So the search begins for a replacement for Lee Fowler, NC State University Director of Athletics who was ousted from his job by former temporary NCSU chancellor James Woodward, the same guy who last fall fired Lennie Barton from his post as Executive Director of the school’s Alumni Association.
Woodward did in Barton after a brief discussion with Vice Chancellor of Advancement Nevin Kessler (yes, that’s his real name for those who think I’ve been making it up). One must wonder to whom Woodward listened before he gave the boot to Fowler.
Woodward had a lot of guts and gumption to remove two long-time University employees in such a brief time in his position. Usually, temporary hires just fill space until the permanent replacement arrives, but Woodward, with the blessing of UNC System President Erskine Bowles, took charge and did the nasty with Barton and Fowler.
If you haven’t heard (and for what it’s worth), I objected to the Barton firing. I have mixed reactions—breaking out in hives one moment and losing sleep in another—but not mixed emotions (none really) to the letting go of Fowler who seemed like a stand-up guy in some ways but who didn’t have a the wherewithal to make really tough decisions when it came to administering athletics, especially when dealing with coaches, hiring and firing. He was also too low-key with the fans.
One of those “I must admit he did a good job” thoughts though comes around when I think of his hiring of Kellie Harper as head basketball coach for the Wolfpack women, giving her the job instead of retaining loyalist Stephanie Glance. While I never met Stephanie, I think the hire of Harper was perfect for NC State. Harper brings to the program a fire and a determination that Glance, a long time assistant to Kay Yow, could not, at least in my humble opinion.
Having a nice program is not what it’s all about in college athletics. Having a nice, winning program with a positive approach and engaging attitude has been and remains the right idea. And, I believe this “change” in the women’s leadership was the right move. Give credit to Fowler for that, among many other things including to agree to improve facilities. (He messed up, though, when he didn’t want the golf course as an athletics department facility.)
But, someone got to Woodward, which stills remains an amazing mystery to me, because he would have never fired Barton if someone—Kessler—had not gotten to Woodward. I believe this confirms my suspicion that for all the firm things he did, Woodward was easily swayed to do other things, and without regret, even lying to some NCSU Alumni. Someone on the Board of Trustees or someone with deep, deep financial pockets must have gotten to Woodward and convinced him to fire Fowler. Come to think of it, Woodward wanted the 5% tax on donations for University Advancement, didn’t he? Money talks and those who disagree walk.
New Chancellor Randy Woodson, who told The News & Observer that Woodward gave Fowler the boot on March 23, has taken the next steps in finding Fowler’s replacement. According to The N&O, “Woodson said he has begun conversations with several (athletics head-hunter) firms and expects that the university could decide on one to hire in the next few days.”
From the Ripley Department: Believe it or not, one of those firms in the discussion might include former Wolfpack Athletics Director Todd Turner, who headed NC State athletics for six years (1990-96) and left NC State for Vanderbilt where he stayed until 2003. Then, when Vanderbilt dismantled the athletics program and put it under an academic department, Turner ended up as AD for the Washington Huskies from which he “resigned,” leaving the Seattle area school in February 2008.
Since August 2008, Todd, who I admittedly know and consider a friend (though after this he may not have a mutual feeling), joined Winston-Salem NC based ISP Sports, one of the nation’s top college sports marketing firms. ISP holds the radio broadcast rights to lots and lots of colleges for football and basketball, including Duke and Wake Forest. It also has television programming distribution. With its expansive contacts in college athletics, it is only natural for ISP to get into the intercollegiate “head-hunting” business. If ISP is the firm chosen by Woodson, Turner could be part of the search process, contacting possible candidates.
The process, though, formally began Wednesday when Chancellor Woodson appointed a 13-member search committee, naming former Raleigh Mayor Smedes York, who played basketball at State when Everett Case was coach, as chairman of the 13-person group which reportedly will submit names of three candidates to Woodson for his final selection.
In addition to York, the search panel includes, in alphabetical order:
—Steve Carlton, NCSU Crime Prevention Officer and chair of the NCSU Staff Senate;
—Derick Close, former NCSU trustee, currently member of the Board of Directors of the Wolfpack Club, and brother-in-law of UNC System President Erskine Bowles;
—Eileen Goldgeier, NCSU vice chancellor and general counsel, who just recently was named to that University position after serving in a similar capacity at UNC-Wilmington and who is a turtle sitter/watcher at Carolina Beach;
—Kellie Harper, NCSU women’s basketball coach;
—Kelly Hook, NCSU student body president;
—David Horning, NCSU senior associate athletics director who played football at NC State many, many years ago;
—Charles Leffler, NCSU vice chancellor finance and business;
—Dr. Margery Overton, NCSU professor of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering and chair of the NCSU faculty senate and who is also one of my many first cousins (her father, Jimmy Overton, a golf professional who taught me to play golf, and my mother, Annie Laurie Overton Pomeranz, are/were brother and sister (both deceased), and my father, Robert E. Pomeranz, NCSU ’43 (deceased) is/was Margery’s godfather);
—Dr. Sam Pardue, Head of the NCSU Poultry Science Department and NCSU faculty athletics representative;
—Ray Rouse, president, NCSU Student Aid Association (The Wolfpack Club);
—Steve Warren, member of the NCSU Board of Trustees and a member of the Board of Directors of the NCSU Alumni Association; and
—Cassius Williams, member of the NCSU Board of Trustees.
Woodson says he will meet with this group next Monday to actually begin the search and that maybe by that time he’ll have decided on a search firm to look far and wide for candidates. The goal is to have a new Athletics Director by the end of the summer or possibly by the end of July. Fowler’s last day is June 30th.
If necessary, Woodson will appoint an interim Athletics Director to fill the gap between June 30th and the hiring of a new AD. It’s doubtful that interim person will be Woodward, at least let’s hope not because there’s a chance someone in the Athletics Department would get Woodward’s ear and no telling whose job would be in jeopardy. Stay tuned.
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