Debbie Yow had ambitious goals when she was hired five years ago as N.C. State’s athletics director.
She still keeps a hard copy of them in her desk, along with the speech she gave the day she was hired in June 2010. She looks at them whenever she needs a reminder.
With her main goal in reach, Yow was approved for a contract extension and a $174,000 raise by the school’s board of trustees on Friday. Yow’s contract was extended by two years, and runs through July 2019, and her annual salary will be $690,000.
When Yow, 62, was hired, N.C. State stood at No. 89 in the Director’s Cup rankings, which accounts for a school’s national performance in all sports. Yow, who was hired after a 16-year stint at Maryland, said the goal for N.C. State was the top 25.
“I know what it takes and we will do that,” Yow said, the day she was hired.
There was more to the job and reaching that goal than she originally thought, Yow said Friday, but she was also proud of where the program is.
Seven of N.C. State’s 23 varsity teams have produced top-25 finishes thus far this academic year and the Wolfpack ranks No. 26 in the latest Director’s Cup standings. Not that Yow is ready to claim any kind of victory.
“I feel like we’re still a work in progress,” Yow said. “We don’t know where we’ll finish this year, but it’s going to be better and we’re making progress.”
And to Chancellor Randy Woodson’s approval, the progress in the athletics department has not come at a cost on the academic side. N.C. State has posted its highest scores in both the Academic Progress Report and the Federal Graduate Rate.
“Under Debbie’s outstanding leadership, N.C. State athletics has experienced continual improvement and reached unsurpassed levels of success, both academically and competitively,” Woodson said in a statement released by the school.
“Debbie’s tremendous dedication to this university, the success of its athletics teams and the academic accomplishments of our student athletes have gone a long way to help fuel N.C. State’s upward trajectory.”
Yow credited Woodson, who she described as a “superstar,” for creating an environment for progress and success.
“I have the best boss in the universe,” Yow said of Woodson. “He’s somebody who trusts me and gives me good counsel when I need to hear it.”
High level progress
Under Yow’s guidance, N.C. State has made strides in both the high-profile sports of men’s basketball and football but also in non-revenue sports with key hires in wrestling and swimming.
Mark Gottfried, hired by Yow in 2011, has led the Wolfpack basketball program to the NCAA tournament for four straight years and twice into the Sweet 16. In the 20 years before Gottfried was hired, the Wolfpack made the NCAA tournament five times and reached the Sweet 16 only once.
Dave Doeren, hired by Yow in 2012, led the football team to a five-game improvement from the 2013 season and finished with eight wins, including a bowl win. N.C. State was one of only six schools to have a team in the Sweet 16 in basketball and win its bowl game. Doeren has also been recruiting, especially in the state of North Carolina, at an unprecedented level for the program.
“Both of them have obviously been good for us,” Yow said.
Away from the primary revenue sports, Yow has possibly done even better work, lifting N.C. State to a competitive level both in the ACC and nationally.
The men’s swimming team, under fourth-year coach Braden Holloway, won the ACC title and finished eighth in the NCAA meet.
The wrestling team, coached by Pat Popolizio, finished 16th in the NCAA championships, produced two All-Americans and heavyweight Nick Gwiazdowski won the individual national title for the second straight year.
The women’s swimming team (17th), rifle (16th), women’s cross country (16th) and gymnastics teams (25th) have also produced national top 25 finishes.
One goal still out there for Yow is the school’s first national championship, in any sport, since 1983. At Maryland, the Terrapins won 17 – in five different sports – in 16 years.
“I would love that for N.C. State,” Yow said, noting the baseball team came close at the College World Series in 2013.
On Yow’s short-term list of goals are the completion of two major facilities projects: the Close-King indoor practice facility for football and Reynolds Coliseum.
The practice facility, which costs $14 million, is scheduled to be completed by the first week of June. The $35 million Reynolds project, which began in March, is schedule to be completed by Aug. 2016.
On Yow’s list of long-range plans is retirement. By 2019, she would have 25 years in the ACC as an AD and her career would span more than 40 years as college coach or administrator.
“I don’t have any intentions of going past (2019),” Yow said. “I just need to the do the best I can for N.C. State and hopefully set it up for the next person.”