Pitt names new deputy AD for external affairs

Chris Peak

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Jun 19, 2004
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Press release:

University of Pittsburgh director of athletics Heather Lyke announced today the hiring of Christian Spears as deputy director of athletics for external affairs.

Spears, the deputy director of athletics under Lyke at Eastern Michigan the past three years, will have oversight of all revenue generation activities and fundraising, ticket operations, marketing, game presentation, broadcasts and video, branding, licensing, merchandising, multimedia rights, strategic communications and media relations.

“I am honored and more than excited to announce that Christian Spears will be joining our team as deputy athletic director for external affairs,” Lyke said. “Christian brings to Pitt a dynamic personality combined with strategic thinking and the ability to build genuine relationships both internally and externally. His natural leadership skills, positive energy and intellect will make a significant impact at Pitt. I am looking forward to working together to build a team focused on providing extraordinary experiences for everyone connected to Pitt Athletics.”

“What an amazing time to join the staff at Pitt,” Spears said. “We have an opportunity to capitalize on some genuine momentum and sincere passion for making Pitt Athletics a tremendous source of pride for our university and the Pittsburgh community. I am thrilled to join Heather's team as we all work to enhance the experiences of the students we serve. I look forward to building great relationships while we continue to advance excellence at Pitt.”

Spears was a vital administrative figure during a highly productive period for Eastern Michigan Athletics. In leading the department’s external division, he had oversight of development, marketing, corporate partnership efforts, fan experience and media relations.

Spears also assisted with the administration of the football program and was responsible for football scheduling. He currently serves college football on the national level as a member of the College Football Playoff Advisory Committee.

On the strength of its first bowl berth in nearly three decades, the Eagles’ football program experienced a 100% increase in total season ticket growth from 2014 to 2016. Last fall, Eastern Michigan achieved a 7-5 regular season and earned a berth in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, EMU’s first postseason invitation since 1987.

Spears was instrumental in helping Eastern Michigan produce record-breaking fundraising results, including the highest number of donors and most cash received in program history. EMU Athletics garnered the largest cash gift in the university's history ($6 million) in 2017.

After Lyke accepted the director of athletics position at Pitt, Spears assumed the responsibilities of interim director of athletics at Eastern Michigan.

Prior to EMU, Spears spent five years at Northern Illinois (2009-14) as deputy director of athletics. While at NIU, he served as the lead administrator for the Huskies’ football team—including the nationally ranked 2012 squad that earned an Orange Bowl berth—as well as the men’s basketball, baseball, cross country and track and field programs.

Spears had direct oversight of no fewer than seven areas at Northern Illinois, including academics, compliance, life skills, strength and conditioning, sport psychology, football operations and equipment. He additionally was the lead coordinator for NIU’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) and Graduation Success Rate (GSR).

Spears served as Northern Illinois’ acting director of athletics for nearly five months in 2013. During that time, the Huskies’ football program had record-breaking efforts in both season-tickets and ticket revenue when compared to prior years.

From 2003-09, Spears was an assistant athletic director at Southern Illinois University, where he had administrative oversight of compliance as well as student-athlete financial aid and eligibility. He was an assistant director of athletics for compliance at Harvard University from 2002-03.

Spears launched his collegiate athletics career as an assistant director of marketing at Long Beach State (1996-99). He then served as the Big Ten Minority Intern for Ohio State working in their athletic compliance office while he matriculated through the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State.

Spears graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1996. He earned a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Long Beach State in 1998 and he received his Juris Doctorate from The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law in 2002.

Spears and his wife, Julia, have three children, Rainier, Kai and Skyla.