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May 19, 2011

Q&A with Debbie Yow, part III

In the first week of July, Debbie Yow began work as the new athletics director at NC State. Over 10 months later she approaches the end of her first sports calendar year in Raleigh, and Yow sat down with The Wolfpacker this week for almost 25 minutes to discuss the "State of the Pack" for a feature that will appear in the upcoming football preview magazine.

Here is part III of Yow's interview with The Wolfpacker.

I noticed on the football poster it said "State Football" instead of "NC State Football." Is that part of a new branding effort?

"We are definitely returning to the word 'State.' It's going to be on all our jerseys this year and all our teams as the way it was in the 60's and the 70's when we had some pretty highly competitive teams. I was raised here in North Carolina saying State, not NC State and saying Carolina, Duke and Wake. That seems to be a theme that resonates with our boosters as we talk about that during the Wolfpack Club Caravan.

"People just break out in spontaneous applause when I just share that information with them. I think it's going to be popular, and I am really personally excited to see us wear those jerseys again."

Was there a reason why they went from State to NC State?

"I wasn't here for any of that. I was just looking at pictures from the 60's and 70's one day and just thought, 'Why? Why aren't we still State?' People even in the ACC, they all refer to us as State. They talked about Florida State, it's always Florida State, but whenever they say State, they mean NC State."

What are your thoughts on this past season in football and where the program stands?

"Very good season obviously in 2010. Coach O'Brien and his staff are fully committed to using that as a springboard for even greater things for us. I think the next step is to play in the ACC Championship Game, and I believe he would agree with that, and I think we have the opportunity to do that this year. I am looking forward to the season."

And you confirmed the new uniforms.

"Yes, there will be and they will be saying 'State.'"

What are your thoughts on scheduling for the revenue sports?

"Football schedules are usually scheduled out for five years. They were already scheduled out for five years when I got here so we have not made additions to that in any significant way. We do open in 2012 playing Tennessee, which is a good thing, but we'll look for opportunities to strengthen the schedule.

"I'm a believer in a slightly stronger scheduling model. Football is very challenging because you have to have a certain amount of home games to meet budget, but it's usually seven, not six, so somewhere along the way you usually have to buy a team to come in that you are not going to return to.

"I do believe in stronger scheduling, and so does Coach Gottfried. Hopefully we have a chance, perhaps, to play Stanford at Stanford this coming season with their returning the next year. There is no contract signed yet, but we hope that is going to happen. We are in a new tournament that first two rounds will be played in the RBC Center and if we win we go to Madison Square Garden, very high profile tournament.

"He too is a believer in a stronger scheduling model. We'll still see a certain number of buy games that we don't have to return, but they are going to be better buy games than teams with an RPI 200 to 350 or 348, whatever the number, it will be between 100 and 200, so even those will be more fan friendly and more interesting games."

It's been over a month for Coach Gottfried. Pleased with the staff he has put together and their work so far?

"It's exactly what I thought they were going to be like. Tremendous work ethic, outgoing personalities, a lot of upbeat conversations, occasional laughter, just really dynamic personalities who are lifetime coaches. It's really a terrific fit for NC State. They get us, they understand us. I see that happening at the Wolfpack Club Caravan meetings. Coach Gottfried just connects with our fans in a way that you could never orchestrate. It's just natural.

"I felt that was there when I hired him, I wasn't sure, and that's a great beginning. Now it comes down to the next step, recruiting, and then the games themselves. But it's hard not to feel very hopeful about the future just given who he is."

It seems like they have made a real focal point to get back in good with the recruiting in-state.

"Tremendous emphasis on recruiting in North Carolina and developing relationships with high school coaches here which is so important. Obviously we are not going to get all of our players from here, but it should be the core of where we go first, and he understands that. Bobby Lutz understands that, Rob Moxley does and so does Orlando Early.

"They are fun to be around because they are high-energy, and I appreciate high-energy individuals who are focused on excellence. They are doggedly determined to turn this program around as any group of four men we could have ever hired."

I don't want to rehash the coaching search, but after going through it and watching other searches, have there been any surprising revelations about changes over the last few years about hiring coaches?

"The search firm we hired, Parker and Associates, who is one of the best in the United States, said to me that personally after all these years he has been doing it, he's done more basketball searches than any search firm in the United States, and he said he's never seen the culture and the environment as it was this year, meaning there seems to be less and less value placed on being in an equity league like the big six equity leagues, especially if the other school is willing to pay. He had never seen them willing to pay. He can't even figure out how they can afford to pay what they're paying.

"But having said that I'm so happy with where we ended up. It's a blessing in a way that the search that it turned out the way it turned. I'm just very pleased with us and have a great deal of confidence in Coach Gottfried, so my focus every day is what he needs, what can we do to help.

"We are renovating some parts in the Dail Basketball Facility with updated graphics and some reorganization down there just to freshen things up to make it as modern as possible. They love the building. They think it's a tremendous selling point. Mark enjoyed the RBC Center. He's had the tour, his whole family has had the tour.

"We are going to be having a new basketball court there next year, new court and new seats, all new seats, red. It'll be State red. The floor is going to be beautiful, and he will paint the floor in the practice facility exactly the same as the court that will be used in the RBC.

"When you spot up to shoot, I say this as a former player and as a coach, where your spot is often associated with a marking on the court, so we want to have same marking exactly so you have that same feeling as you get ready to spot up for your shot.

"That's pretty exciting, and we'll be talking to the RBC about a couple of other improvements. I really can't go into specifics because we haven't talked with the Centennial Authority about those."

I've noticed you have made some changes here at Weisiger-Brown too, is there any reason for that?

"It's more modern. Really it's amazing what red paint can do to freshen up a building, and we have red walls everywhere. We have a lot more glass, and it's a more of an open, inviting environment. We think it's more modern. The building has been here over 30 years so we needed to freshen up, and part of it is security. We had some doors strategically placed that can be locked at 6 o'clock so that if people are working late they can feel secure in the facility.

"There'll be more changes as the money is made available. Again, those are very helpful, but it's all about the teams and what do we need to do to improve our teams and give them the best possible opportunity for success."

Are there any plans to liven up the atmosphere at the RBC Center?

"We are going to walk the facility this summer on a day that they agreed to set-up basketball. It's time-consuming to make the set-up for basketball, but they are going to make it for one day. Then we'll take a whole group of people, some staff, over and walk around, really starting around the court and talking about the seats that are dedicated for lifetime rights, which can never be moved, versus any other seats where we have some flexibility. I don't know where that is going to end up, but we do have a plan to look at it."


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