RALEIGH — Debbie Yow has talked about the importance of building a top-25 overall program since her arrival as North Carolina State's athletic director. No one can deny the Wolfpack's progress so far.
"I really measure us against us, if that makes sense," Yow said in an interview with The Associated Press, "where have we been and where are we going?"
Three years after she arrived from Maryland, Yow has put her imprint on a program that is nearing the top-25 goal with strong postseason performances. She has made coaching changes for three of the school's four highest-profile sports football, men's basketball and women's basketball during her tenure and is working to improve facilities.
Last month, N.C. State matched its second-best finish in the Director's Cup presented annually to the top overall college athletic program while setting a school record for total points in the standings.
N.C. State was coming off an 89th-place finish in the Directors' Cup when Yow was hired in 2010. Last month, the school finished 34th, two spots behind its all-time best.
"Advancing becomes much more difficult than it had been in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s," she said. "And I understand that. But I'm very proud of our coaches and our teams for the advancement they've made. We do have a tremendous degree of synergy and momentum right now and I credit the coaches for that. They're after it in every way: academically, athletically, recruiting hard, recruiting well and the reputation of the university continues to improve."
A year ago, there was plenty of buzz from men's basketball's run to the NCAA round of 16. This year, there were significant climbs from nonrevenue sports while baseball made its first appearance in the College World Series since 1968.
Volleyball coach Bryan Bunn led the program to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1987. In softball, first-year coach Shawn Rychcik led the program to its second Atlantic Coast Conference title in its 10-year history and its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007.
N.C. State was one of three schools along with UCLA and Louisville to have the football team play in a bowl, men's basketball reach the NCAA tournament and baseball reach the College World Series this year.
In all, 18 of N.C. State's 23 teams reached NCAA postseason play, surpassing the previous high of 14 teams.
The men's basketball team returned to the NCAA tournament and won 24 games for the second straight year, capping the program's winningest 2-year run since the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons. But the Wolfpack the ACC favorite with a No. 6 preseason ranking fell short of expectations and went one-and-done in the NCAAs.
While Yow said there were "some missed opportunities," she also said she was pleased with how second-year coach Mark Gottfried handled a difficult year.
"I think there are only a handful of coaches in this country that could've handled this season and this team as well as he did," Yow said.
Yow also made two major hires this year, first bringing in Northern Illinois' Dave Doeren to take over the football program then Chattanooga's Wes Moore to take over the women's basketball program once coached by her late sister Hall of Famer Kay Yow.
Yow said the school has already spent more than $900,000 in various upgrades to the football program since Doeren's arrival, including a turf practice field and a $90,000 nutrition bar for the players. The school is also planning an indoor practice facility at an estimated cost of $14 million.
As for women's basketball, plans are underway for a $35 million renovation of Reynolds Coliseum. The school will vacate the building also home of gymnastics, wrestling and volleyball events for the 2015-16 school year during the work.
The school is also reviewing potential upgrades to baseball's Doak Field at Dail Park.
"We're always pressing for more," Yow said. "I wouldn't put a number on the Director's Cup situation for Year 4. We did in the strategic plan say Year 5 was when we hope to be in the top 25, but we're always pressing for more."