Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Debbie Yow did all she could do about Doeren

Debbie Yow did about the only thing she could do.

Saturday, NC State’s athletics director issued a statement that said she and the University would honor a contract with football coach Dave Doeren. She included some fancy language about the program being on the right track despite not meeting its goals in Doeren’s fourth season, a post-season bowl game for being 6-6 the only lofty position attained and just barely. Here is a quick review:

In two games this year, the football team performed well but lost to a couple of premier Atlantic Coast Conference opponents—Clemson (11-1 overall; 7-1 ACC) and Florida State (9-3; 5-3)—and was lousy and lost to another top-notch ACC team—Louisville (9-3; 7-1)—which may have shown its true colors in its last two games of the season, both loses.

The Wolfpack had several miscues while losing to East Carolina (3-9), which showed coaching staff weaknesses, and losing at home against Boston College (6-6; 2-6), which showed coaching staff weaknesses. And then there was Miami (8-4; 5-3) which was a bit better than State that day. Those are the six losses.

For wins, State beat William & Mary (5-6 overall) and Old Dominion (9-3 overall), Wake Forest (6-6; 3-5), Syracuse (4-8; 2-6), Notre Dame (4-8; 2-3 against the ACC) and North Carolina (8-4; 5-3). The win over the Tar Heels might have saved Doeren from the unemployment line.

Let’s face it. Yow was in a tough spot following the Wolfpack’s 28-21 win in Chapel Hill. Winning that game is always most satisfying to Wolfpack fans who are then excited about its coach, its football program, and its prospects for the next season. The same euphoria happened in 2014 when State beat UNC 35-7 in Chapel Hill to lift its conference mark to 3-5.

Because non-conference scheduling includes games suspect for a program such as NC State, a better overall barometer is its record against conference teams. Wolfpack fans would give thumbs up to being 0-4 against out of league opponents just to be 8-0 in the ACC and play in and win the ACC football championship, last won in 1979.

Doeren’s ACC record is lacking to put it bluntly. He was an embarrassing 0-8 in 2013 in his first season, tying for 13th in the league, and was 3-5 the last three (tied for 9th each year). That’s 9-23 (.281 winning percentage) against ACC teams. To put that into perspective:
  • Tom O’Brien (2007-2012) was fired by Yow after a 22-26 (.458 winning percentage) ACC record in six seasons.
  • Chuck Amato (2000-2006) was 25-31 (.446) in seven seasons against ACC opponents and was let go.
  • Mike O’Cain (1993-1999) was 26-30 (.464) in the ACC in seven seasons and was fired.
  • Dick Sheridan (1986-1992) was 31-18-1 (.620), didn’t win a conference title, finished scond three times, and quit for various reasons.
  • Tom Reed (1983-1985) was 4-17 (.190) and didn’t have his contract renewed.
  • Monte Kiffin (1980-82) was 8-10 (.444) and didn’t have his contract renewed.
  • Bo Rein (1976-79 was 15-8 (.652) and left to coach at LSU.
  • Lou Holtz (1972-75) was 16-5-2 (.696) and left to coach the New York Jets.
So, the three coaches who preceded Doeren had better conference winning percentages but were fired. The worse of the last four worse remains for at least one more season but probably three. Because Yow didn’t make the move at this year, one can only surmise:
  • Yow honestly and truly believes Doeren has the football program on the right track despite the conference record and the miserable ACC finishes. Maybe the team played better, stronger, and harder and with more desire this year, but the record is the record. Years from now fans will remember three things about the 2016 season: the missed field goal at Clemson that would have won the game, the Notre Dame game played during Hurricane Matthew, and the win in Chapel Hill.
  • Yow considers losses to Clemson and Florida State as wins.
  • NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson discouraged a change because the University is in the midst of a $1.6 billion fund-raising effort for scholarships, research, programs and facilities and not to pay off a coach, and he wants nothing to interfere with his fund-raising effort; therefore,
  • There is no available money and no booster to pony up several million dollars for Yow to use to buy out Doeren’s contract which runs through 2019, three more seasons.
  • Yow could not quickly find a replacement. Or maybe she didn’t think a long search would yield a worthy alternate. Several coaches would love to coach NC State football but, at this point, would NC State football benefit from any of those? Would any top-notch coach from a Power 5 school want to work for Yow which is about the only downside to NC State football which has as good of overall facilities as any team in the conference and maybe the nation?
  • Considering Yow’s contract runs through July 2019, maybe she decided it’s not her problem and she’ll let her replacement deal with it if it needs to be dealt with at that time.
The guessing with Yow could go on forever, but that’s not worth anyone’s time or effort.  She’s hard to figure most of the time except that she wants the best for NC State, as long as it fits into her plans. For instance, a long-time wealthy booster offered to pay to put a roof over the permanent seats at Doak Field, the Wolfpack’s baseball park, but she rejected the proposal and requested the money for other projects. He turned her down.

What we know for sure is her willingness to dig in when she feels she’s right, which is all of the time. In response to an email sent to her at halftime of the 2015 UNC game in Raleigh when State was down 35-0, she replied that she and the fan have a difference of opinion of the direction of the football program. “You see the glass as half empty, and I see it as half full,” she wrote while watching the second half from Vaughn Towers, the “press box” at Carter-Finley Stadium.


Oh well, here’s where we are. Doeren gets a mild, cursory endorsement from his athletics director instead of being shown the door after four suspect seasons, and he’s on board for next season and, more than likely, to the end of his contract.

One wonders if after beating UNC Doeren requested the AD’s public support and maybe a better endorsement—a new contract and a raise—such as after the 2014 season when he received a two-year extension and a $400,000 salary increase based on a 3-13 ACC record and a signature win at UNC. He may have suggested to Yow that if he coaches the next three years without an extension, his ability to recruit successfully will be diminished. That may be so, but he can overcome that with more wins, a lot more wins.

Unless you get the right coach who wants to stay with you forever, college football coaching is a vicious cycle, sort of damned if you do and damned if you don’t when it comes to success, projected success and changing coaches. 

In State’s “modern” age of football coaches beginning with Holtz only three coaches left the Wolfpack program with winning conference records. They did so on their own terms. Amato and O’Brien would have stayed forever if allowed. Sheridan might have if reasons other than illness had been settled.

With all the financial support given over the last 16 years and the record season ticket purchases, NC State fans deserve nothing less than 5-3 in the ACC every year with 6-2, 7-1 or 8-0 every so often, even with the Wolfpack joining perennial winners Clemson, Florida State, and Louisville in the ACC’s Atlantic Division.

Even though Yow did about the only thing she could do with that announcement Saturday, Yow has set the table for Doeren. As noted above, Yow fired O’Brien for an ACC record of 22-26 in six seasons. In the ACC, Doeren is 9-23 after four seasons. So, while Yow is the AD, Doeren’s teams the next two seasons must be at least 13-3 to equal O’Brien’s record.

If Doeren goes 5-3 and then 8-0, or 6-2 and 7-1, or better, the agony Wolfpack fans have endured the last four years will not be forgotten but will be more of a distant memory. Of course, that’s only if the Wolfpack beats the Tar Heels at least once the next two seasons. That seems to quell the idea of his dismissal. It did this season. Maybe that’s why Yow did what she did.


  1. So I think she does believe in Doeren. Coaching is so much more than what you see on game day. Doeren is doing a great job of recruiting depth at NCSU. He also will have quite a few seniors next year, including 9 starting on defense if there are no early departures (e.g. Chubb). Even with the 6-6 record, save for the Louisville game, we are being competitive. You can see the progress in how we have a chance to win from year 1 to year 4. The defense has made a nice improvement. The reason O'Brien was fired was that he had a team loaded with experience and only finished 7-5, and he had very little talent remaining for the next year. The reason Doeren went 3-9 his first season was the lack of talent that was left for him when he took over. You can pretty much throw year 1 out the window. Doeren will need to win next year, just like TOB needed to win his last year, given the state of the roster. If Doeren doesn't win 8 games with the talent and experience he will have, I can see Yow letting him go. You have to look at other things besides the record - what kind of talent is on the roster, and whether we are playing competitively with the potential of winning. Next year he will need to translate potential into winning. But keeping him after this season was absolutely the right decision.

    1. Thank you Spencer for your reply. The 6-6 record is misleading. Two of wins were against William & Mary and Old Dominion, two must wins, two should-be-easy wins. Yes, all teams have those these days, so let's toss them out and concentrate on conference play. The announcement to honor the contract was all she could do for the various reasons I stated. And yes, he needs to win next year, at least 5-3 in the league, maybe better than that, but I predict he'll be back for two years, at least, and maybe three. Let's leave a change up to the next AD.

    2. Not sure where you get Spencer from, I didn't give a name. :-) It's David, BTW. :-) My point is that we can't look at the record alone. We have to look at talent and the possibility of winning. A couple of the losses were simply bad breaks IMO, and we have to give Doeren credit for having us right there a couple games we all thought we'd be blown out of.

    3. Sorry, David, just took a guess on the Spencer name. And, I disagree with your point. What if the Wolfpack has all the best talent, and 12 bad breaks and finishes 0-12? Would you accept constant 6-6 seasons (3-5 in the ACC) if the six losses each year are because of bad breaks? I doubt it. Let's see if Doeren can rally the team to 13-3 combined in the conference the next two years and equal the ACC record of O'Brien. Are a missed field goal chip shot or a dropped pass interception "bad breaks?" Look, i feel some of the coaching was good this year, just not good enough and when combined with the previous three, the NC State football program is well below the standard the fans and the administration should accept.

  2. Your viewpoint is thoughtful and thorough. You've stated some of things I've been thinking. I thought Doeren should go, but doubted that Ms. Yow would fire him. Doing so would essentially be admitting she made a bad hire, and made a bad decision extending his contract two years ago.

    I hope Doeren can improve on his flat performance ( three straight 3-5 ACC records shows me no progress). But I have seen little to indicate that he can do it.

    1. Thanks, Gilbert. Always good to hear from you. Glad you focused on the ACC record as I did. I think that says more about the coaching than the non-conference games. Question to those who look at all the games: If the Pack defeated ECU and was 4-4 in non-conference games but was 3-5 in ACC games for a third straight year...well, would you consider that a successful season? Do you look at 6-6 as success?

  3. Looking at the numbers ... it hasn't be GREAT since Holtz left ... Glad I was there then.

    1. Dear unknown, thanks for your perspective. Yes, the four Holtz seasons were excellent, lots of fun. Along with six conference games a season, the wolfpack also played Penn State (4 times), South Carolina (4), East Carolina (4), Syracuse (2), Georgia (2), Nebraska, Arizona State, Florida, Michigan State and Indiana (once each) during the regular season. Holtz was 33-12-3 overall (including four bowl games) and 16-5-2 in the ACC. His teams won one ACC title and finished 2nd twice.

      I think Bo Rein's teams were just as good and exciting. He was 27-18-1 overall, 15-8 in the ACC, won one ACC title and played in two bowl games. His non-conference regualr season opponents were Penn State (4), East Carolina (4), South Carolina (4), Syracuse (2), West Virginia (2), Auburn (2), and Furman, Michigan State, and Indiana once each.

      Dick Sheridan had an excellent record at 52-29-3 overall and 31-18-1 in the ACC. But his non-conference games included Western Carolina (3), East Tennessee St (2), Kent State (2), Appalachian State (2), Middle Tennessee State (1) and Marshall (1). He also coached against South Carolina (5), Virginia Tech (4), Pitt (3), East Carolina (2), Iowa (1) and Texas Tech (1).

      Notice that the Wolfpack scheduled lots of top line colleges under Holtz and Rein. Sheridan's were a 50/50 mix of top and bottom. Today, coaches would rather play four easy games, sure wins, but times are changing and better games are ahead.

  4. The Pack's average yardage margin difference per season has climbed steadily upward each year. This year the number was positive, gaining more yards on average than our opponents. The last 3 coaches were fired after down turns. There are various ways to look at the job a coach is doing. Throw out the first season record, a result of two terrible years of recruiting by O'Brian and Dave is 3-5 in conference 3 years in a row. Time to step it up, yes but not terrible. The yardage margin increasing each year, the fact that recruiting is still in the top 50 each year is a sign this team is improving. You don't fire a coach when he is still improving a program. Better Field goal kicking and this team easily would have been 8-4, 4-4.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and how you measure success. Your look at the talent O'Brien left for Doeren is spot on. And yes, maybe the differential in yards gained vs the opposition has gotten better, and all the other things you pointed out. So, maybe better FG kicking would have made the record better, and all the other stuff you said. But, all said, the record is the record, isn't it. I say Doeren needs to be 13-3 in the ACC the next two seasons. He has his players in place; he has his staff in place; he has the best facilities in the ACC, and maybe the best and most understanding fans, so give us a championship team.


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