans, could very well hang on Dana Holgorsen’s football program, the biggest revenue source for the athletic program, performs in the near future.

If Holgorsen were to continue to struggle in returning the program’s dominant form through the 2000s, Lyons would be left with a decision to either to let the four-year head coach continue on his current contract or make a move for someone new to take over one of the winningest programs in college football.

It’s an important and costly decision for Lyons no matter which options he chooses, and one that could determine how he will lead his new athletic program into the future.