Yow turning NCSU programs around
By Aaron Beard
RALEIGH — Two years into her tenure, Debbie Yow is still pushing North Carolina State to become one of the nation’s top athletic departments.
N.C. State had its best showing in the Directors’ Cup standings in six years, headlined by the school’s two highest-profile programs. Consider it an early return on the never-settle “Wolfpack Unlimited” philosophy that Yow pushed since taking over as athletic director in 2010.
“I think for coaches that are overachievers are still very passionate about what they do and excited, they rise to the occasion, to the challenge of doing better,” Yow said. “If you’re not in that, if you don’t think that way, I think this would be a little scary.
“But that’s why I’m here. I do believe in the promise of N.C. State, so I don’t make any apologies for expecting us to do much better. I don’t at all.”
Yow has talked about building a top-25 national sports program here. When she arrived from Maryland, N.C. State was coming off an 89th-place finish in the Directors’ Cup, presented annually by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics to the nation’s top overall athletic program.
N.C. State improved to 67th last year then leapt to 37th this year, its best finish since 34th in 2006. The school has never finished higher than 32nd.
The two-year rise of 52 spots is the largest ever by an Atlantic Coast Conference program, according to the school.
Yow said reaching top-25 program status “loses a lot of joy” if it’s not led by football and men’s basketball. Perhaps that’s why things feel different around Raleigh.
The men’s basketball program, in its first season under Mark Gottfried, returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005 and reached the round of 16. The football program led by Tom O’Brien is 17-9 the past two seasons, including eight wins and a victory against Louisville in the Belk Bowl last year.
“They really are seen as the leaders in the department, no way around it,” Yow said. “People are energized in general as coaches in other sports when those two do well. There’s a great deal of pride and it helps recruiting in all sports. It changes our brand, if you will. It changes how people view us as a program when they lead the way. That’s why going to the Sweet 16 in men’s basketball was so important.”
With baseball hosting an NCAA regional and reaching the super regionals, N.C. State joined Baylor and Florida as the only schools to win a bowl game, reach the round of 16 in men’s basketball and reach a baseball super regional.
In addition, the cross country, women’s golf and gymnastics programs all earned top-25 rankings.
The women’s basketball program is still trying to gain traction under Kellie Harper. The Wolfpack upset Duke in the ACC tournament but missed the NCAAs for the second straight year after a surprise appearance in her first year.
Harper (53-47 in three years) succeeded the late Kay Yow, Debbie’s sister and the Hall of Famer who coached the program for more than three decades.
“I think Kellie’s a great Xs and Os coach, very talented,” Yow said. “I like that it’s her at the helm and I’m pulling for her to be successful. She’ll call me on recruits and I’ll spend an hour with a recruit and their family. I do whatever I can to be sure she has what she needs to be successful. It’s important to show that level of support.”
The department — with a budget of around $57.5 million for next year — recently completed an outdoor tennis stadium ($2.7 million), soccer practice fields ($2 million), and an upgrade to the inside of the Dail Basketball Practice Facility for men’s basketball (about $550,000).
The department is researching an indoor track and football practice facility, as well as significant upgrades to Reynolds Coliseum — home to women’s basketball and volleyball.
Yow — the former women’s basketball head coach at Florida, Kentucky and Oral Roberts — said football should contend for the ACC championship and the women’s basketball program should return to the NCAA tournament in 2012-13. The men’s basketball program should be in the top 20 and return to the NCAAs, though she said preseason predictions of top-10 status and being the ACC favorite are “overhyped.”
“I think that you do a disservice to any coach if you don’t lay out expectations,” Yow said. “My goodness, as a former coach, the worst thing is to guess what’s expected, so we’re very clear.”