Wolfpack fans ready to move on

O’Brien firing a surprise but no shock

akenney@newsobserver.comNovember 25, 2012 

— News of football coach Tom O’Brien’s firing surprised many, but shocked few, judging by the reactions of N.C. State University fans online and at a sports bar near campus. It seems that die-hards knew the change was coming, but they just weren’t sure when.

Even among some O’Brien supporters, the sense at Sammy’s Tap & Grill was that O’Brien hadn’t pushed the team far enough during his six seasons at the helm.

“I think it’s a little unjust. We did get three bowl games,” said N.C. State junior Kyle Davis. “But I guess (director of athletics) Debbie Yow doesn’t want mediocrity.”

The 64-year-old coach posted an overall winning record at State. His numbers weren’t bad enough to inspire high-volume fan grousing, and he had ended the season a day earlier with a victory against Boston College, where he had last coached.

“I think he did pretty good. I don’t even know what to say,” said Tom Rompala, 36, who adopted the team when he moved here from New York.

But O’Brien’s in-conference record was underwater at 22-26, and a loss to Virginia eroded much of his fading support, according to several long-time fans. O’Brien was “a solid coach, but he was too conservative. He played not to lose,” said Bill, a long-time fan who declined to give his name due to a professional affiliation with the school.

“He didn’t inspire passion,” said Jean Carroll, an alumna and three-sport season ticket holder. Asked how the football team’s recent performance stacked up to the last few decades, she put it simply: “We’re 7-5.”“That says it all,” agreed former radio host Bob “The Blade” Robinson, who had come with friends to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers play.

State’s recent football seasons were “definitely frustrating at times,” said David Richey, a junior. “But not disappointing,” added Kyle Davis. “We’re not looking for 10-2 seasons.”

The idea of a change is appealing to some. The school’s basketball team has posted significant improvements since Yowreplaced former coach Sidney Lowe. On the Web, fans thanked O’Brien for running a clean program, then set to speculating about his replacement.

“It is time for a change,” Robinson said. “I can’t wait to see who it is.”

Kenney: 919-460-2608

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