Commentary

DeCock: Yow's culture change continues at N.C. State

ldecock@newsobserver.comNovember 26, 2012 

— N.C. State’s next football coach will be the seventh head coach Debbie Yow has hired in 29 months as athletic director. Some of those coaches left of their own accord and some were fired. Tom O’Brien, unquestionably, was among those fired.

That decision to fire O’Brien, a good and honorable man in who had taken the Wolfpack to bowl games in four of the past five seasons, including this one and the previous two, is Yow’s biggest gamble yet.

Yow wants to replace him with a high-intensity recruiter, preferably with head-coaching experience, who’s more hands-on than O’Brien and who can “reinvigorate” the program and get it in the top 25 on a regular basis without running afoul of the NCAA.

Needless to say, resumes like that aren’t exactly falling out of the sky. Yow is undeterred.

“That goal is challenging, but I believe it is truly achievable here at N.C. State,” Yow said Sunday. “I believe that more today than I did when I was hired.”

There’s no doubt the decision is consistent with Yow’s mandate. She has set out to remake, from top to bottom, an athletic department that had grown stale under Lee Fowler. She’s taken that on with gusto, whether it’s making coaching changes or taking on the ACC hierarchy.

Some of the changes were obvious: Sidney Lowe was on borrowed time without serious progress in the basketball program, which was not forthcoming.

Yow has had the opportunity to replace coaches in men’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, wrestling and swimming and diving since taking over. Not one of those shook the earth. Even when the search for Lowe’s replacement went on far longer than anyone ever thought it would, she ended up settling on a coach, Mark Gottfried, who no one ever thought she would and he turned out to be a far better fit than anyone thought he would be.

This is different. This is as much about the Wolfpack winning seven games this season, when 10 seemed possible, as anything. The question posed Friday has been answered: Is “good enough” good enough? Yow’s answer, on Sunday, was no.

Still, despite his losing record in ACC play and the missed opportunities that kept piling up, O’Brien still got the Wolfpack to bowl games on a regular basis, beat North Carolina on a regular basis and kept the program clean. And N.C. State can look no farther than its rivals Chapel Hill for an object lesson on the perils of striving for football glory.

John Bunting’s record was a heck of a lot worse than O’Brien’s, but the point of hiring Butch Davis was to aim for the college football stratosphere at any cost. For all the money wasted, for all the rules broken, for all the investigations launched, for all the reputations tarnished, the Tar Heels went 24-15 in Davis’ final three years. O’Brien was 24-14 in his final three years at N.C. State, not including the bowl game Dana Bible and his other assistants will coach this season.

“This is as much about culture,” Yow said, “as anything else.”

The culture change at N.C. State continues. The Wolfpack had a pretty good football coach. Yow’s betting she can find a great one.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, Twitter: @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947

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