NC STATE FOOTBALL
Luke DeCock (N&O)
Yow’s culture change continues
N.C. State’s next football coach will be the seventh head coach Debbie Yow has hired in 29 months as athletic director. Some of those coaches left of their own accord and some were fired. Tom O’Brien, unquestionably, was among those fired.
That decision to fire O’Brien, a good and honorable man in who had taken the Wolfpack to bowl games in four of the past five seasons, including this one and the previous two, is Yow’s biggest gamble yet.
Yow wants to replace him with a high-intensity recruiter, preferably with head-coaching experience, who’s more hands-on than O’Brien and who can “reinvigorate” the program and get it in the top 25 on a regular basis without running afoul of the NCAA.
Needless to say, resumes like that aren’t exactly falling out of the sky. Yow is undeterred.
“That goal is challenging, but I believe it is truly achievable here at N.C. State,” Yow said Sunday. “I believe that more today than I did when I was hired.”
There’s no doubt the decision is consistent with Yow’s mandate. She has set out to remake, from top to bottom, an athletic department that had grown stale under Lee Fowler. She’s taken that on with gusto, whether it’s making coaching changes or taking on the ACC hierarchy.
Caulton Tudor (N&O)
Virginia loss underscored O’Brien’s struggle in league play
Tom O’Brien just didn’t win enough league football games in a weak conference to keep his job for a seventh season at N.C. State.
The most damaging of his 26 ACC losses (versus 22 league wins) almost certainly was a 33-6 drubbing from Virginia on Nov. 3 in Carter-Finley Stadium.
If Wolfpack athletic director Debbie Yow didn’t make up her mind to fire O’Brien that day, the team’s performance put the former Marine in harm’s way.
Although the Pack would bounce back to win two of its final three games and qualify for a post-season game, the loss to Virginia emptied the stadium early in the second half and drained much of the coach’s once solid support among fans.
When O’Brien began his post-game remarks with “bad day,” you got the feeling he knew right then the way this season would end.
Then there are the expectations.
Many Wolfpack fans are convinced the program should be a double-digit winner on a regular basis even though it’s happened only once and then by a 2002 team (11-3) that went 5-3 in the conference.
Andrew Kenny (N&O)
Wolfpack fans ready to move on
“I think it’s a little unjust. We did get three bowl games,” said N.C. State junior Kyle Davis. “But I guess (director of athletics) Debbie Yow doesn’t want mediocrity.”
“He didn’t inspire passion,” said Jean Carroll, an alumna and three-sport season ticket holder. Asked how the football team’s recent performance stacked up to the last few decades, she put it simply: “We’re 7-5.”“That says it all,” agreed former radio host Bob “The Blade” Robinson, who had come with friends to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers play.
State’s recent football seasons were “definitely frustrating at times,” said David Richey, a junior. “But not disappointing,” added Kyle Davis. “We’re not looking for 10-2 seasons.”
CHIP ALEXANDER (N&O)
No hint to team that O’Brien’s job was in jeopardy
“It stinks. It definitely came as a shock,” Wentz said.
And not just to Wentz. To nearly everyone, from the Wolfpack players and assistant coaches, to Wolfpack fans to Bobby Purcell, the executive director of the Wolfpack Club.
Purcell was leaving church Sunday when he received a call from executive senior associate athletic director Chris Kingston. According to Yow, there was no Wolfpack Club input into her decision.
“From the fundraisers? No,” Yow said.
Yow said she talked only to NCSU chancellor Randy Woodson, saying Woodson then discussed the firing with the board of trustees.
“I’m a person who follows protocol,” Yow said. “I have one boss and his name is Randy Woodson.”
Yow did mention that she was “close” to Wendell Murphy, the influential Wolfpack Club member from Rose Hill, noting, “I knew Wendell’s feelings.”
Murphy, who said Sunday he was not surprised by the firing, said he did have a conversation with Yow about the quality of O’Brien’s recruiting.
“If we’re going to challenge the upper-echelon teams we need to recruit at a higher level than we have the last couple of years,” Murphy said. “You look at our facilities and we should be able to attract top recruits. We may not have the greatest facilities in the country but we have top-25 facilities.”
One of the facilities is the Murphy Football Center, named for Murphy and his family. In the lobby is a bust of Wendell Murphy.
“Tom O’Brien is an honorable man who had a strong disciplinary program and brought no embarrassment to the school,” Murphy said. “While I admire what he has done, he did not meet the expectations Debbie (Yow) set out of being a top 25 program consistently. I just hope we can find someone who can bring us ACC championships.”
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
Philosophical differences, unfulfilled expectations led to TOB’s dismissal
It’s a reality that became abundantly clear on Friday when Yow met with O’Brien to discuss the future of his program and as it turned out, his own future, on the eve of State’s regular-season finale against Boston College.
The conversation centered around two simple questions: “Where are we in the program and where are we heading?”
According to Yow, O’Brien did most of the talking while she did most of the listening.
The answers she got clearly sealed the 64-year-old coach’s fate, regardless of how his team did Saturday. The fact that State won 27-10 in a game that also marked the end of former O’Brien assistant Frank Spaziani’s career with the Eagles only served to make the announcement a little more uncomfortable.
“I know I didn’t see it coming,” said offensive coordinator Dana Bible, who will serve as interim coach for the Wolfpack’s upcoming bowl game – which will be announced next week. “As a coach, you’re focused on the now. The focus was still on the season, then the call came.”
In the end, O’Brien has no one but himself to blame for losing his job.
After five inconsistent seasons in which he his teams had played in three bowls, but compiled an overall record just above the .500 mark, the understated coach proclaimed this year’s Wolfpack to be the deepest and most talented of his tenure.
The bar was raised even higher when State came back from a 16-0 halftime deficit to upset then-No. 3 Florida State. But as O’Brien’s teams so often did, this one negated that big win and the opportunity to challenge for the ACC’s Atlantic Division title by losing a pair of games in which it was favored.
According to Yow, the expectations O’Brien set and his failure to live up to them played a major role in his ultimate demise.
“Of course it did,” she said. “He’s the subject matter expert, not me. … The gist of it is that I had very high hopes in this particular year, as did Coach O’Brien. All I can say is I think (the change in leadership) is the right choice, on balance.”
N.C. State Fires O’Brien After Six Seasons
“He’s proud of the program we’ve built both here and at Boston College,” said Bible, a longtime assistant to O’Brien. “He’s very proud of the way he and we have gone about the business of football. And he’ll let his record stand as it may.”
O’Brien’s teams were just 22-26 in ACC play and finished above .500 in the league just once, going 5-3 in 2010. He was 1-14 in Atlantic Division road games.
Only three ACC teams – No. 13 Florida State (10-2), No. 15 Clemson (10-2) and rival North Carolina (8-4) – had better overall records this season than the Wolfpack, who were 4-4 in the league.
That was good for third in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State and Clemson – exactly where they were picked in the preseason poll.
But consistency was a problem all season.
They opened with a 14-point loss to a Tennessee team that went on to finish 5-7. They blew a late 10-point lead and allowed an ACC-record 566 yards passing in a loss at Miami. They followed their first loss to rival North Carolina in six years by being routed at home 33-6 by a last-place Virginia team that had lost six straight. They also gave up 62 points in a loss at Clemson.
Not even a thrilling upset of then-No. 3 Florida State on Oct. 6 could save O’Brien’s job.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Yow said the school had lost about 1,000 season-ticket holders for football – a loss of $1.4 million – in the past six seasons.
Jim Young (accsports.com)
Thoughts On The Firing Of Tom O’Brien
Firing a coach after three straight winning seasons seems like something you’d be more likely to see in the SEC … which is kind of the point. Yow wants to be bold in her approach to N.C. State athletics, and bold folks typically don’t wait around for things to happen. She felt the program was likely headed for a downturn after the graduation of a significant senior class and she didn’t see many top-notch recruits coming in to the fill the void. So Yow launched a preemptive strike.
The fact that first-year UNC coach Larry Fedora brought in an high-octane offense to Chapel Hill and won eight games (including one against N.C.State) may also have sped up Yow’s timetable.
One other thing to note: Yow said at the press conference that State’s season ticket totals have dropped by 1,000 during TOB’s tenture.
Look for it to be someone young, someone who can recruit and someone who is probably a practitioner of the spread offenses that are all the rages these days.
In other words, look for someone like Vandy coach James Franklin. But not actually Franklin. That’s according to Yow, who said that Franklin – whom she has known since their time together at Maryland – won’t be a candidate.
I still don’t know that I fully believe her on that, but here are a few other coaches whose names will likely pop up:
Spike Dykes, Lousiana Tech: He’s 43, he just led the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record and Tech has the nation’s most prolific offense (577.9 yards per game).
Darrell Hazell, Kent State: At 48, Hazell’s a bit on the old side, but he just led Kent State to an 11-1 record. Again, KENT STATE, 11-1! Kent averaged 34.4 points per game.
Butch Jones, Cincinnati: He’s 44, he’s won as a head coach at two programs already (Central Michigan and Cincy). He’s also spread offense practitioner who has coached under Brian Kelly and Rich Rodriguez during his career.
Chad Morris, Clemson offensive coordinator: He’s 43 and he has no head coaching experience in college. Heck, he’s still just three seasons removed from coaching in high school. But Morris is the it-coach right now when it comes to the fast-break style of the spread offense. And Yow is no doubt familiar with his work (see: 62-48).
Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State: He’s a little older (47), but Malzahn was Morris before Morris came along. Want to know how good Malzahn is at directing offenses? Take a look at what Auburn’s become since he left. Malzahn is 8-3 in his first season coaching the Red Wolves.
I’ll throw one more in. He’s not a name I’ve heard a lot of buzz about, but he fits the profile:
Pete Lembo, Ball State: Lembo is 42, he won big at Lehigh, he completely turned around Elon and he’s 9-3 in his second season at Ball State. And he’s done it with a high-scoring, pass-happy offense. His one drawback may be that he’s never worked on the staff of a high-level FCS program.
What’s the next guy inherit?
Yow said that the next State coach would be part of a “rebuilding process.” I’m not sure I agree.
The new coach will inherit a defense that will return six starters among the front seven (not including linebacker D.J. Green, who was suspended for the 2012 season). On offense, Mike Glennon will be gone, but O’Brien’s staff thought very highly of his likely replacement, Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas. Most of the other skill position talent will return and, while three O-line starters depart, injuries in that unit ensured that plenty of players got experience there this season.
In other words, it’s set up so that the next coach should be able to come in and win, 7-8 games right away. That’ll be fine to start, but Yow will expect more, soon. She’s made that very clear.
Akula Wolf (Backingthepack.com)
Clemson OC Chad Morris A Major Target? James Franklin Unlikely, According To Report
Now that Tom O’Brien is no longer the head football coach at NC State–really did not see him getting canned before Frank Spaziani–the rumors are beginning to swirl. According to CoachingSearch.com (dunno how credible the site is), Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris could be a primary target for Debbie Yow:
“I have learned that Clemson offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Chad Morris is a strong candidate to replace O’Brien. Morris is currently the highest paid assistant in college football, earning $1.3 million annually at Clemson.”
CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman also threw out Morris’ name, along with Stanford OC Pep Hamilton.
James Franklin NOT a candidate for the job, according to Debbie Yow
Akula Wolf (Backingthepack.com)
NC State Coaching Search: Mike Leach Contacted … Or Not
As for Leach, it would not surprise me if he had been contacted–Debbie Yow appears to be looking for someone who will modernize NC State’s offense and bring some added enthusiasm with it, and Leach’s air raid passapalooza certainly would do that. But it’s also poor timing in that Leach just completed his first season at Washington State, and for that and the reasons laid out here, I’m with CougCenter–this just doesn’t make much sense.
If Yow wants to go the air raid route, there are other, younger candidates–more risky candidates, perhaps, but also potentially with bigger upsides–that would come cheaper.
Let’s just hope this madness does not extend over multiple weeks like it has in the past.
Profile of a Possible Savior: A Primer
BCS-Level Coach (Current)
James Franklin (Vanderbilt)…yes I know he isn’t a candidate but depending on how long this thing drags out, we might end up profiling him for shits and giggles. Cause everyone loves shits and giggles.
Butch Jones (Cincinnati)
Mid-Major Level Coach (Current)
Sonny Dykes (Louisiana Tech)
Mike MacIntyre (San Jose State)
Gary Andersen (Utah State)
Gus Malzahn (Arkansas State)
Rick Stockstill (MTSU)
Darrell Hazell (Kent State)
Willie Taggart (Western Kentucky)
BCS-Level Coordinators (Current)
Chad Morris (Clemson OC)
Todd Monken (Oklahoma State OC)
Pat Narduzzi (Michigan State DC)
Bryan Harsin (Texas OC)
Jay Norvell (Oklahoma OC)
Akula Wolf (backingthepack.com)
ACC Bowl Projections: NC State To Nashville?
Funny thing about that Music City Bowl possibility. There is a decent chance that James Franklin’s Vanderbilt team ends up being NC State’s opponent, if that is in fact where the Pack goes. Franklin and NCSU athletics director Debbie Yow have a relationship dating back to their respective tenures at Maryland, and Franklin would be her first phone call if and when Tom O’Brien’s tenure in Raleigh comes to an end. TOB knows this. So I’m sure this potential bowl matchup would not be awkward at all.
Akula Wolf (Backingthepack.com)
Kyrin Priester Could Be First To Decommit
Kyrin Priester, a wide receiver from Georgia and a member of NC State’s 2013 football recruiting class, could be looking elsewhere in the near future:
“I was kind of mad at first [that Tom O'Brien was fired], but now I am just trying to see who the new coach is and see how everything is,” Priester said. “I am pretty much going to open it back up, depending on what happens with Coach [Troy] Walters. If he is fired, I am not going there.”
Heather Dinich (ESPN)
Mediocrity undoes Tom O’Brien
Heading into this season, it looked as though NC State had enough pieces in place to be a dark-horse contender in the Atlantic Division race. The media picked the team to finish third in the division behind Florida State and Clemson, and with good reason. The Pack returned one of the ACC’s most accomplished quarterbacks in Mike Glennon, and four of five starters returned on the offensive line. NC State’s secondary was billed by many as one of the best in the ACC, if not the country.
O’Brien is a good, well-respected coach among his peers. He and his staff fared well with the talent they had to work with. The problem is the talent they had to work with. NC State has not been known for its recruitment of elite athletes under O’Brien’s staff, and that is a philosophy that differs from Yow’s.
O’Brien proved he could win big with the talent he brought in. He just couldn’t do it consistently enough to be a factor in the ACC race.
For the second straight season, NC State shocked the ACC with an upset of one of the conference’s best teams. Last year it was No. 7-ranked Clemson. This year it was No. 3-ranked Florida State. But the program’s inability to translate those upsets into meaningful postseason play finally caught up with O’Brien. His slow starts and strong finishes had become trademarks of the program under his watch, but the end results amounted to just three winning seasons in six years, two bowl wins and a 22-26 record in the ACC.
It wasn’t until this season at Maryland that O’Brien finally notched his first road win against an Atlantic Division opponent, improving his overall record in division road games to 1-14. Overall, he was 11-19 against Atlantic Division opponents.
Andrea Adelson (ESPN.com)
NC State fires Tom O’Brien
This season provides the perfect example of how NC State fell short of what many believed could be an outstanding season. The Wolfpack were embarrassed in the season opener by a Tennessee team that won only one SEC game. But they pulled the upset of the season when they took down then-No. 3 Florida State 17-16 to put NC State in the driver’s seat in the Atlantic.
But that was a short-lived dream. NC State ended up dropping games to North Carolina and a head-scratcher to Virginia, finishing with losses in three of its final five games.
“Coach O’Brien’s service to NC State over the last six years has been sincerely appreciated by Wolfpack Nation,” athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. “We especially appreciate his attention toward NCAA rules compliance, a value that will continue to be held by NC State. We wish him well in future pursuits.”
A closer look at his overall ACC record reveals an 11-19 mark against Atlantic Division opponents — including 1-14 on the road.
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
FIFTH QUARTER: A bad ending to a miserable week
2. Fantastic freshmen: Saturday was a big day for ACC rookies. UNC WR Quinshad Davis caught nine passes for 135 yards and two TDs (barely missing a third when replay showed his knee hit at the 1). Maryland’s Stefon Diggs returned a kickoff 99 yards for a TD, threw for another score and caught eight passes for 82 yards. Miami’s Duke Johnson carved up, ironically, Duke for 176 rushing yards and three TDs while N.C. State’s Shadrach Thornton had his third straight 100-yard game with 105 vs. Boston College.
4. Amerson Indicator: As CB David Amerson goes, so does N.C. State. Saturday, he returned an interception 55 yards for a TD in the final minute of the first half to lead the Wolfpack to a 27-10 win against BC. It was the 18th pick of his career and fifth this season. More important, the Wolfpack is now 12-2 in games he’s recorded an interception, including a perfect 5-0 this year.
1. Paper Tigers: Clemson ran up impressive offensive numbers against the likes of BC, Wake Forest, Duke and the rest of the ACC, but when faced with a defense possessing even more athletes than themselves, Tajh Boyd and the Tigers were exposed. South Carolina held Clemson to just 17 points and 535 yards – 25 points and 207 yards fewer than its averages – and beat Dabo Swinney’s team for the fourth straight year. With a backup QB, no less.
2. FSU flop: Same story as Clemson-USC, only on the other side of the ball. The Seminoles came in as the nation’s top-ranked defense, but fattening up on overmatched ACC offenses didn’t help them against Florida. Offensively challenged by SEC standards, the Gators took advantage of five FSU turnovers to roll up 244 rushing yards, 24 fourth-quarter points and a 37-26 win against the best the ACC has to offer.
STAT OF THE WEEK
N.C. State QB Mike Glennon completed 27 of 41 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns against BC on Saturday, giving him 3,648 yards for his career. That’s second in school history behind only Philip Rivers. Glennon’ 30 TD passes this year make him the only player in school history to throw for 30 or more scores twice in his career. He had 31 in 2011.
Heather Dinich (ESPN)
ACC bowl projections: Week 14
• Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 1: Florida State
• Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dec. 31: Clemson
• Russell Athletic Bowl, Dec. 28: Virginia Tech
• Hyundai Sun Bowl, Dec. 31: Georgia Tech
• Belk Bowl, Dec. 27: Duke
• Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Dec. 31: NC State
• AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, Dec. 28: N/A
• Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, Dec. 27: N/A
Web Chat: NC State’s next steps after firing TOB
Mark Thomas and Jeff Gravley sat down to discuss the reasons behind NC State’s decision to fire Tom O’Brien and what happens now in Raleigh as they try to fill the vacancy.
Gravley: Yow needed change to reach goals
Debbie Yow, director of athletics, said ultimately she was not convinced Tom O’Brien was the coach to get the NC State football team where she thinks they can go — to a consistent ranking among the Top 25.
NC State AD: Focus on excellence led to O’Brien ouster
After six seasons and a 40-35 record, Tom O’Brien is out as head football coach at North Carolina State University. Director of Ahletics Debbie Yow made the official announcement of the change Sunday afternoon.
Joe Ovies talks about who might replace O’Brien
Joe Ovies talks about who might replace N.C. State football coach Tom O’Brien.
NCSU fans: O’Brien ‘didn’t shine’
N.C. State fans expressed both sadness at losing Coach Tim O’Brien and excitement for the future.
NC STATE VOLLEYBALL
For the first time in 25 years, NC State’s volleyball team is headed to the NCAA Championships.
The Wolfpack (22-9 overall, 12-8 ACC) is one of four ACC teams to earn a berth in the 64-team field, along with champion Florida State, Miami and North Carolina.
Third-year head coach Bryan Bunn’s team will face Texas A&M on Thursday at 5 p.m. (EST) in Austin, Texas, in the school’s first NCAA match since the 1987 team lost 3-0 to Kentucky in the first round. That is the only previous NCAA appearance in school history.
The Aggies, competing in their first season of Southeastern Conference play, are 24-5 overall and 16-4 in the league, winning the Western Division and finishing second overall.
“I was confident that we had a shot,” Bunn said, after his team watched the announcement on ESPNU at a Raleigh restaurant. “These girls have always been greater than the sum of their parts. That’s a testament to them and how hard they’ve worked since they have been here.
“This is a cherry on top of the ice cream we have had all season.”
For Bunn, a successful coach at both North Florida and Texas Lutheran, the invitation was even earlier than he expected when he was hired to take over the program in 2010.
“This was one of our goals when we got here, to make it into the NCAA Tournament,” said Bunn, who has guided the Pack to back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1995-96. “It happened a little sooner than I thought it would. That’s great. It’s going to help our program in the long run.
“We had hoped to be at this point in year four or five. These kids have worked their butts off and it pays off when you work that hard.”