We’re #50….51!!!!

The 2004-2005 Athletics Season is in the books and the final NACDA Directors Cup rankings of College Athletics Programs has been released. (You may recognize the “Directors Cup” from its former identity of “Sears Cup”). Lee Fowler’s NC State Athletics Department finished the season ranked #51 in the country, logging its worst overall season since Fowler’s first year in Raleigh. Fowler’s program has averaged #47.4 in his five years, and has never finished better than #41.

2004-05 – #51
2003-04 – #41

2002-03 – #43
2001-02 – #46
2000-01 – #56

The Wolfpack’s #51 ranking equates to 9th place in the 12-team Atlantic Coast Conference, ahead of only #52 Clemson, #57 Boston College, and #58 Virginia Tech. Wake Forest and Miami, both small, private institutions with a fraction of the resource base as NC State finished ahead of the Wolfpack. The ACC’s schools finished the season as follows:

(5) Duke
(9) UNC-Chapel Hill
(13) Virginia
(28) Maryland
(30) Florida State
(31) Georgia Tech
(37) Wake Forest
(49) Miami
(51) NC State
(52) Clemson
(57) Boston College
(58) Virginia Tech

=== > Some example of some other schools who I was surprised to see had finished the ahead of the Wolfpack with significantly less resources, national prominence, and support include names like Baylor (#25), BYU (#27), Northwestern (#29), Princeton (#42), Harvard (#43), New Mexico (#48), and Southern Methodist University (#47).

=== > Some schools with many similarities to NC State (academics, demographics, athletics, resources) finished the season as follows: Auburn (#17), Penn State (#20), Texas A&M (#26), Georgia Tech (#31), Michigan State (#33), South Carolina (#34), Oklahoma State (#44), Purdue (#46), Louisville (#50).

Fowler’s Future Decisions?
Based on many of Lee Fowler’s past comments, NC State’s athletic performance indicates that some interesting decisions sit in the very near future. In one of his many interviews, Fowler once stated that he thought that each athletics program at State should strive to be one of the ACC’s three best -that’s a far cry from this year’s 9th place overall finish in the ACC on the back of his historically finishing in the lower third of the conference in each of his previous five years in Raleigh.

Some other examples of disconnects between what Fowler has said and what is transpiring competitively within the NC State Athletics Department can be taken from Fowler’s comments in the Febrauary 16, 2004 issue of The Wolfpacker.

In response to various questions, Fowler made some of the following statements (in italics).

===> “My goals are the same as when I came to NC State three years ago: we want to be top-25 program in all sports. I maintain that goal, and I feel it is very reachable. I think we are moving in that direction in most sports.”

SFN: Somebody please tell me how many Top 25 finishes that our Athletics Department achieved this year? A year and a half ago Fowler told us that we were moving in that direction in all sports. Modlin from PackPride’s message boards informs us that out of all of NC State’s athletics programs, only Men & Women Cross Country, Rifling, and Basketball (in one poll released after the NCAA Tournament) achieved a Top 25 finish this year. WOW!!!

The speed of the “moving toward” the Top 25 in all programs sounds eerily similar to Fowler’s statement four years ago that our basketball program was “not far away” from a National Championship. Since he made the statement, NC State’s men’s basketball program has not won a single title, has been seeded better than 4th in the ACC only once, has finished in the RPI’s Top 30 a single time, made the NCAA Tournament as a non-bubble team a single time, and won a grand total of four NCAA Tournament games in four years (when a National Title requires winning 6 games in a single year)

===> “By the end of ‘05, we will have most of our programs in the types of facilities that coaches can be held accountable to. I don’t think that was the case when I first got here. I think we had teams competing against people with a lot more assets than we had.”

===> “Every sport is judged by their wins and losses, and how they compete on a national level…As an administrator, my job is to not be quite as emotional as fans, even though I go up and down like the fans do with wins and losses of different teams. I have to step back and observe the progress of the program”.

SFN: I’ve always loved the old “progress” of the program criteria. If you start at #100 and work yourself to #50, you can always fall back on the “making progress” slogan…even though you still are nowhere close to being good. Generally, people that just want to see “progress” are people that don’t really have an ultimate goal of being the best. It is a super way to avoid tangible and measureable judgement criteria because different people can choose to judge progress in many different ways.
* Virginia Tech and Miami’s basketball programs both made huge strides of progress this season. Did Duke’s Basketball program show “progress” this year when they didn’t make the Final Four after making the trip in 2004? Whose program and season would you rather have experienced this year?

Don’t get me wrong…of course some merit should be applied when programs are showing legitimate and meaningful progress…but, you lose your credibility to use this criteria when it is selectively applied to decent years that follow bad years, but then is conveniently ignored when bad years follow good years. Lee Fowler doesn’t have to worry with that in the instance of his Athletics Department as a #51 finish in his 5th year, after all of his hard work on facilities to help alleviate built-in excuses for his coaches, doesn’t indicate anything close to the kind of “progress” that he claims the program has been making under his leadership.

Return on Investment?
It was recently announced on the Summer Caravan that NC State’s Wolfpack Club ranked #6 amongst athletic booster clubs in the entire country. (I think that the ranking was based on number of members and not dollars raised, and would welcome any outside clarification on this in the comments section below).

I am currently waiting for someone to tell me some about how we fans need to step up more to support our programs before we can start to expect some kind of tangible success? Or how our newly renovated Football, Basketball, Baseball, Tennis and other facilities just don’t compare to what Baylor, Wake Forest, New Mexico and all the other schools have. (And, before you try to float that idea, perhaps you should leave the state of North Carolina to share your perspective of the facilities and support at schools outside of the Triangle).

Doesn’t NC State have some “Athletics Council” comprised of various members of NC State constituencies supposedly serving as a Board of Directors? I am just curious…what the hell do these people do? And, what can us “stockholders” of the program do to influence the composition of this Council? Or…is being a part of the Council like everything else at NC State — an appointment for life with no accountability attached to it?

Our “Athletics” programs (it may be crazy for me to think that the “Athletics Council” would be focused on “Athletics” at NC State) are consistently amongst the worst in the ACC, while simultaneously the “APR” (new NCAA academic grading standards for programs) of our basketball program was one of the worst in the ACC and below NCAA minimums. Maybe more embarrassingly, the Athletics Department couldn’t even calculate the correct APR for the football program and took a useless and inaccurate public relations beating by initially reporting failure for the Football APR when, in fact, the program bested NCAA minimums!!!! Great work, everyone!

I’m just curious…is there a college athletics program in the country over the last 10 years that has enjoyed more broad and rabid fan support and delivered such comparably unsuccessful results on the field of athletic battle than NC State?

I guess I initially think of the University of South Carolina as a candidate…but (a) I am not versed on the breadth and depth of their overall fan support (just that they attend their football games) and (b) their baseball team has been a prominent national power since Todd Turner allowed Ray Tanner to get away from NC State. (One for the NC State Athletics Management Decisions Hall of Fame).

Any thoughts on a Top 10 Booster Club that has experienced such a Championship & Success drought in the last 10 years? I’d love to hear them…

(Some of this entry was reprised from a previous entry that included some comments from readers. Since our comments function is currently disabled, you can see some Wolfpackers’ comments at the bottom of that entry by clicking here).