It’s interesting to watch the media and how it handles a story. A look yesterday and this morning at the WRAL.com site has Debbie Yow as the next athletics director at NC State, and a glance at The News & Observer website pages say the search for the position has focused on Yow without saying it’s a done deal. Both are using reports from media outside the Raleigh area and primarily in Washington and Maryland. But, WRAL.com is more specific with “Sources say the announcement is expected to come at a news conference Friday afternoon.” I dare to say those are NC State sources except that Wolfpack Sports Marketing is owned by Capitol Broadcasting which owns WRAL.
So, if what WRAL says is true, it appears Debbie Yow, current Athletics Director at Maryland and sister of late NC State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow, will be named Director of Athletics at NC State University, replacing Lee Fowler who was chased away by friends and foes who agreed he was running a mediocre program at best. The blame for mediocrity was laid squarely at his feet.
The hire of Yow will/would be interesting to say the least. Except to return to her native North Carolina, one must wonder why she would leave Maryland for NC State and how well received she will be on and around the Raleigh campus as well as at Wolfpack sports venues. And, we all must wonder if NC State is getting the best it can get with Yow. With all due respect to Debbie, her sisters Kay and Susan, and her parents, all of whom I’ve known—not very close though—since Kay was hired at State in the 1970s, Debbie is qualified but maybe not the best sitting Athletics Director or other athletics related executive NC State can get.
On the surface, it appears Maryland has done rather well since Yow was hired there in 1994, winning 17 national titles in five different sports, but, while one was in men’s basketball (it takes a six-game winning streak to do that and that championship was in 2002 so what have you done for me recently which is more than has been done at State), and one was in women’s basketball (okay, you fill in the blank), there were also eight in women’s lacrosse (who cares and how many schools play women’s lacrosse) and five in field hockey (see writing in parenthesis about women’s lacrosse).
A win is a win is a win, but, if performance of teams is the search focus and while better and positive reputation in the minor sports at NC State is desired, consistent success in the two majors—men’s basketball and football—should be the primary view on the resume. Without actually looking at the record, I’d guess Maryland has performed better in those two sports since 1994, but the success has been fair at best. In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately category, Yow has had a public personality clash with basketball coach Gary Williams and suffered through losing seasons four of the last six football campaigns. At the same time, Lee Fowler at NC State hasn’t had public disputes with either of his major sports head coaches, but the results have been similar to that at Maryland. All things being equal, give me public-perceived peace and harmony.
On the other hand, it appears Maryland has run a clean program during Yow’s tenure, but so has NC State. And, looking at the most recent multi-year Academic Progress Report by the NCAA, in football, Maryland was at 929 and NC State at 937. In men’s basketball, Maryland was at 913 and NC State at 990. Advantage NC State.
If Yow is the new NC State Athletics Director, she’ll have to immediately address the bread and butter revenue sport of Wolfpack football. Head coach Tom O’Brien is in his fourth season and has a three year mark of 16-21 overall and 9-15 in the ACC, not acceptable by any standards especially by those set by the Wolfpackers who continue to open the wallets when asked to do so. The flow of money will not last forever even if Yow would be willing to keep Wolfpack Club Executive Director Bobby Purcell in that position, and if he wants to stay after being jilted twice when it comes to the Athletics Directorship.
With O’Brien, Yow will/would find a coach who doesn’t consider being up against a wall, despite miserable records of wins against loses. “I don’t think there’s ever a make-or-break season,” O’Brien said recently according to Caulton Tudor of The News & Observer, who continued to quote O’Brien, “But the situation has changed. The chancellor I came here with and the athletic director I came here with are no longer here. Things have changed a lot. How that’s going to affect our situation won’t be solved until the chancellor and new AD decide what direction — or if there’s a new direction — they want to go in. Certainly you get evaluated differently because it’s not the people who brought you in, who did the research to bring you in.”
While those statements, if indeed O’Brien said those words that way, are harmless if said by a casual observer supporting the football coach, but, as stated by the head football coach, the words strung in that order could be the start of a public disagreement and dispute, especially if his stance is one of his being hired to do a job in a certain way and that’s what he’ll do come hell or high water. Of course, O’Brien is also assuming Fowler did research before deciding to hire the coach away from Boston College where we are told they were glad to see him go.
O’Brien shouldn’t wait until Chancellor Randy Woodson and Yow, if she’s the choice, get together to discuss direction. Mediocrity should not be the standard with the current football team, even with full seats at Carter-Finley Stadium. For various reasons outside his coaching ability, I was not a Dick Sheridan fan, but with the results of the last three years, I yearn for the days when the Wolfpack was 7-4 or 8-3 annually. O’Brien, if he produces and if he follows the company line established by his new bosses, will have the job for life until there’s grumbling to get to the next level, actually winning conference titles and playing in a BCS bowl game. Wins go much further in college athletics than excuses, especially with the fans.
Whether he believes it or not, O’Brien’s back is up against the proverbial wall, if not with administrators then with fans who buy the tickets, fill the seats, contribute to the Wolfpack Club and offer optimism that’s unparalleled across college campuses in the United States. On that front, maybe NC State fans in general are okay with a mediocre program, but that’s doubtful. If Yow is indeed selected to lead the NC State athletics department, there’s no assurance mediocrity will change across the board. In general, it appears Maryland’s athletics program is no better than NC State’s. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops and, though no NC State fan really cares, how the mainstream area media handles it as well.