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June 13, 2013

Q&A with Debbie Yow, part I




On Tuesday, less than 48 hours after NC State's baseball team clinched a trip to the College World Series, Wolfpack athletics director Debbie Yow sat down with The Wolfpacker for an exclusive 30-minutes interview.

Yow discussed several topics relating to the state of NCSU athletics and collegiate athletics in general. The past sports calendar year saw NC State have all eight of its spring sports qualify for NCAA postseason competition for the first time in the 20-year history of the Directors' Cup, highlighted by baseball's trip to the College World Series. NCSU was one of just three schools nationally, joining Louisville and UCLA, to have its football team play in a bowl game, its men's basketball squad selected to the NCAA Tournament and its baseball team reach the CWS.

In total, 18 of the 23 sports played in NCAA postseason, bettering the previous school-best of 14. That included volleyball, which ended a 26-year drought. Softball, rifle and gymnastics all won conference titles as well.

Academically, the Pack's 77 percent graduation success rate is a new all-time high. Ten teams scored a perfect 1,000 on the Academic Progress Report for the year, and State is the only school in the country to have two Academic All-Americans on the women's basketball team (Kody Burke and Marissa Kastanek).

Off the field State athletes raised nearly $100,000 for various charities and volunteered at 30 different non-profit organizations. The Hoops4Hope women's basketball game and Kay Yow Spring Game tallied approximately $75,000 in donations for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. The Pack has also started up the Wolfpack Leadership Academy.

Financially, the budget for teams have gone from $20.6 million in 2009-10 to $33.83 million this past year, a 60.9 percent increase.

In part I of our interview, Yow talks about her thoughts on the current state of Wolfpack athletics and its primary revenue sports.

What was your reaction to reaching the College World Series?

"It is interesting because I've had the opportunity as an athletic director to win 20 national championships, and they are all special in different ways. I know this is not a national championship, but it feels similar because it's something that hasn't been achieved at NC State for 45 years. So it's very, very special."

What are your thoughts on the state of NC State athletics, starting with on the field?

"I can't keep up with everything our coaches are achieving. I'm very pleased with where we are right now. We are in the process of driving towards becoming a top 25 athletics program.

"We are doing two metrics right now. One of them is top 25 including all the publics and all the privates, and we do another metric internally which is: out of all the public schools, where do we fall. Last year, as an example, we finished No. 37 overall in the Directors' Cup, but if you only considered the public universities, or schools that look like us, we were No. 31.

"We're watching both of those statistics."

How about academically?

"One of the things I have learned since coming to State and working full-time is that we are a STEM school. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. There are other STEM schools that we should be comparing ourselves to like Georgia Tech and Clemson.

"We are not a liberal arts school. Because we are a STEM school, classes are very specialized, technical. We do offer a liberal arts education, but it isn't our focus. So I'm learning that the academic environment here is very challenging, and we probably shouldn't be trying to compare ourselves to liberal arts universities and graduation rates.

"It's going to be very challenging for us to ever have a graduation rate ever in the top half of all the publics because a number of them are liberal arts schools. Please don't get me wrong, those liberal arts schools are challenging universities.

"I say this as an English major myself, but interpreting poetry is different than taking statistics. There is no room for error in statistics. The answer is either right or wrong. There is room for opinion in looking at a poem and trying to determine its meaning."

The last couple of times we have talked, you mentioned how you have spent an inordinate amount of time on financial and budget matters.

"I do, actually. We have what I referred to in 2010 as a starved athletics program. I was really referring to the teams themselves, and our inability to sufficiently provide for them. So that's been our focus and has remained our focus for the last three years: the coaches and the teams. What is it that they need, whether it's in recruiting, team travel. We are not completely there but we are very close.

"Part of the ramp-up on the amount spent on teams also includes mandatory increases in pays by campus on scholarship costs, something over which we have no control."

Moving on to the main revenue sports, what were your thoughts on men's basketball this year?

"I think Coach [Mark] Gottfried has said it better than anybody, and that is we're thrilled that we went to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, but he had higher goals set for us. So it doesn't feel as good as it would normally feel. I think Temple proved in playing Indiana that their game against us in the NCAA Tournament was no fluke.

"His recruiting has gone very well. I have met most, not all, of the players coming in, and have met their parents in a number of cases. I feel very good about the direction of the program."

In football, you have a new coach in Dave Doeren.

"He is knocking it out of the park in recruiting, to use baseball language for a football program. We are doing so well in recruiting, and I'm appreciative that Dave has asked me to meet several of those recruits. I've had a very small part in that.

"Dave and his staff are so competitive, and it's exactly what we need: high energy, willing to go up against anyone in recruiting to get the very best players at NC State. You can say, 'We could shoot too high and lose players.' I don't really think that way myself, and I don't think Coach Doeren does either.

"I think we both believe that NC State deserves the best, and I think they are proving that in their recruiting."

How gratifying was it for you to get your No. 1 target in the search?

"Coach Doeren was our No. 1 target, for sure. That was stressful because there were so many other schools waiting in the wings waiting to talk to him. We got to him first. It turned out that was a key.

"I also had the benefit of also having a relationship with his agent: Jordan Bazant, who is also Mark Gottfried's agent. Jordan and I have a relationship originally through Mark's hiring. I feel like Jordan knew a lot more about us through Mark: what it's like to work here day-to-day, what level of support we provide our coaches.

"I think he was an advocate for us, in that regard, with Dave."

How about new women's basketball coach Wes Moore?

"Coach Moore had his first signee, and it was a four-star athlete. Dominique Wilson is a transfer from the University of Arkansas, and she will not be able to play in 2013-14 but obviously in 14-15 she will be able to play. Out of the gate that's not a bad first recruit.

"He brought to us as a staff three talented assistant coaches, including the lead recruiter for the last five years at Georgia Tech in Gene Hill, and his No. 1 assistant from UT Chattanooga in Nikki West. She was an All-American at Clemson. Two of the three assistant coaches have ACC roots and ties."



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