Now that June 30, 2010 has come and gone, North Carolina State has officially parted ways with its athletic director of the past 10 years, Lee Fowler. The past 10 years have been wrought with many more downs than ups, but we want to take some time to look back at the entire Lee Fowler era. We think now is a good time to take an overall look at the events that transpired under his leadership. The following events that took place have been grouped into 3 categories: Good, Bad, and Ugly. We will look at some of these events starting with the Good.
No one can be employed at a high-level position, like an athletic director of a university, and not do anything right, no matter what anyone thinks. There were several good things to come out of the Fowler era, both personally and professionally (from an NCSU perspective).
In his tenure, the Wolfpack won 15 ACC conference titles and 2 EAGL titles. The titles were in the following sports:
• Men’s Cross Country
• Women’s Cross Country
• Gymnastics (EAGL)
Lee was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in 2008. Chancellor James Oblinger awarded Coach Fowler this for doing, from Oblinger’s perspective, a wonderful job keeping the athletic department functioning well…both financially and athletically.
One of the mandates when Lee Fowler arrived on campus was to make sure that the athletic department was successful from a financial perspective. This was definitely one of his strengths. As far back as I have seen, the athletic department has been in the black, which is a very good thing, seeing as several athletic departments are bleeding profusely in the red these days.
During his tenure, Lee was generally acknowledged within the ACC as the most media-friendly athletic director. David Glenn has basically said on the radio that if he needed a quote from an AD, he would place a call to Lee Fowler, as he always had time for the media. A media-friendly AD can be a very good thing.
Another award that he received was the J.B. Ross Leadership Award from the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitor’s Bureau in July 2006. This was partly due to being the host school for several NCAA tournament events.
Even after the announcement of his resignation set to be effective on June 30, 2010, Coach Fowler was bestowed another award. This time he was chosen as the recipient of the Southeast Athletic Director of the Year Award.
Under his tenure, almost every athletic venue at the university was improved or built. Outside of no real success in the 8 years before he arrived, the biggest issue facing him was the lack of top-flight facilities. Lou Holtz said it best, when he brought his South Carolina football team to Carter-Finley in 1999, as he told Coach Mike O’Cain “[Carter-Finley Stadium] looks the same as when I was here 30 years ago.” Some of the highlights are Carter-Finley Stadium, Dail Track-Softball Complex, Doak Field, Lonnie Poole Golf Course, and the renovation of the Reynolds Coliseum.
These renovations and new buildings allowed the Wolfpack to be the host for numerous NCAA Tournament events. He was very big on hosting these events as he stated with this quote:
““The ACC and NCAA do so much for our programs that I feel we owe them our support. Naturally it’s a great benefit for our teams if they are in the tournament field when we host, but it goes beyond that. Hosting generates a lot of recognition for NC State as well as tourism for our region. It does require some long hours by our dedicated staff but I think the investment in time and effort are well worth it.”
One of the main duties of an athletic director is to make sure the right people fill vacant coaching positions. Of the coaches hired by Fowler, there were two hires that so far have been very good. The first hiring was for the new varsity sport of women’s softball. Lee Fowler hired Lisa Navas, previously the assistant coach at North Carolina and a highly successful head coach at Division II Barry University. In her first year, the Wolfpack had a winning record. In her 3rd season, she led the team to both the ACC regular season and tournament championship.
Last year, we lost one of the greatest Wolfpackers ever, Kay Yow. The coach that would replace her would certainly have some serious shoes to fill. Lee Fowler wound up hiring Kellie Harper as the new women’s basketball coach. A three-time national title winner while a point guard at Tennessee under the direction of Pat Summitt, she became an instant coaching success at Western Carolina. Coach Harper won two Southern Conference titles in her five years in Cullowhee. In her first year in Raleigh, she guided her undersized team to the NCAA tournament and her future looks very bright. She is a young, emerging star in the coaching community and the Wolfpack Nation is very lucky to have her as head coach.
When listing the good things that happened during Coach Fowler’s tenure, one of the best didn’t have anything to do with him personally. Someone created a fake Twitter account and it was for Lee_Folwer. Many people joined Twitter just to get the tweets from “Coach.” Some of the tweets were priceless. Between his antics with Ron Wellman, the pool boy, and his home at Lake Gaston, hilarity was always just 140 characters away.
Next we will look at the events that fall into the category of Bad.