Former longtime Grove City College athletics director and head men's soccer coach Dr. Don Lyle has been selected by the NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct as its 2015-16 recipient of the Bob Frederick Sportsmanship Award in recognition of his careerlong demonstration of sportsmanship during his 43 years in college athletics.
"There is no one that I can think of that is more deserving of this award," said Grove City College athletics director Todd Gibson. "Our entire athletic department culture has been strongly influenced by Dr. Lyle. Doing things the right way, all the time, with class, character and dignity is the rule not the exception for Grove City College athletics, and I have no doubt that this is directly related to Don's leadership over the past four decades."
First awarded in 2009 and named for the former University of Kansas athletics director, the Bob Frederick Sportsmanship Award recognizes a coach, administrator or staff member (past or present) who possesses a demonstrated history of sportsmanship. This individual will have displayed the utmost respect for college sports and all who participate by leading by example and promoting positive fan involvement in and out of the competition setting. Just as Bob Frederick was, the recipient of this award will be known by his or her dedication to preserving the integrity of college sports.
Just one recipient, regardless of gender or NCAA Division-affiliation, is awarded the Bob Frederick Sportsmanship Award each academic year.
"Don devoted his life to preparing young men and women to be great citizens through their participation in varsity athletics," said Grove City College President Paul J. McNulty. "The transformative impact of his efforts is immeasurable."
A native of Calcutta, Ohio, Lyle joined the college's athletic department in 1972 as head men's soccer coach and assistant men's basketball coach. He guided Grove City's men's soccer team from 1972 to 2005 and finished his coaching career as the program's all-time leader in wins with 277. Along with serving as chairman of the College's Department of Physical Education (now Exercise Science) for 19 years and as athletics director over his final 13 years, Lyle spent nine years as the College's first head softball coach (1980-88) and nine years as head baseball coach (1989-97).
His ability to touch the lives of student-athletes on the field and in the classroom created a legacy of sportsmanship that his nominator, Joe Onderko, commissioner of the Presidents' Athletic Conference, noted.
"As someone who has worked very closely with him (since 2001), the tremendous respect and admiration Dr. Lyle receives from his PAC colleagues Dr. Lyle's comes as absolutely no surprise to me," said Onderko. "During our time together, we have worked on a variety of PAC-related projects and initiatives, including the league's conference-wide sportsmanship initiative (which began in 2006) and specifically the PAC men's soccer conduct initiative (begun in 2008).
"In our years working together, I have found Don to be a tremendously passionate individual who takes great pride in his professionalism and demeanor. He cares deeply about character education and sportsmanship as major factors in student-athlete development and takes great pride in Grove City College athletics in particular (as well as the PAC) in modeling that behavior for our students through institutional and conference examples. That pride and passion showed up consistently in his work both as a coach and AD, as he took equal care in his major administrative & teaching tasks as well as his day-to-day interactions with athletes and support staff. His positive impact on literally thousands of Grove City student-athletes over the years is immeasurable, and this well-deserved national honor for his career efforts is a reflection on a culture that we attempt to replicate within the PAC on a conference level."
During his 34 years as head men's soccer coach at the College, Lyle compiled a 277-206-37 record on the pitch but left behind something even more important than a won-loss record.
"As a soccer player under Dr. Lyle I witnessed firsthand what true sportsmanship was," said Mike Dreves, current head men's soccer coach and a former player, assistant coach and member of the athletics department under Lyle, in his letter of support to the committee. "Grove City College men's soccer players were expected to be different, in a positive way. The proper treatment of teammates, opponents, officials, fans, and members of the campus community was intentionally engrained in us by him on a daily basis. Dissent towards officials or opponents was never allowed, and while he had an intense competitive fire, his priority towards sportsmanship was never challenged."
In his letter, Dreves also recalled one of Lyle's finest moments.
In 2002, after the Grove City men's soccer team was eliminated in the PAC tournament, the women's team made the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. "He could have easily been bitter about the situation," Dreves narrated. "Instead, he purchased a rose for each woman on the team and presented it to them in a sendoff ceremony at their last session before leaving for the tournament."
Lyle's lead-by-example approach has set the bar for Grove City athletics. In the seven years that the PAC Team Sportsmanship Award existed under Lyle's leadership (Fall 2008-Spring 2015), Grove City teams earned 33 total awards - 50 percent more than the second-highest conference recipient.
Lyle earned his bachelor of arts degree from Muskingum College in 1971. He earned his master's degree in education from Miami of Ohio in 1972 and later received his doctorate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
He and his wife Barbara '84 live in Pine Township. They have three adult children and nine grandchildren.