The State of Wolfpack Football

Yes, basketball season is in full swing – and for once, that feels like a good thing in Raleigh (although somewhat less so after Sunday afternoon). Despite the current excitement that basketball is generating, there is no doubt that many of you still have one burning question running through your mind – what the hell is going on with the football program?

Herein lies SFN’s take of the football program based on conversations and information gathered from some close to the program:

Despite the scoffing of various internet DSQ (“Defenders of the Status Quo”), you may think it has a “thou dost protest too much” feel to it. And you may be right. The unprecedented exodus of talented underclassmen from the program no doubt has several contributing factors. However, there is no doubt that Chuck Amato is at least one of the major reasons, perhaps the primary reason in some cases.

As you no doubt noticed (unless you live in a cave and your only source of in-season updates came from reading The Wolfpacker), Chuck Amato has come under increasing pressure from fans since the 2004 season. We would argue that most (if not all) of this pressure is reasonable and well-deserved.

Regardless, it simply comes with the territory; a territory to which Chuck has always paid lip service, famously imploring fans to point the finger at him and not his players when things go wrong. But, when the fingers finally started pointing in Amato’s direction in his 5th season, he responded by blaming everyone around him and becoming even more difficult to work with than he had been in the past. That goes for both players (who attest that his attitude towards them has changed markedly) and staff (which has often been the case ever since Norm Chow left).

Specifically, the focus has to be on the three NFL draft early entrants that seem at least somewhat out of the norm – Stephen Tulloch, John McCargo, and Derek Morris (listed from the most surprising to the least). Our sources have indicated that all three of these players were no longer happy at NC State, and Amato’s attitude was definitely a factor. Over the last two seasons, as the pressure to win built up, his more relaxed demeanor with his players vanished. Making matters worse, there was a growing perception that Amato played favorites – giving “star� treatment to players like Mario Williams and Toney Baker, which only magnified the more negative treatment he was giving to the “rank and file.�

In our view, this is separate from “just being a tough and demanding coach” – which is what you’ll hear from the DSQ. There’s a difference, and kids understand it. Just like Amato’s revolving door of assistant coaches, his players are now voting with their feet in many instances. Had Amato maintained a consistently firm, but evenhanded persona throughout his tenure at NC State, it’s unlikely you’d see this level of player discontent.

Let’s not forget about the mood among the coaching staff, which certainly impacts the players. Ask any former college football player (as I have done), and they will tell you just how instrumental of a role that assistants play in their development. In an atmosphere where there is disparate treatment (real and perceived), a “yes man” mentality (again, since Chow left – perhaps the last assistant who Chuck respected enough to receive brutally honest advice from), and being treated less than professionally (I can think of dozens of examples involving multiple coaches that won’t get discussed here) – and you end up with a dispirited, divided, turnover-prone staff.

Unless you are a trust-fund baby, I’m sure everyone has been in a workplace where you and/or others reported to a boss with a similar style. You might keep working under the conditions and might not mention it through official channels – but you most definitely allow yourself to look around, return headhunter phone calls, and probably don’t commit 110% to the current situation. It is a proven organizational development fact – bosses who treat their personnel professionally get better results and retention.

To illustrate the point – look at coaches who have decided to leave Amato’s staff for arguably better opportunities (professionally or personally). Again, Amato’s typical reaction has not been that of an effective manager. No “best of luck to you and your family – please keep in touch and let me know how things are going.” Instead, you get a heavy dose of petulant raving and demands to “clean out your desk and leave immediately.” The DSQ tellingly won’t deny this – but strangely they justify the childish, emotional response along the lines of “If you’re not with us, you’re against us – don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” It’s a dumb way to act in any business, but especially when dealing with the coaching fraternity. So much for building the “family” atmosphere.

There are also questions regarding whether the staff (as currently constituted) is well-suited for the task at hand. Even this substandard recruiting haul would have been much worse, if not for the efforts of only three assistants – Cignetti, Stroud, and Dixon. It’s not fair to expect three coaches to carry that much of the load, and almost impossible to get Top 20 classes that way. Given the rumblings we’ve heard over the years about Cignetti’s own issues with Amato, this situation bears watching very closely.

We held off on posting this entry for some time – as it is still not clear whether all of the staff and player departures are yet complete for this year (even while we were reviewing the final draft, Mike Barry’s time at NC State ended). We also have held back from publishing specific events or details because it is not our intention to just to make splashes – we hope you understand and appreciate that. Keep reading, and we believe time will prove that to be the case.

In summary, it is SFN’s synopsis that you should be concerned – significantly concerned – about the future of the football program. On the bright side, “significant concernâ€? does not equal “hopelessness.â€? Next up – a comprehensive look at what needs to happen for NC State to re-establish positive momentum, starting in 2006 (which could very well be the end of the line for Amato, absent significant improvement).

Jeff contributed to this report.

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

General NCS Football

79 Responses to The State of Wolfpack Football

  1. VaWolf82 02/14/2006 at 4:08 PM #

    everyone needs to shut up!

    Grow up or at least wake up. Winning is part of the job description and State hasn’t done too much for several straight seasons. When that happens, you better believe that people are going to speak up.

    I live in Central Va and the identical rumblings are happening around here with Groh…and even with his brand new contract. The prospects for UVa next year are not looking good right now. People are not happy and it shows up on the internet and talk radio.

    Ignoring inconvenient facts neither changes them nor makes them disappear.

  2. st0rmin 02/14/2006 at 4:22 PM #

    I guess it depends on your perspective. While the last two years, are from where our coach wants us to go it, it is 12-11 with one bowl apperance and one bowl win. Again, let us look at our historical record. If we averaged 1 game above .500 every two years for 100 years, we would be 50 games above .500. As of today, we are only 20 games. Given where we were after the WFU game, we made strides to establishing our program. I am not excusing Amato nor saying that he is the best coach in the world, but what other team can say it has beaten the last two ACC champions? Va. Tech and FSU. Guys, the real root of Coach Amato’s problem is that he has lost to UNC to straight years. As anyone who knows me, I am the biggest advocate for Coach Amato, but if he doesn’t beat UNC next year – FIRE HIM! However with that said, I would say the same with respect to BB this year. IF we don’t beat Roy or K this year, a change must be made. I know, I know – one game doesn’t make a season – BUT The Ohio State fired John Cooper for his inability to beat Michigan and look what happened.

  3. class of '74 02/14/2006 at 4:25 PM #

    Well I guess it’s safe to put stOrmin in the pro Chuck column.

  4. st0rmin 02/14/2006 at 4:28 PM #

    Not pro-Chuck column. PRO-STATE column. I just don’t want our fanbase to chase off the only Coach we have that will talk about winning a national championship.

  5. Jim 02/14/2006 at 4:43 PM #


    I meant our football facilities were a moped, not the program as a whole.

    From 86-99 you could argue that we got the most wins for the fewest dollars of any D-1 program in the country.

    Chuck took over at a crucial juncture in that we needed immediate infrastructure upgrades if we wanted to even think about being competetive in the new ACC/BCS system. The same old “scotch tape and baling wire” high school-level facilities were going to relegate us to “Duke status” forever if we didn’t start building big, expensive stuff right away. A succession of ADs allowed us to fall 30+ years behind in football infrastructure and that bill was absolutely past due. Chuck has turned that around in amazing fashion. It is not a stretch to say we are in the top 3-4 in the new ACC as far as facilities and program/fan dedication (I would put us behind only FSU, VT and Clemson). Where were we in 1999 in these catagories?

    Chuck’s first season (2000), we still had the “hill” (adorned with Les’ pathetic $250,000 bandstand). Visualize C-F at the 2006 kickoff and tell me the difference doesn’t blow you away. That’s Chuck. A lot of credit has to go to the WPC, obviiusly, but Chuck was the “Prime Mover,” as Chaucer would say. Chuck has built C-F and it’s accessories into something we can absolutely be proud of. Relative to our program’s history, we don’t take a backseat to anyone in the country in football facilities or dedication. Even taking all comers, we don’t take a back seat to many.

    Can Chuck translate this great stuff he has created into Ws? We will see. He deserves the right to show us if he can IMO.

  6. ncsslim 02/14/2006 at 4:46 PM #

    stOrmin, what would need to occur for a PRO-STATE person such as yourself to feel the need to re-evaluate the direction of the NCSU football program?

  7. st0rmin 02/14/2006 at 4:52 PM #

    I think I said, lose to UNC again – fire him. Beat UNC and go to a bowl game and nothing needs to be examined. Beat UNC and fail to go to a bowl game and you analyze it and have heart to heart discussions. By the way, other than Bill Cowher (which is a real long term possibility) what big names would come here if what Chuck has done is not appreciated? I am not looking through rose colored glasses. I just think we need to understand the mountain we are trying to climb. If money and facilities guaranteed success, then Oklahoma State would rule the world. Did you see where that had something like $165 million given to athletics?

  8. class of '74 02/14/2006 at 5:06 PM #

    With our facilities, the new ACC and fan commitment a quality coach should not be a problem. Other than Penn State and FSU everybody else changes coaches regularly without too many problems. Next year will show us if Chuck is the guy or not.

  9. BJD95 02/14/2006 at 5:06 PM #

    Jim – IMHO, his period to “show us if he can” runs out in 2006. One more regular season loss in 2005, and it would be over already. We’ve had 3 consecutive seasons that have failed to meet reasonable expectations. That’s definitely a trend. Amato needs to overcome that, and not just meeting a lowered bar that his recent performances have resulted in. This program is 100% Amato’s now, and he doesn’t get the benefit of a “rebuilding year” after the past 2 seasons especially.

    stOrmin – the only positive things that happened for us on the field last season came AFTER Amato ditched the shoes and glasses. It must be about NC State, not the “Cult of Chuck” or Amato’s massive ego.

  10. choppack 02/14/2006 at 5:07 PM #

    Jim – Good point. I would agree that the facilities were moped in 99. You made me LOL w/ the bandstand reference. Kind of like someone saying they are going to improve that your transportation and giving you a basket to put on the back of it!

    Stormin – I could tolerate a loss to UNC-Ch if we did other good things on the field. The problem is that we’ve been losing the heels and other teams we shouldn’t have. You make a good point at beating the ACC champs the last 2 years. Given such, shouldn’t we have been better than 6-10 in the conference during said period?

  11. Robert 02/14/2006 at 5:12 PM #

    They should have hired Paul Johnson from Georgia Southern. He’s now a winner at the Naval Acadamy.

  12. Jim 02/14/2006 at 5:25 PM #

    I don’t disagree with BJD95 on the importance of 2006.

    I would only add that in my mind Chuck will not be a “failure” if he has a bad 2006 and leaves. The light years of progress he’s made in the “program” department (aside from Ws) is staggering.

  13. class of '74 02/14/2006 at 5:38 PM #

    ^Sometimes the guy that lays the foundation is not the guy you want to finish the house.

  14. site admin 02/14/2006 at 7:03 PM #

    The Ok. State donation was a tax write off that was then donated back to T. pickens

  15. charlottefan 02/14/2006 at 7:05 PM #

    I was at a Xmas party with Ed Weisiger and he stated that he couldn’t stand Amato. He said it he was he and Wendell Murphy who got chuck to drop the shades and clown shoes. He said “If we can’t win any games atleast we don’t have to look like a clown doing so”

  16. ncsslim 02/14/2006 at 7:06 PM #

    The most dissappointing thing for me is the lost anticipation that I’ve grown accustomed over the past few years. Every year there’s been a reason to think that this will be the fun year we’ve been dreaming of, hell, forever. Even after 2004, I felt we were a program on the rise. Personally, I can’t imagine good things happening in ’06, very similar to the feelings I have every year (game?) for bball. Damn, when will the curse end?

  17. lumberpack 02/14/2006 at 7:33 PM #

    1. This is Chuck’s first job as the boss. It is always tough for a second bananna to take the top job and become the boss. Liberties that you have as the second bananna are now gone, you have to be the boss 24-7, that’s an impossible transition for some.

    2. Rivers spoiled Chuck early on that transition.

    3. It’s easy to read your own press and became enthralled with your own success as was the case after the win over ND.

    4. Acting the role of the asshole is a sign of hidden insecurity. This is to be expected from a person who is historically an assistant.

    5. In many ways, Chuck has been on his time only two years, the first four were Phillips’. He is 12-11.

    6. I made a statement four years ago after we lost to GT after starting 8-0 that we had seen the high water mark for Amato. That was true then and is true now. In the current ACC, I can’t see us ever in a position to run the table again without a Rivers quality QB.

    7. Next year he is coaching for his life from minute one. I suspect he has been humbled. I will be disapointed with anything less than a 8-4 regular season.

    8. He can not be allowed to lose to Wake and UNC in the same season and keep his job. If he goes 7-5 next year keep him but if we lose to Wake Forest and UNC again, he should be given the boot if he is over .500 – lose to both of them again in the same season and he will need to be booted upstairs even if he finishes 10-2 (hyperbole-yes).

  18. PackPride71 02/14/2006 at 8:30 PM #

    Enough crazy talk about wins and losses unless… you discuss wins and losses versus legitimate teams. In a vacuum, it would appear that some of you folks equate wins over Florida State (miracles never cease) with wins over Eastern Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State. stOrmin is notoriously guilty of this (above). Our program is being increasingly scrutinized because of failed expectations (that’s right: failed), high coaching turnover, consistent losses to UNC, and a poor win/loss record against legitimate teams. Argue lame statistics all day but at the end of the day, this is the state of NCSU football and a change is needed.

    Check out –>

    Argue all day with me in the forum. I welcome it.

  19. Fish 02/14/2006 at 9:16 PM #

    After reading the article and then the posts, I have given up hope that NCSU will ever be good to great in any revenue sport again. Football appears to be in chaos. At least you have tailgating which is always fun.

    I got evicted from Statefans for critizing the ineptitude of both revenue programs. Outlets for inside info. had greatly decreased. After reading this article, any interest I have now of NCSU sports is diminished to ground zero.

    We are just plain destined to suck in all sports. Hey maybe Avent will carry the torch for us. We can dream.

  20. Robert 77 02/14/2006 at 10:02 PM #

    Again, they should have interviewed Paul Johnson.

  21. Mike 02/14/2006 at 10:17 PM #

    Avent? You mean the replacement of the State grad Ray Tanner? The Ray Tanner that has made South Carolina a perennial top 10 team? A coach at his alma mater that decides there are greener pastures elsewhere. Hmmmmmm, interesting concept. In my dealings with the baseball program, Tanner was a class act, had great relationships with the players, but eventually left because admin would not support the dream. I hope Avent can carry the torch, and has done a great job with the talent (or lack of) he has had. I hated to see Tanner go, and wish him well at SC – the man had class. Granted his wife is an SC grad so there was some reason for him to go, but good ol’ Ray Tanner from Johnston County belongs at State.

    What is my point here? Fish brought Avent into it but a corrleation stuck in my mind. Polar opposites between Tanner and Amato. Selfless – selfish. Humble – Chuck the chest. I witnessed Ray go out of his way to welcome the little kids and youth. I have no contact with Chuck to see this type of public relations, but the “impression” I get is all show and no substance. Tanner was someone we could be proud of. Red shoes and sunglasses at night? My coworkers who wear blue constantly rag me about “the clown” (their words not mine) and you know they have a point. Of course, no doubt his earnings to wear these is more than I make in many years combined. Tanner was all about relationships. Amato is not. Relationships succeed long term. Pride always fails long term. A good friend of mine said “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

    I am not trying to run CA out of town. I hope he stays and turns us into what we should be – a top 10 team and top 2 in conference.

  22. Stew 02/14/2006 at 11:55 PM #

    Here’s the way I see it and from what I can tell this MAY provide some insight into the way Fowler views the situation. Not that I am a big Lee Fowler fan, and let me preface this post by saying that Lee Fowler was hired to do a job. He had a reputation for being good with fundraising and facilities improvements when he was hired b/c of the job he had done at ETSU or MTSU I don’t remember which. He was hired to come in and improve all of state’s athletic facilities, and once the track and softball complex are complete, golf course and football has an indoor practice facility he will have done his job. I think at this point he will probably move on to another university and we will hire someone to come in and manage the athletic department. Lee has made some good hire’s however with women’s softball and men’s tennis. He has been reluctant to fire coaches also, take this for what it’s worth.

    As this relates to Amato, basically the first four years were a wash. We are heading into Chuck’s 7th season and facilities are still not quite finished for football. Basically Fowler’s attitude with regard to Sendek and Amato is there slates are wiped clean when the facilities are complete and we will be able to better judge what they can really do once they have competitive facilities to recruit and train. Men’s basketball facilities were just finished this year, and Sendek has shown marked improvement the last 2 years. I really think Amato’s slate will be wiped clean this year once the NEZ is complete. The indoor practice facility will just be an added bonus. Amato has only had two teams that have been made up entirely of his players and has gone 12-11 so far. I think he has at least 2-3 more years to really recruit and see what he can accomplish with a level playing field.
    So with this being said, I think the verdict is still out on Amato. All indications are that the 2007 recruiting class will be a big haul and could be spectacular if we have a big season on the field. I think with the addition of Kravitz and Meyer to the staff we may have the best staff we’ve had since Amato has been here. I think we have only one position coach who needs to be replaced with that being Williams. He doesn’t relate well to his players and is not in any kind of physical condition to coach. He’s a nice man, but we need a younger more energetic coach. I think the comment about Amato being a fundraiser like Fowler is very key to this discussion. He has not shown a good ability to prepare teams to play week in and week out and his game planning is suspect. It’s been very good at times and awful at others. Amato may not be the one to finish the job, and if he’s not the next 2-3 years will tell the tail. I don’t see him going anywhere unless he loses the support of the big money donors completely. He certainly deserves credit and appreciation for the things he has done with facilities. But he does not deserve undue credit and appreciation for what he has not done and that is put up results on the field. Only time will tell the story on this. I won’t comment on Amato’s management pracitices as I don’t know anything concrete about his relationship with his staff or what has caused such high turnover among our staff. As I stated above, I think we have the best staff we have had since Amato has been here, and with one more good hireI don’t see a weak point anywhere on the staff unless it is Amato. The next 2-3 years will really show if Amato will be successful or not and as much as I hate to have to wait that long to see if a change needs to be made, he deserves that much time before we can truely give him a fair and honest assessment. Here’s to a good year in 2006 and great years in 2007 and 08!

  23. stOrmin 02/15/2006 at 6:20 AM #

    PackPride71, shame on you for having such a website. I will not honor it with my agruments, but the facts are the facts. Amato is 2 games below .500 after 6 years in the ACC (a much improved ACC and a record that doesn’t reflect a chance to play Duke two times). If we could have substituted the Miami and BC games with Duke, we would have been 6-5 last year and 7-4 this year. Not making excuses, but lets be fair. Also, he has been to 5 bowls in 6 years. He won 4 of those 5. Truth is, I probably would not like Amato (based on my perception), but he needed to and receive attention to our program by being a little on the outside. Ask Bruce Pearl (HC of BB at TN) why he wears that bright orange jacket to places like Rupp Arena. Guys, I feel that we are just scratching the surface under Chuck’s program. Truth is, we had no defense (except 1 yr out of Rivers 4). The last two years we had no offense. Next year, should be the best balance of the two. Lets just play everything out.

  24. class of '74 02/15/2006 at 6:38 AM #

    ^My only disagreement with the above is NO coach can be given 10 years to see if he’s the right guy. We have to be the kindest or easiest fanbase in the country when it comes to coaches security. With Herb it was the mountain of problems he had to endure and overcome so we could not judge him by his first five years. Now with Chuck, well the darn facilities were so bad and you know he had those awful MOC recruits to deal with so, it’s really not his fault? So now he needs three more years before we can make a FAIR judgement? Meanwhile West Raleigh burns.

    The magic of PR is fading quickly. We’ve had three consecutive underachieving seasons comprised totally of this coaches players. He needs to be held accountable with this next season. Chuck should understand he must have a winning conference and overall record next year or his time is over. Successful businesses or athletic programs do not ignore problems they identify and correct them immediately!

  25. class of '74 02/15/2006 at 6:41 AM #

    Sorry stOrmin you got there before I did. I meant the post preceeding yours!

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