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ISU Athletics Director Larry Lyons To Retire This Year

Larry Lyons standing along railing at Hancock Stadium
Illinois State University
Larry Lyons has been ISU's athletics director since 2013.

Illinois State University Athletics Director Larry Lyons said Friday he plans to retire by the end of the year.

Lyons has been an athletics administrator at ISU for 33 years, moving into the top job in 2013. Accomplishments during his tenure include completion of the Hancock Stadium renovation, record-high average GPA among student-athletes last spring, and a strong fundraising record.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve Illinois State. In my 33 years, there have been significant improvements in and around Redbird Athletics,” said Lyons, an ISU alum. “To have played a role in those improvements and be a part of the tremendous Redbird culture is very gratifying. I have thoroughly enjoyed working together with President Larry Dietz and thank him for his support and vision for athletics.”

Lyons’ retirement comes as the Athletics department faces criticism from its own student-athletes, stemming from a summer of social justice protests. Lyons himself came under fire for saying “All Redbird Lives Matter” on a video call with student-athletes, prompting an apology.

Student-athletes marched across the campus, threatened a boycott and demanded more people of color to be hired as top administrators, mental health support staff, and trainers. In response, Athletics released an “action plan for social change.”

In Friday’s announcement, Lyons said he told Dietz about his plans to retire back in the spring semester. Dietz said he tried to talk Lyons out of retiring.

“I have a pretty good track record of talking my wonderfully talented Cabinet members out of retiring, but after more than a month of trying, I realized Larry was ready to move on to new adventures,” Dietz said in a statement.

The search for ISU’s next athletics director will begin immediately.

“But you don’t just replace a talent like Larry Lyons. He leaves big shoes to fill and we will be deliberate in our process to fill them,” Dietz said. “The entire University community owes Larry a tremendous debt of gratitude for his service, and I wish him and (wife) Maureen a happy and fulfilling next phase of their lives.”

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.