James Lynah (1881 – February 24, 1956) was an American businessman and sports administrator who is considered the principal founder of the Eastern College Athletic Conference.
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Lynah transferred from Clemson University to graduate from Cornell University in 1905 where he was a member of the Quill and Dagger society and Sigma Phi. He was captain and quarterback of the football team under Coach Pop Warner.
After graduation, Lynah worked for DuPont for fifteen years, becoming a plant manager during World War I. He went on to work at General Motors from 1922 to 1929, serving as director of purchasing and manufacturing staff. An active alumnus of Cornell University, he was involved in many alumni committees, was chairman of a committee for the development of the College of Engineering and was a member of the College of Engineering Council.
He succeeded Graduate Manager of Athletics Romeyn Berry as the first Director of Athletics at Cornell University from 1935 to 1943. While serving as athletic director, Lynah led the movement to establish an athletic conference in the eastern United States. His efforts led to the creation of the Eastern Intercollegiate Athletics agency, which became the modern ECAC. Lynah was succeeded at Cornell by Robert Kane. Lynah Rink is named in his honor. He was an inaugural member of the Cornell University Athletic Hall of Fame.
Lynah left his position at Cornell on indefinite leave to serve as assistant director of the ammunition and light ordnance division of the National Defense Advisory Committee in Washington. He chaired the NCAA committee on recruitment beginning in 1944. He was also a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Academy of Political and Social Science, and American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Lynah died in South Carolina on February 24, 1956.
The ECAC created the James Lynah Distinguished Achievement Award in 1957 to recognize outstanding athletic administrators. Previous winners include Asa Bushnell (1959), Thomas J. Hamilton (1976) and Robert Kane (1977).