Pat Lyons-->Seton Hall Athletic Director Patrick Lyons said he had never been to Seton Hall's campus prior to the press conference announcing his hire in February 2011.
Just how big a job he was undertaking became apparent very quickly after that first visit.
Lyons, the former Iona College Athletic Director immediately saw that he and the school had work to do to enhance Seton Hall's athletic facilities to where they needed to be as a Division I institution, and more importantly, "to be able to compete in the best conference in the country."
So Lyons set out to change things.
"When it comes to recruiting athletes you need to have top facilities and when I looked at ours I realized that was a deficiency for us."
Lyons noted that there are three things all students focus on when choosing a college........where to eat, where to live and where to work out.
As the athletic director, where to work out fit right into his wheelhouse.
So a decision was made with Lyon's input to take out the front section of the recreation courts in the Richie Regan Recreation Center, move the wall 20 feet closer to the road and create a two-story fitness center that the AD says will "transform" that side of the campus.
"This isn't the AD being selfish. This isn't going to win us one game," Lyons said of the new facility, the construction of which will begin this summer. "It was just a need that had to be filled."
While Lyons comes across as sincere when he says that?he assures that his office will be the last thing renovated in the entire building?the move will in fact benefit Seton Hall athletes, but from a programmatic standpoint that he believes is vital.
"What the new fitness center is going to do is allow us to segment the programming, notes Lyons, explaining that when people enter the recreation center, the right side of the structure will be for the general population, allowing the school's varsity athletes to assume the rest of the building.
Once the new student fitness center is completed, the varsity weight room will be relocated to the current fitness center now in the lower level of the building. The move will place the weight room directly next to the training room which will also undergo construction this summer.
Eventually upon completion of the training room, the varsity weight room will be targeted the following summer and the varsity locker rooms eyed for renovation in the years to follow.
The locker rooms for the university's varsity sports are a particular sore spot for Lyons. "Locker rooms are some of the most important pieces when recruiting athletes. It was apparent we had work to do with ours".
Some recent work that has been done this year is the men's basketball locker room being completely redone and the women's basketball offices undergoing recent branding initiatives.
The new locker rooms will take a large open space and create separate rooms for each team with branding for their particular sport.
The remodel will also include renovating part of the academic area to be centered in the current sports information department location. The move, which includes renovating the offices of the university's academic services staff, will provide the student-athletes with "a room they know is theirs."
"It is really going to allow us to have a full section of the building just devoted to academics," he added.
Of course, fitness centers, locker rooms and new buildings come with a price, and that price is help in the form of donations from Seton Hall alums and supporters. Which is why the success of Pirate Blue, the fundraising arm of the athletic department, is of particular importance to Lyons' vision becoming reality.
"All signs are pointing that we are going to have a record year," Lyons said of Pirate Blue, led by Bryan Felt and now under the athletic department after previously falling under University Advancement.
"When we took Pirate Blue over here the main goal was to grow it," Lyons pointed out while praising Felt for his work. To help build support, Lyons and Felt have crisscrossed the country meeting with donors and alumni groups while also creating more events geared toward rewarding Seton Hall supporters, including the current "30 for 30" program which kicked off on April 1.
The program, open to current and new season ticket holders only, will each week draw winners of a multitude of prizes. Full details are available on the SHU Athletics Web site (http://www.shupirates.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=12600&ATCLID=205406025).
Lyons said the small class sizes and family atmosphere of Seton Hall are already built-in positives when recruiting athletes and the revamped facilities will help "close the circle and aid in recruiting great athletes here like we have in the past."
Those facilities also include work being done on student housing and a new student center that is expected to break ground in the next year or two. Lyons said the new building will be "one of the best student centers in the country. This whole campus is undergoing a transformation. and the current students and athletes, as well as the future ones that enroll at Seton Hall will all benefit."
For that Seton Hall has many visionaries to thank. Starting at the top with the school's AD Pat Lyons.