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June 4, 2014

Debbie Yow Q&A, part II



With the exceptions of a few track and field athletes set to compete in the NCAA Championships, NC State has closed its book on the 2013-14 calendar sports year.

NC State's men's and women's basketball squads exceeded expectations by reaching their respective NCAA Tournaments, and six non-revenue squads finished in the top 25, highlighted by women's golf's 10th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Men's basketball's third straight NCAA appearance put them in rare company, as just 6.5 percent of the 351 NCAA Division I programs have done that.

Individually, heavyweight wrestler Nick Gwiazdowski won a national championship, basketball sophomore forward T.J. Warren was selected the ACC Player of the Year after surpassing David Thompson's single-season school scoring record, senior Andrew Colley was named the Men's Cross Country Performer of the Year after winning the conference title and first-year women's basketball coach Wes Moore was honored as the league's Coach of the Year and a finalist for National Coach of the Year.

Wolfpack Director of Athletics Debbie Yow sat down with The Wolfpacker Monday for an extensive interview to discuss the year as well as other issues lingering at NC State, within the ACC and across the NCAA.

Here is part II of that interview.

You mentioned the Reynolds renovations, and we also have the indoor football practice facility on the horizon. Can you update the progress on those projects and the impacts you foresee those two projects will have?

"We ought to literally start moving dirt for the indoor within a week. It should be up hopefully February or March of next year, and it's going to be what it needs to be for our teams, primarily for our field teams, and football will always have priority. They need it very badly. We had one of our wettest springs. It was very tough on our football team to try to practice under those conditions. It really is a need, not a want.

"It will also be helpful for our track teams, which is important, and occasionally you will see softball or soccer in there, but football will always have priority.

"Insofar Reynolds is concerned, it's a spectacular project for a minimal amount of money. The fact of the matter is it's $35 million, and it's the only project ever in the history of our athletics program where the university has said, 'We'll pay a sizeable amount of this.' They are paying $15 million. Our part is 20. We couldn't do this by ourselves.

"That iconic building, Reynolds Coliseum, is over 60 years old. The time has come where we are either going to take care of the building or it's going to fall down around us. There is going to be a new roof. There will be air conditioning. All the structural issues that a building 60 years old can have will be fixed: new windows, new doors, new ticket booths, changing those as well to make them functional again.

"What I am genuinely excited about is the new office areas for women's basketball and volleyball and beyond that the Walk of Fame and History and what that's turned into. It is spectacular.

"Literally there is nothing like it in the country because of the shape of this building being elongated. It allowed us the space to do some things that other places don't have. We're still going to have about 5,500 seats. People think we have 11 or 12,000 right now. We don't, we have about 8,000-plus in there right now.

"We'll still play a men's exhibition game in there, and if we have a regular season contract game in a vacation time for the students, then we can go back into the building. I think people, once they see it and understand what has happened, are going to love it.

"There are nine hallowed spaces on campus, and only three of them are actually buildings. The Bell Tower, Holladay Hall and the other is Reynolds Coliseum, so we need to take care of it."

In terms of planning, where would the teams in Reynolds play their games?

"Everybody will move out probably in March of '15, and women's basketball is likely to end up at Broughton High School because they seat about 3,000, I think, and evidently we like their locker rooms and the sports medicine area. Volleyball and gymnastics, it could end up here in Carmichael for their seasons. I'm not sure what's happening yet with wrestling. We have people working on that.

Those are two major projects, obviously. Are there anything else on the horizon?

"There isn't anything on the horizon. At some point we want to do something for baseball and we've discussed it internally for months. We are just not there. I am not planning on asking the Wolfpack Club to do anything else until they tell me they are comfortable with where we are in these two projects.

"We are going to be fine with these two because we have some magnificent naming opportunities, especially in Reynolds there are so many. I really look forward to when we open Reynolds and have a special viewing for our most faithful members of the Wolfpack Club because there will have been so much time and energy in doing this the right way.

"I know how much pride they are going to have when they see all of our history finally displayed in one space because we'll recognize men's basketball and football even though they have other spaces in their respective buildings. It all needs to be together in one place so when a visitor comes on campus they can go in one place and really get a sense of what they achieved here over the years."

Speaking of history, Russell Wilson was back in the spring. Can you talk about that process of bringing him back and honoring him?

"We wanted to honor him, the other members of our teams that had been in the Super Bowl. We also wanted to honor Mario [Williams], so Mario will be honored during a game in our football season. Russell was able to come back for the spring game. It's special. It was great to see him.

"He had a magnificent presentation for our football team. That was as important as anything he did here that weekend, talking about the pride that you feel representing NC State and having confidence and faith in each other to get something special done here."

The men's basketball team had a low APR number this past year. Would that be fair to say a blip on the radar?

"It's a single-year APR, has nothing to do with the four-year rate. It's just one year. We're not anticipating problems. I think it's rare you have three people leave at one time that didn't finish the semester."

Financially speaking, do you feel pretty good about where the department is right now?

"I have to feel good about the fact that we are able to pay all our bills and save some money. We have a reserve for operations that is growing slowly, but is growing. It was a little over $1 million when I got here, and we are going to be close to $4 million this year, so we're building it.

"We have another reserve for facility repair and enhancements, and whatever money we put in there year-to-year gets spent almost immediately. We have 16 buildings and fields at NC State for athletics. We are not a centralized athletics program, and that's expensive because you have more buildings and your personnel spread out all over the place. It's a little bit more expensive to maintain.

"But that's what we do with the money. We just split it, part of it goes to operational expense and part of it goes to facility repair and enhancement."

What's the latest on the potential ACC Network?

"It's being pursued. We have a consultant who is working on this. I don't have anything substantive to say other than the AD's always ask about it. We get routine updates. I think it's still a viable option. It's very time-consuming to figure all of this out."

Would it follow the SEC model that is about to launch?

"I think that it would follow the SEC model very closely, so we're watching what's happening there."

There was a report in the Triangle Business Journal about converting a luxury suite at PNC Arena into a loge box where multiple parties would be allowed to share one. Is that something you are monitoring?

"There's a revenue share for those seats at PNC, so anything they can do to help better sell them is good. We're doing the same thing in football. The Wolfpack Club is converting several suites to loge seating because they think it would be easier to sell. Those are positive things. They should be doing those things."

The sports marketing campaign had been "This is our state."

"There is a new campaign. It has not been rolled out. It will be soon. We will roll it out to the staff first, and then shortly thereafter."

What are your thoughts on the black alternative helmets in football?

"I'm for anything that is legal that will attract the best recruits in the country. I've been told that this helps. I do know that on the night of the reveal, which I thought was very cleverly done with Coach [Dave] Doeren on the motorcycle coming in, we trended nationally on Twitter because of the helmets. Maybe there is something to the fact that 17, 18-year olds really enjoy change and an occasional change for specialty.

"It is a specialty item. It's a specialty helmet but there will also be a specialty uniforms, which will be primarily black. The only thing I have said is would you please pick a game to wear this where we are pretty sure we are going to win."



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