No matter how this turns out for Dave Doeren, whether he ends up staying at N.C. State or going to Tennessee, no one’s going to be all that happy with him.
If Doeren accepts the improved contract extension the Wolfpack has offered him, he’s still going to have to smooth feathers ruffled by his dalliance with the Volunteers after an 8-4 season that easily could have been a 10-win season.
If he goes to Tennessee, he’s diving headfirst into a burbling cauldron of bile. The toxic mob of fans there has already run off one potential coach and doesn’t appear particularly receptive to Doeren, to put it mildly, and the job ahead there appears difficult. N.C. State, meanwhile, will be plunged into a coaching search it wasn’t expecting, unlike five years ago when Debbie Yow had Doeren lined up and ready to go. Doeren won’t be remembered fondly for jumping ship.
If those are Doeren’s choices, taking whatever N.C. State has offered, even if it’s not exactly what Doeren originally wanted, seems like the right play.
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That’s how it goes sometimes when you try to play coaching poker, and Doeren has tried to get the most out of a hand that wasn’t as quite as strong as he thought it would be. When he passed on N.C. State’s offer of an extension when his team was 6-1, only to finish 2-3, the only way he could regain negotiating leverage was by drumming up interest elsewhere.
That may yet work, but it will leave him with some damage control to do if he stays, especially with the way his contract situation has played out in public view, especially since Doeren had done enough to earn a moderate extension and raise to the ACC median but nowhere close to enough to ask for a blank check from Yow.
This can still end well for both parties. If Doeren signs an extension, keeps his staff together and wins this bowl game, he could use a 9-4 season as a launching pad to consistent success at N.C. State, even if there’s a bit of a retrenchment next season.
That was always supposed to be the blueprint, but the uncertainty over his contract negotiations has introduced a new note of conflict into the relationship between Doeren and N.C. State and its fans that wasn’t there before.
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock