Now that a few days have passed, and the initial euphoria is starting to wear off – let’s put everything into perspective. Chancellor Randy Woodson is off to a great start. And by removing a clear, absolute impediment to athletic success (Lee Fowler), he is giving us a fantastic opportunity to move forward. But we must remember that it is only a start. It is only an opportunity. The journey to possibly relevance has just begun, and is nowhere near completed. Nor is it inevitable.
First, the right athletic director must be found. Preferably, in time to critically analyze the football and mens’ basketball programs in 2010-11. The right athletic director will not be a gladhandler, but rather a tough but fair administrator. One who sets clear, objective goals and demands that each coach under his watch have concrete plans to get where they need to be, competitively. Hope is not a plan. “I want to win more than anybody” is not a plan. Those days need to be over, and every coach needs to get that message immediately.
Obviously, lots of deadwood has built up during Fowler’s tenure. With a boss like that, why wouldn’t it? The first year or two will require separating wheat from chaff, determining which stragglers can recover and grow under more aggressive leadership, and which simply need to be the shown the door. No doubt this applies to the internal workings of the department itself, in addition to the coaching ranks. And, from a larger perspective, there are also problems within the university community beyond its athletics department.
But the most immediate concerns for you, the blog reader, are naturally football and mens’ basketball. Start with first principles – the market clearly states that neither Tom O’Brien nor Sidney Lowe requires any sort of contract extension. Forget about the subjective term “deserve” for a moment. Contract extensions are about market forces. Tom O’Brien is probably at most 3 to 4 years from retirement. As respected as he is generally (despite his poor record at NC State), nobody’s coming to hire him away to fix their broken football program. And nobody’s coming for Sidney Lowe, either. He’s still a guy with zero track record of on-court success, and the coaching profession is littered with failed coaches who have had multiple (and not just one) top-flight recruiting classes.
By extending either contract, you are tying the new athletic director’s hands and/or adding to sunk costs (for absolutely no benefit to NC State), when it is certainly possible (perhaps even probable) that moves will need to be made sooner rather than later. And if the new athletic director comes in and wants to be a “buddy” right away, instead of a critical evaluator? Well, then we will have screwed up royally again. I must repeat – hope is not a strategy.
I do firmly believe that it would be impossible to hire an athletic director worse than Lee Fowler – a man that saw the athletic department produce poor results academically and athletically. A man who regularly insulted the “shareholders” of Wolfpack athletics. A man who treated NC State athletics like a family used car lot, instead of the big business that it is. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t still hire another bad one. Or that a slight improvement will be sufficient to get us where we need to be. Where we deserve to be. Roll up those sleeves, Wolfpack nation. There’s a lot of work ahead of us.