BMOC: The man who doesn’t make excuses

(Wake Forest Athletics Director Ron) Wellman will soon complete his 17th year as the director of athletics at Wake Forest University. The university’s teams have flourished under him, winning conference and national championships while generally exceeding expectations for the smallest school in the Atlantic Coast Conference and one of the smallest to play major-college football.

Welcome back from vacation! What a better way than to jump right into reality with a slap to the face to wake you up. You need to READ THIS ARTICLE and then come back here to read a little more about Street & Smith’s AD of the year in 2008.

In the 17 years since, Wake Forest has won ACC championships in baseball (3), field hockey (3), basketball (2), women’s golf (3), men’s cross country (2), women’s cross country (1) and football (1), and NCAA championships in field hockey (3) and men’s soccer (1). The program regularly ranks in the top 50 among Division I schools in the NACD Directors Cup, finishing as high as No. 23 in 2007.

Anyone who last visited campus or the area around Deacon Boulevard in 1992 wouldn’t recognize either place today. Almost every athletics building, stadium or practice facility has been built, bought or renovated in the last 17 years, with the crown jewel of the improvements — the $45 million Deacon Tower — opening at BB&T Field before the 2008 football season.

I honestly don’t even want to type anything in this entry as I could talk for hours about the case study in true LEADERSHIP that Ron Wellman’s success provides anyone with half a brain.   I don’t know where to begin contrasting the character, success and respect of Wellman that is so diametrically opposite from what we have in Raleigh and whom the last crook Chancellor awarded for ‘excellence’.

The ‘sad’ comparisons only begin with the fact that Wellman turned down the very Athletics Directorship at Tennessee that Lee Fowler couldn’t get offered despite throwing his name into consideration (along with Georgia…and Ohio State…and Indiana…and a couple of others…and those are just the ones that we know about!)

Wellman could hide behind small size and therefore very small resources. He doesn’t.

He could hide behind the fact that Winston-Salem isn’t all that appealing of a place for college athletes. He doesn’t.

He could have hidden behind poor ‘fuhcilities’ with limited resources to improve them. He doesn’t.

He could have hidden behind the academic restrictions of a private school. He doesn’t.

He could have hidden behind the ‘tradition’ that his football program DOESN’T have as a reason why they can’t be good. He doesn’t.

He could hide behind how close Wake Forest sits on the basketball map compared to big, bad Duke and Carolina. He doesn’t. Quite the opposite. After reading that article, and quotes like the following…

“I just don’t know if anybody has done more with perhaps not as many resources as other people in this league. He really has. And I think because he sort of lets us know: ‘We’re not going to be Little Wake Forest. We want to compete for championships.’ And I think we all understand coming in here that to do that, at times, we have to overachieve. He has overachieved I think at what he does, and therefore I think it trickles down to us as well.”

…could you ever imagine the following spewing from Wellman’s mouth like it did from Lee Fowler’s (in many different forms on mulitple occassions).

“Our fans are comparing ourselves to Duke and North Carolina. Every program in the country doesn’t do well when you’re compared with those two on a day-to-day basis. I understand that our fans want to be able to compete with them; we all do. But you can be real good on a daily basis and not be better than those two programs.”

Now…imagine if Wellman actually ‘knew basketball’!?! Seriously. Could you imagine how good Wake Forest could be if Wellman ‘knew basketball’ like the esteemed “Coach Fowler”.

(Sidebar: Just curious, does Ron Wellman insist that people call him “Coach” like Uncle Jed? Seriously. Since Ron Wellman was ACTUALLY a SUCCESSFUL HEAD COACH of a major college program – that wasn’t stripped of all of its awards by the NCAA for being one of the dirtiest in history – wouldn’t one stand to reason that everyone would just naturally call Mr. Wellman “Coach”? That is what we are told about “Coach Fowler”; he doesn’t really ask people to do so…they just all happen to do it on their own. So, surely Wellman is also referred to as “Coach Wellman” at Wake Forest.)

Forget the fact that Jim Grobe has won an ACC Championship and taken Wake Forest FOOTBALL to the Orange Bowl despite their lack of tradition and the challenges they face as the smallest school playing Division One football.

Let’s just focus on ‘I know Basketball’ for a moment and allow me to share with you a statistic that will crystallize how good Ron Wellman is at what he does and how far behind NC State has lagged despite many fans’ delusions.

In those ‘great’ Herb Sendek years when Lee Fowler was telling any and every one how good our program was, NC State managed to earn a ranking in the AP Top 25 for a grand total of 35 weeks. Of those weeks, Sendek’s teams NEVER once reached a Top 10 ranking, peaking at #13 on January 2, 2006.

You surely remember the weak out of conference schedules that were generally comprised of cupcakes in November and December, resulting in bloated rankings in the national polls before we really had to play good teams? That resulted in the Wolfpack achieving a ranking better than #15 only three times after games started being played in January..

Under Ron Wellman’s directorship, Wake Forest University has achieved an AP ranking of at least #2 in the country under the guidance of THREE DIFFERENT COACHES. (Two of Wake’s coaches – Prosser & Gaudio – reached the pinnacle of a #1 ranking during this time while Dave Odom peaked at #2 in 1996-1997 while in the process of winning back to back Atlantic Coast Conference Championships.)

You have to let that sink in for a moment.

Despite the supposed ‘difficulty’ of competing with tough Carolina and Duke (and don’t forget 2002 National Champion, Maryland)…Wake Forest has managed to obtain at least a #2 national ranking under one, two, THREE DIFFERENT basketball coaches while NC State has managed to be ranked better than #15 only three different weeks after January!

  • Under Ron Wellman, Wake Forest’s basketball program has achieved a Top 10 ranking for a total of 77 weeks, in 9 different seasons, under the leadership of three different coaches.


  • Under Lee ‘I know Basketball’ Fowler, NC State’s basketball program has achieved a Top 10 ranking for a total of zero weeks, in 10 different seasons, under the leadership of two different coaches.

“And I think he has earned it by the consistency he has had over the years, by the standards he sets for himself and those around him, by his capabilities administratively, which are enormous, by the manner in which he treats people, and the manner in which he conducts himself. When you put all that together, what you have is one heck of a fine athletic director.”

Conduct? You mean like voluntarily calling radio stations to discuss Cougars?




…I could go on forever…and I recognize that sometimes it feels like I do.

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36 Responses to BMOC: The man who doesn’t make excuses

  1. BJD95 07/06/2009 at 8:37 PM #

    Paraphrasing – “when he speaks, it’s because he really has something to say.” I did the Jimmy V triumvirate – laughed, thought, then cried.

  2. Cardiac95 07/06/2009 at 9:03 PM #

    Well deserved recognition! Something fans in the ACC have known for awhile…

  3. 61Packer 07/06/2009 at 9:06 PM #

    Isn’t it about time we started giving our own AD a little credit for making us one of the nation’s leading mid-major athletic programs?

    Let’s give credit where it’s due.

  4. Alpha Wolf 07/06/2009 at 9:33 PM #

    We’d just OWN the Southern Conference. I’m telling you, we’d be the UNC of SoCon.

  5. choppack1 07/06/2009 at 9:37 PM #

    It’s funny, I get the Winston Salem Journal and they quoted NCEasternBBQPack on Wellman, saying that he was a role model for an AD.

    Look, as much as I’d like to blame this on Lee Fowler, this ceased being his fault after the b’ball coaching hire fiasco. Right now, it’s terribly obvious that Lee Fowler is perfectly fine AD to those at the university w/ a great deal of power. We can only hope that the new change at the top spot at the University will be change for the better.

    It’s like an employee who repeatedly makes the same mistake over and over again…after it happens the second time, it’s no longer his problem and his behavior should be expected to be repeated.

  6. Gowolves 07/06/2009 at 9:40 PM #

    I am just wondering how many times this site is going to rehash the same crap regarding Fowler. I don’t like him anymore than the next guy. But seriously how many times are going to compare him to “X”. Hello we don’t have “X”. Why can’t we just worry about what we do have? Like a good football team coming up this fall. Almost one month from now all the players will have reported. The excitement from the WP fans I know is building. I personlly would like to see some more articles on the different areas of the team. Bios on some coaches, etc. Not a bunch of old screw ups LF has commited. I don’t think I am the only one here that feels like this. It just supports the negative, paranoid state fan.

  7. choppack1 07/06/2009 at 9:44 PM #

    Oh yeah – I think there are plenty of Wellman’s out there – he’s solid, has lots of common sense and he has a desire to be great. I don’t think he’s satisfied w/ “top half” of the conference. I don’t think he’s satisfied just winning or just running clean programs – he sees no reason why you can’t win, keep kids off the police blotter AND have them graduate. Of course, when you are more concerned about making a place great to work OR don’t want to piss off your neighbors OR don’t think that you can both compete for championships and produce respectable student athletes you don’t get accomplish what Wake has in his tenure.

  8. ryebread 07/06/2009 at 10:03 PM #

    The original article itself is spot on and puts some great data out there. Comparing NC State’s performance against Wake’s each year in the Director’s Cup would be another telling measure. LF is woefully incompetent. We know this and have for some time.

    At the same time, choppack1 speaks the truth. Fowler is obviously good enough for the administration because he has not only gotten to stick around but has also gotten rewarded. I’ve said for some time that I felt that Oblinger and the BOT were the problem and that barring a miracle (Fowler leaving on his own and us lucking into a hire), things weren’t going to get better. They wanted a department that ran in the black on the cheap and one that stayed out of the police blotter and they got that with LF.

    Hopefully things change. If not, we may as well mail it in.

  9. SaccoV 07/06/2009 at 10:10 PM #

    Again, I’d almost appreciate it if Ron Wellman DIDN’T get national (or even regional) recognition because by the time Fowler was gone, I would hope to have some clout with the university in order to make Wellman our AD. Of course, this “clout” will happen just as soon as I win the lottery, win Mafia Wars on Facebook, and write the ten screenplays that will each earn Oscar awards for Best Typing. I’ve been praising Wellman for three years now, and the best part about Wellman is that every Wake Forest fan and alum I know is pleased as peach with his performance. I’m not exactly surprised that he’s turned down big offers, but I have a feeling that another big one is around the corner. It seems he gets one offer from a Michigan or Tennessee every two or three years. I think one of these days he’s going to jump at the chance. I just hope that it’s NC State making the offer he won’t refuse.

  10. BJD95 07/06/2009 at 10:55 PM #

    NC State will never, ever make somebody an offer they can’t refuse. The only time we ever came close was with Barnes and Calipari, and that was a handful of boosters making the offer.

    But even if we are going to be notoriously cheap, we could still look hard for the next Wellman (who came to Wake from Illinois State, remember). Instead, we continue to employ this unprofessional, hopelessly incompetent clown.

  11. tulsapack 07/06/2009 at 11:57 PM #

    Tulsa is actually the smallest school playing D1-A football, or whatever they’re calling it these days.

    And yes, we outpaced State in the Directors Cup, #61 to #74, despite not having a baseball team (and a couple others).

    I can never get all that passionate about the Golden Hurricane, but it’s nice all the same to see some teams winning consistently.

  12. RickJ 07/07/2009 at 9:01 AM #

    The most impressive aspect of Wellman is that he learns from his mistakes. His experience with Jim Caldwell has been the most important in shaping his philosophy regarding coaches. He hired Caldwell in 1993 and loved the guy and thought he was the right coach for Wake. As a result, he stuck with him too long – Caldwell’s record in 8 years was:

    2 – 9
    3 – 8
    1 – 10
    3 – 8
    5 – 6
    3 – 8
    7 – 5
    2 – 9

    To his credit, Wellman has never made this mistake again in any sport. I do think he made a mistake in hiring Dino Gaudio by breaking one of my cardinal rules in hiring coaches – NEVER hire any coach to save a recruiting class. Gaudio may end of making it but I am pretty darn sure he will not be allowed to struggle several years because recruits are on the way.

    I have no proof of this but I also think that Wellman has effectively, under the radar, changed the academic standards of Wake athletes in football and basketball. He hasn’t thrown standards out the window but I think they can get a certain number of players in these two sports that are minimally qualified.

  13. whitefang 07/07/2009 at 9:16 AM #

    I am sure there are many competent people inside State. However one problem a lot of us have that are 20+ years removed from being a student is that many if not most of the people we see today “representing” NC State seem totally incompetent. I won’t mention any current or former basketball coaches in order to avoid a upsetting too many people, but the Oblingers, Fowlers, Amatos, etc we put out front are buffoons. That’s why I (we) embrace TOB so much. Yeah he hasn’t won that many games or any championships for us – yet, but the man is clearly competent – especially compared with the rest of the idiots we have or did have in “leadership” positions.

  14. StateFans 07/07/2009 at 9:36 AM #

    The most under-appreciated and unrecognized success of Ron Wellman was the masterful manner in which he handled the Dave Odom situation.

    If there was ever ANYTHING that crystallized the difference between a fantastic manager and what we have it was Odom.

    Odom was THE MOST SUCCESSFUL COACH IN WAKE FOREST HISTORY. He was just 3 or 4 years removed from finishing the 1997 season ranked #2 (or #3?) in the entire country. AND, he had just qualified for the NCAA Tournament. (Wasn’t that the all important hurdle that you just can’t get rid of a coach who makes the NCAA?)

    Despite ALL of that historical success; the current ‘success’; and Odom’s popularity…Wellamn orchestrated a proactive change that helped take Wake to even more success.

    Even more impactful was that the push of Odom out the door happened at the exact same time that Lee Fowler was publicly making a fool of himself and our entire Athletics Department with public arguments with fans.

    How did it all end?

    NCSU: The media and NC State fans still poke at each other over the ‘great’ Herb Sendek who never has achieved anything remotely as successful as Dave Odom and Sendek barely interacts with anyone from Raleigh/ACC anymore.

    Wake: Dave Odom was gracefully inducted into the Wake Forest Hall of Fame last year and attends many Wake games and is embraced as a pillar in Wake history.

  15. choppack1 07/07/2009 at 10:04 AM #

    SFN – Odom had lost popularity w/ the Wake faithful. His last season, he finally made the tournament after being on the bubble for 2 years. Then, his team had a pisspour performance vs. Butler where they scored like 15 points in the first half.

    I have no idea how the situation went down in the post-season. I don’t know if he was forced out or if he was nudged away, but he went to USC where he became the most effective NIT coach ever.

    I really think a big reason that Sendek became so divisive was because of Fowler’s (and the administations actions). The way I see it, Sendek was catching flak, but meeting his bosses expectations – everyone w/ a pair of eyes could see what was happening – and well, if you’ve got a situation like this, it ultimately gets ugly.

    It didn’t have to be that way. If – and that’s a huge if – Fowler had conducted a search w/ even the slightest modicum of competence, all sides would be happy – and I could see a situation where Sendek was welcomed warmly in a return visit to Raleigh. Unfortunately, we all know how it ended.

    Think of it this way, would Wake Forest have been any good in basketball if Wellman had stayed away from the mid-major hire of Skip Prosser and instead chosen Frank Johnson?

  16. StateFans 07/07/2009 at 10:18 AM #

    You mean those HORRIBLE Wake fans were disgruntled and unhappy with THE MOST SUCCESSFUL COACH IN THEIR PROGRAM’S HISTORY?


    Didn’t they know that they could be real good without competing in the Top 10?

    How in the world did Wellman avoid arguing with the fan base in the media and making a huge public stink about how ungrateful that fanbase was.

    If only Wellman knew basketball he would know that you could never push out such a successful coach, especially in a year that they made the NCAA Tournament.

    I mean, who in the world would ever want to come to Wake to coach if that is the way he treats people?

  17. StateFans 07/07/2009 at 10:34 AM #

    Almost everything that Ron Wellman – the best AD in the country – has done has been 100% opposite to the ‘beliefs’ and little ‘Fowlerisms’ that our AD has shared publicly and privately over the years…and that Jim statusquOblinger and the BOT accepted and believed without any challenge.

  18. highstick 07/07/2009 at 10:47 AM #

    It ain’t over with Fowler until he’s been gone for 10 years! Please encourage our BOT to make this happen soon!

  19. Classof89 07/07/2009 at 11:29 AM #

    Keep preaching it, Statefans! The ONLY way you change things at a large, plodding, bureaucratic organization like the University is prolonged, repeated and very public presentation of the dismal facts of this situation. I patently disagree that you voice your criticisms once and then fall silent just because we have a “good football team coming up this fall.” A solid performance in football this fall, if it happens, will only be the bandaid on the infected, festering wound that is our athletics program and leadership.

  20. WolftownVA81 07/07/2009 at 12:48 PM #

    Agee, keep beating the drum STATEFANS. The only way to improve any situation is to have a goal. What better goal than to want what the best schools have whether it is success in an indidual sport, quality facilities or a competent administration with a vision. The comparison is very appropriate though depressing. Congrats to Mr. Wellman and Wake Forrest for the success they have acheived.

  21. CStanley 07/07/2009 at 1:11 PM #

    “How did it all end?

    NCSU: The media and NC State fans still poke at each other over the ‘great’ Herb Sendek who never has achieved anything remotely as successful as Dave Odom and Sendek barely interacts with anyone from Raleigh/ACC anymore.

    Wake: Dave Odom was gracefully inducted into the Wake Forest Hall of Fame last year and attends many Wake games and is embraced as a pillar in Wake history.”

    I could not have said it any better myself. I think the vast majority of sane fans appreciate Sendek, but agreed it was time to move on. However, our inept administration and horribly mismanaged athletics department has allowed us to wallow in mediocrity, so much that the media and ardent Sendek supporters look back on his tenure as some “golden age” that we should be ashamed of ourselves for wanting out of. Most State fans are sick of it, and it has led to an almost unfair hatred of anything to do with Herb. It ultimately all goes back to the AD taking control of things before they got out of hand. Wellman does that…Fowler…not so much.

  22. choppack1 07/07/2009 at 1:32 PM #

    Cstanley – good post. I agree. Fowler probably doesn’t realize that it’s his action that cause the “lunatic fringe” to behave like lunatics.

  23. Classof89 07/07/2009 at 1:41 PM #

    If refusing to settle for mediocrity (and frankly, some of our teams are at the bottom looking up at mediocrity) makes me a lunatic, then I’m proud to carry the label…

  24. 61Packer 07/07/2009 at 3:12 PM #


    Maybe Odom was just that, but to me Bones McKinney was the best basketball coach Wake Forest ever had. He did a lot more with less talented players, especially at tournament time (as did Carl Tacy), and Bones would’ve been to the NCAAs a lot more had the rule allowing more teams been in effect back in the 1950s and 1960s. As it was, he didn’t do too badly- 2 “final fours” in his 9 years at Wake, which included a 1962 third place win over John Wooden and UCLA.

    Despite his records, I always thought Dave Odom underachieved as a coach. Yeah, Wake did win back-to-back ACC titles, but that was primarily due to Tim Duncan and a hot tourney streak by Randolph Childress. Wake, under Odom, to me never achieved much in the NCAA tourney, and who can ever forget the 1996 Elite Eight loss to Kentucky by 26- a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated.

  25. choppack1 07/07/2009 at 3:38 PM #

    61 Packer – Dave Odom was definitely the kind of coach an AD would want to avoid. He won, some ugly. He won ACC tournaments – 2. He had some success in the NCAA’s – making multiple final 8s.

    He had a good eye for talent.

    However, his style of play was vanilla – and he didn’t achieve much nationally.

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