No hint to team that O'Brien's job was in jeopardy

calexander@newsobserver.comNovember 26, 2012 

  • More information N.C. State coaching records Perrin Busbee – 1892, 1896-97 – 5 games, 3-2, .600 winning percentage Bart Gatling – 1893-95 – 8, 3-4-1, .438 W.C. Riddick – 1898-1899 – 6, 1-3-2, .333 Dr. John McKee – 1900-01 – 7, 1-6-0, .143 Arthur Devlin – 1902-03 – 17, 7-8-2, .471 Willis Keinholz – 1904 – 6, 3-1-2, .667 George Whitney – 1905 – 6, 4-1-1, .750 William “Willie” Heston – 1906 – 8, 3-1-4, .625 Mickey Whitehurst – 1907-08 – 14, 12-1-1, .893 Edward “Eddie” Green – 1909-13 – 35, 25-8-2, .743 Jack Hegarty – 1914-15 – 13, 5-6-2, .462 Britt Paterson – 1916 – 7, 2-5, .286 Harry Hartsell – 1917, 1921-23 – 38, 16-18-4, .474 Tal Stafford – 1918 – 4, 1-3-0, .250 William “Bill” Fetzer – 1919-20 – 19, 14-5-0, .737 Lawrence “Buck” Shaw – 1924 – 10, 2-6-2, .300 G.K. “Gus” Tebell – 1925-29 – 48, 21-25-2, .458 John Van Liew – 1930 – 10, 2-8-0, .200 John “Clipper” Smith – 1931-33 – 27, 10-12-5, .463 Heartley “Hunk” Anderson – 1934-36 – 28, 11-17-1, .397 Williams “Doc” Newton – 1937-43 – 69, 24-39-6, .391 Beattie Feathers – 1944-51 – 1944-51 – 78, 37-38-3, .494 Horace Hendrickson – 1952-53 – 20, 4-16, .200 Earle Edwards – 1954-70 – 173, 77-88-8, .468 Al Michaels – 1971 – 11, 3-8, .273 Lou Holtz – 1972-75 – 48, 33-12-3, .719 Bo Rein – 1976-79 – 46, 27-18-1, .598 Monte Kiffin – 1980-82 – 33, 16-17, .485 Thomas Reed – 1983-85, 33, 9-24, .273 Dick Sheridan – 1986-92 – 84, 52-29, .637 Mike O’Cain – 1993-99 – 81, 41-40, .506 Chuck Amato – 2000-06 – 86, 49-37, .570 Tom O’Brien – 2007-2012 – 75, 40-35, .533

— Tom O’Brien is said to have been all business in the N.C. State locker room Saturday after the Wolfpack’s 27-10 victory over Boston College.

There was no hint that O’Brien’s job as head coach was in jeopardy, senior center Cam Wentz said Sunday. O’Brien talked only about the Pack’s bowl preparations, about the schedule for the coming week.

"It was, ‘We’ve got a team meeting Tuesday at 9 a.m., and we’re not going to do anything football-wise but I’ll see you on Saturday for practice," Wentz said. "Nothing was hinted about that, and from the impression I’ve gotten he had no idea about it, either."

But O’Brien was fired. Athletic director Debbie Yow made the decision and Wentz said he got the news Sunday in a phone call from his father, Jeff.

"It stinks. It definitely came as a shock," Wentz said.

And not just to Wentz. To nearly everyone, from the Wolfpack players and assistant coaches, to Wolfpack fans to Bobby Purcell, the executive director of the Wolfpack Club.

Purcell was leaving church Sunday when he received a call from executive senior associate athletic director Chris Kingston. According to Yow, there was no Wolfpack Club input into her decision.

"From the fundraisers? No," Yow said.

Yow said she talked only to NCSU chancellor Randy Woodson, saying Woodson then discussed the firing with the board of trustees.

"I’m a person who follows protocol," Yow said. "I have one boss and his name is Randy Woodson."

Yow did mention that she was "close" to Wendell Murphy, the influential Wolfpack Club member from Rose Hill, noting, "I knew Wendell’s feelings."

Murphy, who said Sunday he was not surprised by the firing, said he did have a conversation with Yow about the quality of O’Brien’s recruiting.

"If we’re going to challenge the upper-echelon teams we need to recruit at a higher level than we have the last couple of years," Murphy said. "You look at our facilities and we should be able to attract top recruits. We may not have the greatest facilities in the country but we have top-25 facilities."

One of the facilities is the Murphy Football Center, named for Murphy and his family. In the lobby is a bust of Wendell Murphy.

"Tom O’Brien is an honorable man who had a strong disciplinary program and brought no embarrassment to the school," Murphy said. "While I admire what he has done, he did not meet the expectations Debbie (Yow) set out of being a top 25 program consistently. I just hope we can find someone who can bring us ACC championships."

The Pack’s last ACC title came in 1979, when the late Bo Rein was the coach. O’Brien was the Wolfpack’s sixth coach since 1979, following Monte Kiffin, Tom Reed, Dick Sheridan, Mike O’Cain and Chuck Amato.

Dana Bible was Reed’s quarterbacks and wide receivers coach. When Reed accepted a contract settlement after the 1985 season, Bible was out of a job.

Bible, O’Brien’s offensive coordinator at Boston College and NCSU, will serve as interim head coach for the bowl game. He said Sunday became a "blur" after getting a text about a 1:30 p.m. meeting in which Yow discussed the firing.

"Much has changed," Bible said at the Sunday press conference at Carter-Finley Stadium. "I was in workout gear and now I’m in a suit. That’s how quickly that’s changed. But again, that’s this profession and I’ve been in this for a while."

While Yow said she met with O’Brien on Friday to talk about the direction of the program, Bible said he had no inkling a coaching change might be coming.

"No, none," he said.

Bible said he was able to talk with O’Brien on Sunday after the firing. Asked how O’Brien was handling it, Bible said, "Strong, upbeat, feisty. Just working his way through it."

O’Brien’s firing caused a mixed reaction from Wolfpack fans. Some liked that he ran a clean program and had competitive teams that went to bowls. Others strongly wanted a change after six years.

Purcell said the Pack’s 43-35 loss to North Carolina this season was tough for Wolfpack Club members to handle, saying it "took a lot out of a lot of people." There also was the 33-6 humbling by Virginia the next week at Carter-Finley.

"I support the decision," said Dave Parker of Raleigh, a 1986 NCSU graduate and Wolfpack Club member. "To me, there was too much up and down. There was a lack of consistency. Debbie Yow has said she wants to win an ACC championship and we were not making progress with Tom O’Brien."

David Harris of Raleigh, a Wolfpack Club member, put it another way.

"Tom O’Brien is a good man, a man of integrity," he said. "But he probably had taken the program to the highest level he could. It’s time to give someone else the opportunity."

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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