Amid woes, comparing behaviors that feed NC State’s failures become more clear

Here’s an article that you just can’t ignore – Amid woes, U.Va. AD needs to act

Before we get going here… please allow me to remind you that the University of Virginia has one of the best overall Athletics programs in the entire country. It isn’t like they struggle as a department nor as a functional organization.

They have clear vision and road maps to help them achieve their goals. At the beginning of this decade the University of Virginia spent significant time and money producing a detailed strategic plan that included goals for performance and championships for their Athletics Department. Not only did they build a 57 page strategic plan, they had the gumption to post it to various University websites and share it with their stakeholders. (Link)

This organizational professionalism has helped lead the Cavaliers department to consistent top twenty finishes in the the annual Directors Cup competition.

As evidenced by the graphs below (built before athletics competition of this academic year), Virginia has clearly enjoyed a more successful overall Athletics program than NC State in recent years. The graphs compare ACC winning percentages and conference finishes of ACC institutions during Lee Fowler’s tenure as AD for the 21 ACC sports in which NC State competes. The stats do not include some sports where Virginia is traditionally strong but where State does not have a program (lacrosse, field hockey, rowing) or non-ACC sports.

Average ACC Ranking(for the 21 ACC sports in which NC State competes)
1. North Carolina – 3.38
2. Florida St – 3.74
3. Virginia – 4.91
4. Georgia Tech – 5.47
5. Clemson – 5.67
6. Duke – 5.75
7. NC State – 6.52
8. Wake Forest – 6.65
9. Virginia Tech – 6.85
10. Maryland – 7.57
11. Miami – 7.82
12. Boston College – 9.00


ACC Championships (for the 21 ACC sports in which NC State competes)
1. North Carolina – 36
2. Duke – 29
3. Florida St – 24
4. Virginia – 19
5. NC State – 14
6. Georgia Tech – 13
7. Clemson – 11
8. Virginia Tech – 9
9. Maryland – 8
10. Miami – 5
11. Wake Forest – 3
12. Boston College – 1


ACC Championship Sports (for the 21 ACC sports in which NC State competes)
1. North Carolina – 15
2. Duke – 10
3. Florida St – 9
4. Clemson – 7
t5. Georgia Tech – 6
t5. Maryland – 6
t5. Virginia – 6
8. Virginia Tech – 5
9. NC State – 4
t10. Miami – 3
t10. Wake Forest – 3
12. Boston College – 1


Honest to God…I don’t even know where to start. This conversation can go in a million directions.

(1) We could discuss the empathetic, fan-friendly perspective of an Athletics Director who publicly prioritizes winning and who doesn’t criticize his own fans.

“You have made significant investments in our program and I recognize that you expect results,” Littlepage told donors via e-mail. “As the Athletics Director I expect results as well. I realize that many fans are frustrated and I want to make sure you know that I am frustrated as well. … Improvements in football and men’s basketball are a priority.”

(2) We could discuss the rest of the world’s (accurately) negative perspective of NC State’s Athletics Department.

Among the ACC’s 12 schools, name one with deeper troubles in its money-making sports – Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest clearly are superior.

The only remotely comparable straits are at North Carolina State, where Tom O’Brien’s football program is slowly progressing from the mess he inherited from Chuck Amato, while Sidney Lowe’s basketball program is declining.

But even the Wolfpack is ahead of the last-place Cavaliers this basketball season. Wednesday marked the fourth time since the New Year that Virginia has trailed by at least 20 points during the first half, the third at home.

Ahh yes. “Even the Wolfpack”

(3) We could discuss the obvious contrast to NC State’s leadership where Virginia is having this crisis-conversation amid their woes because The last academic year in which Virginia’s football and men’s basketball teams were sub-.500 was 1976-77.

ONE YEAR! ONE YEAR in the last 33 years where both revenue-generating sports were below .500. At friggin Virginia. How many years just under the leadership of NC State’s current administration has that been the case in Raleigh (despite our premiere new ‘fuhcilities’ (that have been finished before Virginia’s upgrades).

(4) Or…we could discuss how the Virginia media is actually writing stories calling for improvement to the current situation. Could you imagine? Could you imagine if anyone in our local media FINALLY ignored their personal relationships with Lee Fowler and their fear of the wrath of Annabelle Vaughn Myers? Could you imagine if anyone actually placed their journalistic integrity and responsibilities ahead of their the potential political fallout and the negative impact to ‘access’ within the NC State Athletics program and started judging the NC State athletics program in the media?

We can imagine. They may become as ‘popular’ in west Raleigh as SFN!

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95 Responses to Amid woes, comparing behaviors that feed NC State’s failures become more clear

  1. Par Shooter 02/06/2009 at 8:25 AM #

    We all know that our athletics program as a whole is in the crapper and the local media making a big story of it doesn’t seem likely to help. It is certainly not the N&O’s job to hold Fowler accountable for his “performance” or lobby for his ouster. It’s our job as alumni to apply pressure but it doesn’t seem to matter.

  2. ktoh 02/06/2009 at 8:34 AM #

    Shhhhhh don’t let this out please . I think a recruit may see it and it will ruin Sid’s chances of getting him here . All is well and good here.

  3. frankiepack 02/06/2009 at 8:43 AM #

    76-77 was the last time both programs had losing records? UVA is “and the basketball team this year is even behind the wolfpack this season”.
    All is well Sid will get this turned around in another 10-15 years .

  4. jbpackfan 02/06/2009 at 9:09 AM #

    Good write-up by this website. The only thing I disagree with is the quoted article saying Lowe’s program is declining. I don’t think we know yet if it’s declining or improving. As you guys have said before, it’s all about leadership. Our university, from an athletics standpoint, has none.

    SFN: I totally agree with you…and we are not going to allow the comments here to evolve exclusively into basketball as that is not the point of the conversation. Thanks!

  5. SaccoV 02/06/2009 at 9:10 AM #

    One note here before the tirade. The discrepancy in terms of media coverage between UVa in Charlottesville and NC State in Raleigh causes the majority of the difference of opinion. Because UVa is the predominant university of the state of Virginia, there will be more media focus on them (excluding the recent instances of violence on Va Tech’s campus). Understanding this discrepancy in media coverage is important because as a State fan, we should never assume that our plight is important enough for the local media blitz as is seems a significant portion of local media outlets are more interested in ignoring NC State’s athletic incompetence instead of reporting it per there constitutional duty. Along these same lines, since the Valvano debacle, there really hasn’t been much to report with NC State athletics. I’m not sure if this is willful ignorance on the part of the media, or an incorrect assumption that no one in the market cares enough to read about State’s ineptitude.
    Second, as a State alum (1998) and a lifelong State fan, it is both refreshing and troubling to read this editorial while noting the comments from Littlepage. It’s refreshing in that one AD (and we know there are many more out there like Littlepage (Cobb at AppState, Wellman at WF, etc.) who sees things from the fans’ perspective. He apparently understands that fans want to pull for a winner, want to have their school succeed in athletics, and is willing to at least acknowledge the fan base as loyal, competent and wanting. Simultaneously, this reminds me of my own role as a fan of NC State, consigned to the position of a ghost. Not “real” enough in the minds of my alma mater’s administration to see that my opinion about MY OWN SCHOOL is worthy of their consideration. Forced because of a lack of desire and perceived wisdom within that administration to not donate, to purposefully refuse to see a live game, in the hopes that more fans will do the same to inspire and transmute the anger and resentment that I feel to those who are in charge of this “department.” Living in between the elation and emotion of each win and each loss knowing that the compounding of those losses and the continual gains made by neighboring schools who have no more innate right to their successes as my school does only serves to deepen my sense of loathing and worthlessness. Congratulations to Littlepage. He, like so many others not named Lee Fowler, has singlehandedly reminded me how a true Athletics Director can represent an institution with the honor and respect it has earned long before he arrived. Thanks once more to Craig Littlepage for making me jealous and envious that his university actually hires people who are good at their jobs.

  6. Octavian 02/06/2009 at 9:13 AM #

    Wow. I applaud this article and interesting parallel with State. Uva is what 11th in the current standings?

    Lowdy, do we need some leadership or we will sink more into the abyss. Here’s hoping for an AD (and an overall admin. for that matter) with some foresight and verve…some talent. Like Congress, we need to fire them all and start anew.

  7. choppack1 02/06/2009 at 9:14 AM #

    Sacco V – I noticed the key quote as well. For those w/ a short attention span – here it is:

    “First, athletic director Craig Littlepage assured donors and fans that he understands their mounting frustrations with the football and men’s basketball programs.”

    We’ve seen how Lee reacts to these items. He calls up national post-game show broadcasts and denies the coach is on the hot seat (only to see said coach fired 2 months later) or he calls the fans wanting better results “lunatics”.

    Good point on the media too. As I stated after the Tudor article – why is he focusing on Sid instead of Lee – does any fan of the Wolfpack want Lee Fowler leading another coaching search?

  8. RSP123 02/06/2009 at 9:17 AM #

    Just like the “gap btn UNC” topic earlier this week, this article is great in identifying the major problem with NCSU athletics: lack of leadership and accountability at the top. With a fair, but demanding AD we would begin to see overall improvement. We are lucky to have TOB (football problem fixed). The jury is still out on Lowe (we can only hope). However, nine years of leadership under Fowler when compared to the overall performance of our sports programs is clearly unacceptable nor excusable. Once again, Wolfpack Nation must unite and demand “Excellence without Excuse!” Only then is when we shall begin to see the improvement that we rightly seek.

  9. Classof89 02/06/2009 at 9:17 AM #

    Actually, I was SURPRISED by how well we stacked up against the rest of the league, particularly in the “ACC Championships” category

    if you limited the discussion to the “BIG 4” sports (Mens and womens hoops, baseball, football) you’d see an even WORSE performance in terms of championships (Last ACC championships: football–1979, mens hoops–1987, baseball–1992, womens hoops–?? maybe late 80s or early 90s?).

    To be fair, though, we’d probably be BETTER in terms of Average ACC finish because these four sports, while they haven’t brought home any trophys, have also not been (until recently) God-awful in the DFL in the ACC manner as have sports like volleyball, the soccer teams, and (until recently) tennis).

  10. kyjelly 02/06/2009 at 9:30 AM #

    Well Lee must go indeed ,and when he does no way Sid is kept on here so I believe it goes hand and hand .

  11. blackdom 02/06/2009 at 9:37 AM #

    ^JBPACKFAN Sid’s program: “I don’t think we can say if it’s declining or improving”. Well tell me than what is it doing? Is it in a comma? Life support? I don’t get this logic.

  12. Rick 02/06/2009 at 9:42 AM #

    How sad is our University?

    The sadder part is my reaction is “why bother”. There is nothing that can be done until the University decides to succeed. That does not seem to be a priority.

  13. BJD95 02/06/2009 at 9:55 AM #

    You have to feel bad for Littlepage, too. The legislature put a gun to his head and made him hold out for VT’s membership in the ACC (thanks again to the shitheads at Duke and UNC for holding out on “principle”). This was great for VT and bad for UVA.

    We should be very thankful that TOB fell into our laps, and also that he’s not 5-10 years younger. Because I guarantee you we don’t pay him what he’s worth, and probably never will. Fortunately, he’s old enough to not want to start over anywhere else, or you’d see him cash in the next year ot two.

    Which is why Fowler and company loved HWSNBN so much. They could pay him bottom-tier wages and get middle-tier results. To their way of thinking, that was a perfect arrangement.

    This is what the LTR concept has done to Wolfpack athletics. There is zero incentive to try to win championships, and I don’t expect it to change any time soon.

    Don’t worry, folks. I’m sure Fowler will head to Lake Gaston permanently once he has his 20 years in for full state retirement benefits. Most of us will still be alive then.

  14. PAJ 02/06/2009 at 10:00 AM #

    C’mon man, you’re taking UVA’s answer to Caulton Tudor as the authority by which NCST needs to be measured? It’s a newspaper column like the drivel we see around here in the N&O all the time. This article proves nothing.

    Here’s what I see in all that:

    1) Littlepage is setting the stage to fire Leito and Groh.

    2) So now Duke football is in better shape than NCST hoops? NFW! There is no way that guy can substantiate his opinion about the condition of revenue sports at that list of schools.

    3) Answer you own question. How many times have both men’s football and men’s basketball had losing seasons in the same year? Both have had plenty of ups and downs, but it’s rare for both to be in the tank at the same time.

    4) We all know the local media would rather denegrate NCST than call for improvement. There are no heros without villains. Face it our fate in the NC media is the villain underachiever to the heroic exploits of our neighbors to the west.

    5) Like it or not, both our men’s football and basketball are rebuilding. I know some are in denial that Sid has been tasked with rebuilding our program, but after inheriting 6 scholarship players that’s exactly what he’s had to do. Same with TOB who inherited a team way under the 85 scholarship player limit and is now adding the depth we must have to move up.

    6) I am no big fan of Lee Fowler, but the constant drumbeat to fire him that I see on this blog is tiresome. It seems like almost every topic degenerates into a chorus of fire Lee Fowler. The charts show that NCST’s athletic program is middle of the pack in the ACC. I’d like to see it improve, but I’m not in agreement that we’re completely in the toilet either.

  15. ryebread 02/06/2009 at 10:40 AM #

    Let me start by saying that I don’t like Lee. I think he’s a rather poor AD who has insulted fans, doesn’t handle the media well and who botched a coaching search for our crown jewel. The only BCS ADs who I can think of who immediately come to mind who are as bad are the ones at Auburn, Rutgers (recently fired), Todd Turner at UW (we knew all about him sadly and he was canned), Arkansas and the poor sucker who is AD at Iowa State. I feel like it’s past time for Lee to move on, though I doubt that there is anywhere that would voluntarily take him. The only way out of LF is for NC State to buy him out.

    Having said that, I don’t think any of us know what metrics of success are laid out for him by his bosses. Yes, he may be failing in the minds of the fans for his inability to produce teams that win ANYTHING in the big four college sports (Football, Men’s Basketball, Baseball and Women’s basketball), but that might not be his bosses care about. My guess is that they’re looking at the bottom line, and we’re running in the black. We’re paying out nearly the bottom in the conference and we’re getting mid tier results (the graphs above actually tend to support Fowler due to the omission of the Big 4 sports) which could be viewed as over achieving. Pair that with the fact that the money is rolling in from the Wolfpack Club at record levels, we’ve not had major scandal and we’re not in an arms race to keep our coaches and the administration is probably content to keep things just as they are. Keep in mind that the BOT gave Fowler yet another extension.

    To the fans who want SL gone, I say to them that Fowler is a bigger problem than SL. If we fire SL (which we won’t, at least not before the close of year 5), then we have Fowler heading up a coaching search, which has already proven to be a disaster. This isn’t a SL debate, but keep that in mind.

    In parallel, to those of us who really want Fowler gone, given our track record with hiring ADs in the last 20+ years, do we really trust that our administration will do better? Think about that in the context of what is currently deemed acceptable results by the very same people. The last true visionary we had at AD was JimmyV and we all know what happened there. My guess is once bitten, twice shy. There’s a reason that Fowler keeps getting extensions.

    Scary thought…….

  16. Gene 02/06/2009 at 10:40 AM #

    It’ll be interesting to see which sports have won our ACC titles? Softball won one a few years ago. Men’s and Women’s cross country still dominate the rest of the conference. Other than that, I don’t think we have any programs, which are outperforming anyone.

  17. Scooter 02/06/2009 at 10:41 AM #

    *gasp* How dare they do such things? Establishing a strategy, setting goals, even establishing accountability… The AD even went so far as to acknowledge the fans frustration? I mean, you’d think they were actually trying to provide the entertainment that their fans pay for.

    With Lee Fowler steering the ship, our downward spiral continues… Tom O’Brien aside, there is no hope in sight as long as Fowler is employed in West Raleigh.

  18. choppack1 02/06/2009 at 10:43 AM #

    “How many times have both men’s football and men’s basketball had losing seasons in the same year? Both have had plenty of ups and downs, but it’s rare for both to be in the tank at the same time.”

    Last year, this year is pending.

    As far as NC State being in the middle of the pack, keep in mind, we’ve just recently added 3 new members. If you look at the “Old ACC” we are 7 out of 9 in average ranking of sports, 5 out of 9 for overall championships, and 8 out of 9 in # of championship sports.

    And here’s a fun game – find the school which has gone the longest between a major sport final 4, a BCS bowl game and a national title.

    I did an analysis on the Sears Cup last year. Basically, thanks to the futility of GaTech, we weren’t Dead last when you look at the original ACC members. One school – whom we beat in most of the categories noted above – Wake Forest – has won a national championship in men’s soccer and an ACC football title in the last 5 years.

    I stated a few years ago (before football starting stinking and Sendek left) that perhaps the saddest part of our athletic department was that our 2 revenue sports were – aside from a historically great CC team – probably the best sports we had – and we know how painful that was. Under Lee, we really haven’t created any new “great sports” . He just needs to thank his lucky stars that he inherrited an excellent Cross Country team.

  19. bradleyb123 02/06/2009 at 10:45 AM #

    Fowler needs to go. We might have to stop buying tickets to games to get their attention.

  20. b_2005 02/06/2009 at 10:45 AM #

    1) I agree with PAJ…complaining on here every single thread will do nothing about ole Lee Fowler…If ya’ll really want the guy gone, don’t count on the media from the Hill (it’s not happening)…become proactive and mail a letter to the upper administration and the wolfpack club every week until something happens…if you get enough people to do it, it couldn’t hurt…hell, it worked for Andy in the Shawshank Redemption 🙂

    2) HWSNBN….really? now i love me some Harry Potter, but this is just silly and it’s getting really old…the guy’s name is HERB SENDEK…i was damn tired of that princeton style ball and the lack of passion that the man showed, but he does have a name and he did get back in the dance on a constant basis…i think the guy deserves to be called by his name…

    BJD95: We don’t do that as an insult (at least I don’t), but to keep everything from turning into a re-hash of the Sendek debate.

  21. wufpup76 02/06/2009 at 10:50 AM #

    First columnist I’ve seen to actually question the overall state of our athletics program … That it was in passing, I don’t care. At least someone said it. In print, no less.

    Thank God and Hallelujah.

    A spokesperson for a University actally acknowledging fans and *really* listening to them? HERESY!

    Folks, we don’t matter – at all.

    As long as the people in charge of things at *their* university (because it certainly isn’t ours) are getting money and are able to skate by while underpaying for everything then nothing will ever change.

    ^I KNOW this is the attitude at State.


    By the way I’m treated everytime I give any type of money/donation to them for any purpose. While I’ve never been treated out-and-out rudely, I’ve never been treated to a warm, receiving smile – much less a pleasant attitude.

    Buying season tickets, buying a cheap shirt at the Go Pack store, sending a donation – you name it … The attitude I’ve encountered every time is that of “Yeah – give us your money because you should. You OWE it to us, and you should be thankful that we’re around to take it from you. Otherwise, you don’t really matter. At all. So keep that in mind and be sure to make another donation / purchase as soon as you can. Remember, you OWE us.”

    ^And it’s the truth. Occasionally someone is actually nice. But never has anyone taken the time to ask me who I am (other than for generic record keeping) or whether I went to school at State or what I think about even the flowers in the office …

    I know, I don’t give you $100,000 a year so I don’t really matter. I only paid tuition and have since purchased season tickets to basketball and football games (and boy, it sure is fun watching us lose all the time – at home no less), and have bought all sorts of highly overpriced and cheaply made NC State apparel. Not to mention tuning in whenever our sorry a** teams are on tv – thereby ensuring that you get a rating and can keep getting on tv (and take part in the league’s overwhelming tv revenues!)

    So yes, I, common fan (and alumnus) – do in fact realize that I matter absolutely zero at NC State.

    ^I don’t really ever see this changing. Hope for either a change in leadership or a change in attitude from the current leadership is nil.

    It’s not just the athletic director. It’s so much more than one position. It’s the leadership, and now the culture of NC State. The culture that took root under Monteith and Turner.

    Until the culture changes I think we’re pretty much wasting our breath.

    In the 80’s I would’ve compared our organization to that of a small market club that could still win championships – like the Steelers. Now, we are officially the LA Clippers: Horrid organization, cheap and ineffective leader, incompetent management, a culture of losing and whining about it.


    If I wouldn’t hate myself for doing so, I would completely abandon all things NC State. This literally makes me want to cry.

  22. LRM 02/06/2009 at 10:52 AM #

    Numbers never lie, but they never tell the complete truth, either. The problem with being in the middle of the pack across the board for all sports is that it skews the primary data for the only two sports most of us actively follow: the two revenue sports, basketball and football.

    We’ve been nowhere near the middle of the pack in basketball since 2006, and in fact, only in 2004, when we finished second, were we above the middle of the pack — and only four of the past 20 seasons have we produced a .500 record in conference play (2002-04, ’06). Meanwhile, we haven’t been above the middle of the pack in football since the Peach Bowl season of 1994 when we finished second at 6-2 (even in the Gator Bowl season of 2002, we were in 4th place at 5-3 when it was still a 9-team league).

    I’d be more interested to see the data on where we stand compared to the rest of the ACC in each of the two sports most of us care about, which will really illustrate how bad things are.

  23. PoppaJohn 02/06/2009 at 10:53 AM #

    Anything I would post would just be a repeat of a previous comment.

    But I have to say, this is an outstanding thread. More ‘above the rest’, intellectually stimulating, quality, articles. Thank you SFN.

  24. wufpup76 02/06/2009 at 10:59 AM #

    “BJD95: We don’t do that as an insult (at least I don’t), but to keep everything from turning into a re-hash of the Sendek debate.”

    Exactly – not meant as an insult. I like and respect the man, his basketball is another story.

    And Shawshank is an awesome movie 😉

  25. LRM 02/06/2009 at 11:04 AM #

    PAJ said: “3) Answer you own question. How many times have both men’s football and men’s basketball had losing seasons in the same year? Both have had plenty of ups and downs, but it’s rare for both to be in the tank at the same time.”

    Sorry, but this is incorrect. Since 1995, the football and basketball teams have both had losing conference records in the same season eight times (’95-97,’99, ’05, ’07-09). Eight out of 15 (53%) is hardly “rare.” In fact, it’s downright common.

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