Shortly after N.C. State officials announced that the school had bought out the remaining three years of athletic director Lee Fowler's contract Tuesday, Chick-fil-A Bowl executive director Gary Stokan weighed in on the future of Wolfpack athletics.
"I think N.C. State is set up to have a great run and really be what they need to be and what they should be in the ACC," said Stokan, a former N.C. State basketball player, "and that's one of the top three teams in all the sports in the ACC."
Stokan said there are a lot of reasons that N.C. State can be successful in athletics. But the Wolfpack's failure to reach the NCAA tournament in men's basketball or have a winning season in football since 2006 illustrate that the job isn't easy, either.
"It's a tough job, and all across America AD jobs are getting tougher and tougher," said Fowler's predecessor, Les Robinson. "Not just at N.C. State but everywhere."
Here are four reasons the N.C. State's athletic director job is a good one, and four reasons that it can be difficult:
Stokan said N.C. State has passionate fans, a statement confirmed by the number of boosters who are members of the Wolfpack Club.
When the club passed the 20,000-member mark at the end of 2007, it became one of the five largest college athletic booster clubs in the nation. Despite a downturn in the economy, the club has managed to stay above 20,000 members the last two years.
Fowler, who's staying on until June 30 and will receive $280,000 per year through September 2013, is leaving the school's facilities in excellent shape.
The addition of the Murphy Center office complex and the premium seating at Vaughn Towers transformed Carter-Finley Stadium into one of the ACC's best football venues. And many other sports, including baseball, softball and tennis, saw their facilities improve markedly under Fowler.
Although fans of 11 ACC schools complain because conference commissioner John Swofford is a former North Carolina athletic director, being in the ACC has advantages for N.C. State.
The natural rivalries created with in-state, in-conference foes North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest give the Wolfpack energy throughout its schedule in all sports. And being in a conference in which schools have strong academic reputations helps N.C. State's image.
It's easy to recruit people to Raleigh.
The weather is excellent, and the city usually is at or near the top of the annual lists of great places to live. Athletic directors make a lot of hires, and finding people who want to work in Raleigh isn't the least bit challenging.
Rivals Duke and North Carolina set the bar extremely high for N.C. State in men's basketball.
The Blue Devils and Tar Heels each have won two NCAA titles in the past 10 years, including the 2009 (North Carolina) and 2010 (Duke) championships. Because N.C. State won championships in 1974 and 1983, those passionate Wolfpack fans expect their team to achieve on the same level as their local rivals.
That's easier said than done.
The North Carolina schools aren't known for winning in football, and there's a reason for that.
The state annually produces about 40 major college football signees, and there are five FBS teams in the state. That means there's not nearly enough homegrown talent to go around in a sport in which N.C. State is coming off four straight losing seasons.
On the field and on the court, this is a turnaround job.
With the football and basketball teams achieving little over the past four years, there's not a major program for an AD to ride to adulation.
The next athletic director needs Sidney Lowe's basketball recruiting class to be as good as advertised and Russell Wilson to take advantage of some weak ACC Atlantic Division football competition.
In a scandal-ridden past 12 months, N.C. State has cleaned house of some key top administrators, including former chancellor James Oblinger and former provost Larry Nielsen.
The new athletic director still will be working with some top officials who are still getting used to their new jobs, including chancellor Randy Woodson. With new administrators seeking to make their marks, it's an unsettling time for anyone to come to N.C. State.
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