MORGANTOWN — The other day, via my social media accounts, I decided I was going to turn today’s column over to the fans. I asked you to forward questions you’d like to ask Shane Lyons, West Virginia’s athletic director, and your response was great.
We squeezed as many of those questions in following my interview with him as time allowed, so why wait.
To begin with, the most-asked question had to do with whether or not the university could add softball as a sport. In fact, it was overwhelming how many were interested in this subject.
So, what did Lyons have to say about it?
SHANE LYONS: “It’s a matter of right now, with the financial situation and trying to build this 18-sport program we currently have, we just aren’t looking to add any additional programs.
“When I was at Alabama, we won a National Championship in the sport. It’s not whether ‘Shane Lyons’ wants it. It’s what’s best for our department, and what’s best for our department right now is for me to focus on the 18 sports we have right now and try to get them better.
“We want to compete for Big 12 championships rather to say we have more mouths to feed in softball. I’ve had lacrosse before and men’s track. It’s not even on the back burner. We’re into improving the teams we have. I inherited the teams, but it’s not like I can drop one and add another. You don’t do that very easily.
“If we are going to add teams, I want them to compete at the highest level. We have a softball team, but it’s a club sport. We can’t commit to it the way I would want to commit to it and the way we would need to commit to be very successful.
“If you’re not going to be 100% in with it, I’m not going to add it.”
Q: How about men’s track and field? You now have a facility and, often, it helps in football recruiting. Could that be done if someone stepped forward with, say, a $8 million donation for it?
SHANE LYONS: “You’re cutting yourself short if you are only asking for $8 million [laugh]. I’m not opposed to it. Again, it’s how does it fit within the financial picture. If you could make it work financially, I’m not opposed to it.
“But things have changed over the years. The older days, where you used to get a football player who also did track, you may find a handful. It used to be a lot.”
Q: Do you prefer home and home non-conference games compared to a neutral site?
SHANE LYONS: “I like a neutral site game if it fits. The ones we’ve had have been good. We play another Power 5 institution. We go for the game, of course, but it’s a big game at a site in our foot print in an area we recruit — Charlotte, D.C., Atlanta. They were important to us.
“A match up against a very good school like Virginia Tech, Tennessee, next year Florida State. When we went to Washington D.C., we were going to be the only game on a Sunday night. The exposure we got from that game across the board couldn’t be beat.
“This isn’t just a TV game. It’s not regional. It’s a national game, from Maine to Hawaii to Alaska. You are on prime time TV and its WVU football.
“Fans love a great match up. To get the right match up home and home is great as well.”
Q: What are you like away from the job?
SHANE LYONS: “Family is very important to me. I like to get away. People make fun of me, but I like cutting my own grass. When that lawnmower’s running, there’s no phone calls you can take. You can step back.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of hobbies. The last 10 years, I’ve been dedicated to my kids. My son, Cameron, plays football at Akron so on off weeks I’ll be there supporting him. My daughter plays volleyball at Morgantown High, on early afternoons on Tuesday or Wednesday I may jump in the car and drive to John Marshall and see her play.”
Q: What is your day like on a football game day?
SHANE LYONS: “It’s a lot of handshaking. I try to get there two and a half, three hours before a game. I try to be there for the Man Walk.
“I joke, if we’re winning, I spend a little more time in the Blue Lot. If we’re not, I try to stay away from the Blue Lot. You have the TV crews, you do some media. I have a good staff that handles the logistics.
“I pay attention to the gates. How are people getting in. Sometimes I go downstairs, we have cameras where I can watch the flow. Sometimes I hear from people and they say they stood in line for 30 minutes, but I have people I plant who get in line and time it.
“They’ll say they got in the deepest line and it took 15 minutes.
“It’s safety. People don’t realize, I’m responsible for 60,000 people showing up. Sometimes our fans get a little frustrated. Things could even change in the future. We’ve looked into them going through metal detectors.
“We live in a different day in society now. We have the bomb-sniffing parts. There’s a lot of moving parts. You hope it’s a slow day and nothing happens.
“It’s funny. On home games, I don’t have as much time to watch the game as an away game.”
Q: Do you watch as a fan?
SHANE LYONS: “You do. Sometimes, I don’t show my emotions. That’s just me.”
Q: Do you let go at Akron?
SHANE LYONS: “You do. When you’re son’s a long snapper, you hold your breath.
“Coming back to my alma mater was a special thing, but I try to hold my emotions until the clock hits 00:00. You have a different relationship. You get to know the young men, to be in the locker room after a win, and you see how excited they are. But also, I’m there when they are facing adversity.
“To sit there after a tough loss, to know how hard they worked. You know athletics is like that proverbial iceberg. The fans see the top that’s poking out of the water, but down below they don’t see how hard they work.
“Sometimes they lose sight that these are young men. They make mistakes and that mistake may cost a game. It’s just hard. It’s the emotional aspect of it that they miss.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter at @bhertzel.