Shane Lyons talks West Virginia University sports with Geritol Gang

Shane Lyons was right at home Tuesday morning talking about sports with the Geritol Gang in Vienna.

Ron Stoops, president of the Geritol Gang club, had been trying for a while to get the busy Lyons, athletic director at West Virginia University, to discuss WVU sports with the Wood County group, of mostly retired men who meet twice a month to discuss sports.

In introducing Lyons, Stoops said, “We are really proud of you … one of our local kids. Someone who went through Parkersburg High School, grew up here.”

Stoops noted that Lyons graduated from PHS in 1983 and played on the Big Red basketball team.

Lyons said he and Ben Murray, executive director of the Mountaineer Athletic Club at WVU, had scheduled this speaking engagement in July.

Lyons said it was good to be back in West Virginia after jobs took him to South Carolina, Texas, North Carolina and most recently Alabama for a total of 27 years.

“I was born and raised here (Wood County) and attended undergraduate and graduate school at West Virginia University,” he noted.

As athletic director, Lyons said, his goal is to coach the coaches on building a culture of winning and doing it the right way at WVU.

Lyons said his job involves operating “in the black.” He also wants to give the student-athletes a good experience, so they look back with a positive feeling about attending WVU.

The athletic department tries to give WVU’s student-athletes the best facilities possible and wants them to receive their degrees, Lyons said.

Lyons said his job also involves the “event management business,” where the WVU Athletic Department promotes and markets the sports teams, trying to get fans to attend the 200 plus events a year. This is a challenge as people can watch sports events on big-screen televisions instead of traveling to the stadium or arena, Lyons said.

He is faced with the question, “How do we make an event special.”

Lyons, 52, noted the enhancements made to Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium such as a wider concourse, new restrooms, a new video board, aesthetic improvements and the removal of the field’s crown.

About $25 million has been spent to renovate the Coliseum, including a wider concourse and new concession areas, Lyons said.

A $45 million aquatic center and track at Mylan Park, for the Morgantown community and WVU, are scheduled to be completed in January 2019, said Lyons.

The biggest complaint received by the WVU Athletic Department concerns lines at the stadium concession stands, said Lyons.

WVU determined that the longest wait at a stadium concession stand at halftime was 14 minutes, Lyons said. “Have patience with the food lines,” he said.

WVU started this year a “clear bag policy” for fans entering the stadium. This was done to speed up fan flow into the stadium and for safety reasons, Lyons said.

The WVU Athletic Department’s $90 million budget is self-sufficient, Lyons said. “We don’t take any state dollars.”

WVU enjoyed a “great year” in athletics last year, Lyons said, with six teams ranked in the top 20 of their sports.

The Big 12 conference has been “good to us as an institution,” Lyons said, adding WVU “fits there well” as a land-grant institution.

Lyons admitted that traveling to Big 12 schools is a “little problem,” but that coaches are used to it. “It’s a longer flight,” he said.

A member of the audience asked Lyons about any plans to add a women’s softball team to the WVU Athletic Department.

Lyons said softball “is not on the radar,” from a cost and weather standpoint.

“We are not looking to add any sports” to the 18 sports at WVU, said Lyons, WVU’s athletic director since February 2015.

Instead, he would like to see all 18 sports compete at a national, Big 12 level, Lyons said.

A home football game nets WVU’s Athletic Department about $2.3 million, Lyons said.

The WVU-Virginia Tech football game this month in Landover, Md., received a high television rating and was a good “branding opportunity” for recruiting purposes, Lyons said. WVU could receive $3 million from the game, he said.

“If you love sports, you are welcome to join” the Geritol Gang, Stoops said. “We don’t allow politics and other stuff” to be discussed at meetings, Stoops told the crowd.

The Geritol Gang meets on the first and third Tuesdays of every month at 7 a.m. at the Vienna Senior Citizens Center, 706 29th St., with speakers scheduled.

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com

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