There’s nothing like a text from a four-star general to get your attention.
“Call me ASAP,” was the message from Gen. Ray Odierno that flashed on Boo Corrigan’s phone when he got back from Atlanta from a mid-January interview with N.C. State chancellor Randy Woodson.
Odierno, the former chief of staff of the U.S. Army, and Corrigan had become friends during Corrigan’s tenure as Army West Point’s athletic director.
The two had worked together to rebuild Army’s football program. Odierno played football for the Black Knights in the 1970s and later earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from N.C. State.
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With Woodson looking for a replacement for athletic director Debbie Yow at N.C. State, Odierno had a different opportunity in mind for Corrigan.
Odierno sold a pitch to Corrigan about N.C. State.
“This is a great job,” Odierno told Corrigan. “This is a great place. I think you’re the right person to be there.”
The general didn’t need a hard sell. Corrigan had already made up his mind. Corrigan was introduced as N.C. State’s next athletic director on Thursday at Reynolds Coliseum.
It was the culmination of a stealth, efficient search by Woodson and the start of a new marriage between N.C. State and one of the oldest names in the ACC.
Corrigan agreed to a five-year contract, worth $1.05 million annually, to replace Debbie Yow in May as N.C. State’s AD.
Running to NC State
Eugene Francis Corrigan Jr., who grew up in ACC country — where his dad, Gene, was commissioner and a former AD at Virginia —wasn’t going to leave West Point for just any job.
“Make no mistake, I’m running to something,” Corrigan, 52, said. “I’m running to N.C. State. I’m not running away from West Point. We were there for eight years and it has virtually been an adventure of a lifetime, to land there and be a part of such a dynamic community. We thought it was time and this was the place we wanted to be.”
Woodson used the Parker Executive Search firm in Atlanta to help with the process of finding a replacement for Yow, who was hired in 2010. The firm’s fee was $120,000.
Yow has helped turn N.C. State into one of the top all-around athletic departments in the country. When she made it clear, after she had signed her most recent contract in 2015 that she was going to retire this year, Corrigan made a mental note.
In the fall, Woodson started to prepare for the process to replace Yow. He started “canvassing the universe” for candidates and got a list from the search firm of about 30 people.
Woodson said on Thursday that he had a diverse group of candidates that was whittled down to seven. He said in January he started to meet with candidates face to face.
Every time Woodson went through his checklist, and the name “Boo” kept coming out on top.
The nickname, by the way, was given to the youngest of seven children by his father.
“When I was a baby, he started calling me Boo,” Corrigan said. “My mom kind of looked at him and said, ‘Gene, you need stop doing that, the kids are going to start calling him Boo.’ Here I sit 52 years later, a guy named Boo.”
And a guy with an understanding of the ACC and how it works. A proven athletic director, which was tops on Woodson’s list, with experience at Florida State, Duke and Notre Dame before he took the top job at Army in 2011.
“He is phenomenal at relationship building, externally and internally,” Woodson said. “What I think you’re going to have in Boo is the ability to move our athletic department to even higher levels.”
Corrigan built a strong relationship with Odierno at West Point. Notably, Army made incredible strides in football. The Black Knights won a school-record 11 games in 2018 and had its highest AP ranking (No. 19) since 1958.
Not that Corrigan is interested in taking any of the credit for the incredible leap from 2-10 to 11-3.
“I think the credit goes to the cadets and the credit goes to the coaches,” Corrigan said.
Odierno thinks Corrigan is being modest. Army’s athletic department made improvements across the board during Corrigan’s eight-year tenure.
“West Point is a very different kind of animal when it comes to intercollegiate athletics,” Odierno said. “Boo was very good at understanding that early on.”
Woodson had an initial conversation with Corrigan and then reached out to Odierno, who had moved to Pinehurst after his retirement from the Army, to do some homework.
“Randy did a great job of doing this,” Odierno said. “He really did this on his own. I just helped him at the end.”
Woodson and Corrigan met in Atlanta on Jan. 22. There was no extravagant meal, just a meeting.
“Maybe a couple of cookies and some water,” Corrigan said.
Woodson was there on business and had no interest in letting anyone know what he was up to.
“You get candidates like Boo and they won’t talk to you unless it’s quiet,” Woodson said.
The quieter, the better, Corrigan agreed.
“It was really quick,” Corrigan said. “Parker did a great job protecting West Point, and that was really important to me.”
Ready to make the move
When Corrigan got back from Atlanta there was that text from Odierno.
“If you’ve ever gotten a text message from a four-star general, it’s a little intimidating,” Corrigan said.
There was no need to be worried. Corrigan was ready to make the move. He flew into Raleigh on Tuesday night. Woodson attended the basketball game with Virginia at PNC Arena. Corrigan got into RDU Airport with his family in time to catch the end of overtime on a TV in the concourse.
The next morning, Corrigan was touring the campus and facilities and was able to meet with the coaches at the Stateview Hotel on Centennial Campus in the afternoon.
By Thursday morning, he was already comfortable in a red-and-white striped tie and with a “Tuffy” pin on the left lapel of his black suit jacket.
“This is the perfect hire for N.C. State,” Odierno said. “Everyone should be thrilled.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio