Questions for Lee Fowler [FINAL Update @ 7:30am]

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Lee Fowler is going to be a guest on 850TheBuzz tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 8am. The good men at 850 have suggested that we ask our readers for questions to pose to our fearless ‘leader’ as opposed to only taking calls from the same old group of listeners.

With this said, we are asking that you please use the comments section of this entry to add questions of your own to the mix. We are 100% serious and would very much like your support/suggestions.

PLEASE keep the comments section void of any commentary as we only want a rolling list of questions. Additionally, please don’t feel the need to be cute or rude as our goal here is to truly add some value and not offend people with rants or comments that are out of the bounds of decorum.

You may need to post this entry to your FaceBook page &/or email it around to your friends since it is late in the day as will probably not reach that many readers (as most of our traffic comes earlier in the day)

Thanks so much!


SFN Commentary: IMHO, the primary hallmark of a great interview is NOT necessarily the quality of the initial question; the keys to great interviews lie in the (1) follow-up questions generated from an interviewer who is obviously listening to the interviewee and (2) the perseverance of the interviewer to not allow the interviewee to get off easy with vague answers and attempts to re-frame questions to match what it is they want to say instead of answering the question.

As I look at the questions submitted during this exercise, there is no doubt that the bulk of NC State fans seek clarity and some direct answers on a host of topics. They seek some honest talk and accountability for performance.

I certainly hope the interviewers choose to take the high road and challenge “Coach Fowler” with follow-ups and push for clarity.

The following are some ‘current’ questions that we have come up with to get the ball rolling:


(1) How much money has been (a) pledged; (b) raised; and (c) spent on facilities since you have been at State?


(2) What 5 to 10 programs do you view as NC State’s ‘peer group’? In other words, what subset of institutions do you use as comparables when you benchmark and compare performances, behaviors and Athletics Departments?


(3) What is your justification/explanation for the fact that NC State finished 74th in the Directors’ Cup standings, ranking 11th of 12 ACC programs;58th out of the 66 BCS schools and finishing behind 16 non-BCS schools (including 4 Ivy League schools that do not offer athletic scholarships)? This is not just a one year occurrence; last season’s performance was almost as bad. Do you have any explanations for the recent slide in the program’s overall performance after so much money has been invested into capital projects during your tenure?


(4) Last season NC State had 15 programs compete in postseason play while this year there were only 12. The athletics department annual report stated that “There are many positives to point out as we finish another year of competition and growth.” How can going from 15 to 12 postseason programs be considered “growth”, especially when 3 of the 4 revenue sports did not make the postseason?


(5) With the importance of facilities being such a primary focus during your tenure in Raleigh, how do you explain the fact and any correlations that 2 of our 3 individual national champions (Kristen Davies and Matt Hill) were able to win those championships despite not having an on-campus place to practice while so many of the sports who have received facilities upgrades have fallen further behind the competition even after the investments?


(6) In your 9 years as Athletics Director at State, 77 schools including 10 of the other 11 ACC schools have won at least one team national championship. After almost a decade in your position, can you provide State fans any time frame where we could start to expect that one or more of our programs to compete at a national championship level? Which couple of sports would you project as being closest to winning us a championship like our peers have done?


(7) For the first time in since the formation of the ACC, NC State has gone consecutive years without winning a single ACC title. What would you say to any current or former Wolfpack Club members who have never experienced this performance in over 55 years? Would you understand if they chose not to donate during those two years and will not donate again until State wins another ACC championship?


(8) I have three current statistics comparing the performance of major sports at NC State with comparable programs. In the nine years that you have been Athletics Director at NC State:

  • every ACC program except the Wolfpack has participated in at least one of the following major team events: a BCS Bowl, a National Championship Basketball Game, a College World Series, &/or a Frozen Four.
  • NC State is one of only three BCS schools to not win their respective conference title in either football, men’s or women’s basketball, or baseball? Texas Tech and Arkansas are the others, and they at least have tied/won a division title in football, with Arkansas’s baseball program making it to the College World Series as well
  • NC State has achieved a Top 10 ranking in either of the two high profile sports – football and men’s basketball – for only a single week – that week coming during the 2002 football season.

(a) With these facts in mind, do you have any strategies or tactics, or is there any special focus on trying to bring State’s program from absolute lowest performing of all major (BCS) athletics programs?

(b) Now that all of the facilities have been completed (for years) in basketball, football and baseball, what is it that is holding your program back from achieving a measure of success comparable to so many other programs?


(9) For the first five years of your tenure at NC State you vigorously defended Coach Sendek against criticism by stating (paraphrasing) that you ‘know basketball and know people in basketball and our program was both well respected and on very solid ground’.

Given your well documented belief that our overall program was so exceptionally solid under Coach Sendek, why did you choose to offer Coach Lowe an unconventional six year contract when he was hired and state that he/we needed extra time to transition and build a new program? If our program was as strong as you believed under Coach Sendek, why did Coach Lowe need a stronger contract? What makes NC State so different from the way that everyone else runs their programs?


(10) I have personally seen, read, heard you asked to define metrics by which you judge coaches and programs dozens of times. The answers that you have provided have been somewhat inconsistent and changed through the years. As an example, the February of 2004 edition of the The Wolfpacker Magazine asked you to define metrics by which you judge coaches and programs and your answers were full of unquantifiable, subjective statements.

Can you take this opportunity go on the record with a clear set of metrics and performance goals that you set for coaches and programs? More specifically, outline what you expect NC State’s Basketball program and NC State’s football program to achieve over an average 5-year and 10-year period.


(11) NC State chooses to use Wolfpack Sports Marketing as our broadcast/marketing partner where most major programs appear to choose national platforms like ISP or Learfield Communications. What are the key drivers behind our decision to go with perhaps a less sophisticated partner than other programs? What does WSM offer that the more established national platforms do not?

Relatedly, how many of your peers have their own television show like you have in our agreement with Wolfpack Sports Marketing. Do you receive compensation for your show? If so, how much?


(12) On January 13, 2001, you were quoted in the Charlotte Observer as saying that a National (Basketball) Championship was “not that far away” and then once our basketball program achieved some success that we would “stay there” when you said the following:

I’m not saying I don?t care what (outspoken fans) think, but I’ve got a background in basketball, and you hear things about everybody. The one thing I ask (of) Wolfpack fans is support your coach. Fans want a national championship. The way Herb’s doing things, when we do get there – and I don’t think it’s far away – it will stay there.

Herb Sendek remained the coach of NC State for the next five years. His 9th overall season was clearly his best, but his 10th season saw NC State back on the proverbial NCAA bubble and he ultimately left a program with dearth of talent and experience and was was so shaky that you chose to signal special stability to the market when you gave Coach Lowe an unconventional six year contract.

Coach Sendek never won an ACC Championship. He never achieved an ACC Tournament seed greater than 4th. Of the five NCAA Tournament bids we earned, he entered the final week of four of those seasons (80%) needing important wins to get off the bubble and secure a Tournament bid. He only won five NCAA Tournament games in five years and only advanced to one Sweet 16. He never achieved a single week ranked in the Top 10.

History clearly shows that your judgment was ultimately horribly wrong on both of your conclusions: (i) we were nowhere remotely close to a National Championship and (ii) when coach Sendek got his program to the peak he was not able to ‘stay there’.

(a) Given how poorly you obviously misjudged that situation, would you ever consider admitting your miscalculations or even apologizing to NC State fans for being so wrong? Or do you contend that a National Championship was “not that far away”?

(b) Did your overall respect for Coach Sendek – a man whose principles and behavior undoubtedly deserved respect – cloud attempts at objective reviews of actual performance and results?


(13) Coach Sendek coached at NC State for ten years. When he left for Arizona State only 17 coaches had ever been provided the privilege to coach in the ACC for a decade or longer. His career achievements while at State clearly rank him better than only two of the seventeen coaches who share that distinction. What components of NC State’s program and our fanbase merits the acceptance of long-term performance that ranks 15th (or 14th or 13th) out of 17?


(14) As evidenced by both the Director’s Cup standings for all sports, and specifically results on the basketball court, the gap between the performance at NC State and all three of our Big Four rivals (UNC-CH, Duke and Wake Forest) has never been greater. This gap has actually grown wider in recent years and as of the most recent Directors Cup standings reached its widest in history. What specific factors would you cite as explanations for why this is the case? After nine years of opportunity for you to improve our programs, we have never been further behind our peers. Can we expect this trend to grow wider in the future? What specific steps are you taking to close this gap with our competition?


(15) Related to #14, you consistently proclaim that you ‘know basketball’…yet, in a decade of your time in Raleigh you have never had a basketball team ranked in the AP Top 10 for a single week. In four different seasons during your tenure, ALL THREE of our Big Four rivals have been able to achieve a Top 10 ranking for at least a week during the same season. Additionally, Wake Forest has employed three different coaches during your time in Raleigh and every one of these coaches took the Demon Deacons to a ranking of #2 or #1 in the country during their tenure. Do these other schools ‘know basketball’ better than you? What institutional advantages does Wake Forest possess that is absent at NC State to allow them to generate such peak success under so many different coaches with a program that has far less tradition than NC State and with their smaller and less impressive arena/facilities?


(16) How much money did NC State spend on Sports Medicine this past academic year? I have heard that other local schools now use the disorganization, de-centralization, and the manner in which we treat and judge injuries against us on the recruiting trail. What can be done to help our coaches and fix these problems? After nine years of sitting in the AD’s chair, why hasn’t anything been done to fix these issues before now?


Back in 2005 we ran a very similar entry that we thought would be very relevant today. You should go read the questions by clicking here. The following could be some modified versions of those questions:

(1) Considering your close association with major NCAA violations at Memphis State in the 1980s, would you ever exclude a potential coach’s candidacy based on past historical problems with the NCAA? Do you have a policy regarding coaches with affiliations to NCAA problems?

(2) Let’s assume that one of your programs has what is considered by most to be a generally “good, solid, average” coach that is generating “good to average to mediocre results.”

If you were presented with the clear opportunity to hire a coach whose national reputation is significantly more respected and prominent and whom has delivered historical results at lesser programs that dwarf the results of your current coach — would you take the opportunity to improve that position on your team and upgrade coaches? Why or why not?

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56 Responses to Questions for Lee Fowler [FINAL Update @ 7:30am]

  1. hball57 07/10/2009 at 4:51 PM #

    I haven’t been bashed in a while, so I’ll go ahead and post.

    I think he answered the questions as best he can in a public forum. Some of your questions, while I can understand why you would ask them, just are not for public consumption. For example, can you share the number of wins a certain coach must attain to remain employed. How could you possibly make that public? What good would that do? Would you ever be able to hired a coach if you do that?

    I felt like he answered the questions honestly. He also made some points about some of the teams performance last year. Of course some will say explination = excuses. But it showed to me that he was aware of the issues with each sport, each team and each coach.

    One thing that Adam Gold said i believe is true. If football and basketball are good, no one pays attention to the non-revenue sports. If football and basketball struggle, everyone will pick apart every other sport. i don’t get it, but it’s true.

  2. Wulfpack 07/10/2009 at 5:33 PM #

    hball, I also felt that in his mind he answered the questions as honestly as he could. And to Lee’s credit, he does have some support or else he would have already been gone a long time ago. His suport, though, isn’t coming from the fan base — and you get the sense he knows that.

    I also agree that many people are just now focusing on the non-revenue sports just because it supports their argument that he is a poor AD. You can’t deny that the performance, currently, is putrid, and he even admitted that. But, I do agree that many are using it solely to paint a bad picture against Lee. If the performances in those sports improved, we’d never hear about it. ALL that matters is men’s basketball and football. I don’t think there is much debate about that. We could win a national title in either and all the rest of our sports could finish dead last and nobody would care. Just my take on it.

    Still, though, hball, you have to admit listening to Lee sets a pretty low bar. For example, he said, volleyball has never been a strong sport at NCSU. And your point? So let me get this right, just because we have always sucked in volleyball means it is ok for us to continue to suck? And then he also said he expected the basketball program to be in the top three or four in the league. Again, in my mind, a very low bar. Why not say you expect to win not just ACC Championships, but National Championships? Because he doesn’t hold that belief, it’s as simple as that.

    By the way, if you guys want a reply from Lee, all you have to do is call and leave a message. He will call you back.

  3. hball57 07/11/2009 at 12:07 AM #

    Wulf, thanks for the thoughtful response. Let me follow up.

    I have always had this one issue with people who criticize the performance of the non-revenue sports. They, as a group, have never attended one of these events. I feel that if you want to make a difference in these sports, give them some support and you will be taken more seriously. I feel a person who attends a volleyball match will be heard more than someone who just throws the record around.

    Now on your Volleyball point, I think you drew the wrong conclusion. He was making a point that in a sport that NC State has never done well, the Coach was making progress with the program. So my take on what he was saying is that you couldn’t hold her to his ultimate goal of top three in the conference now because of the whole she has had to dig the program out of, but he saw here moving in the right direction.

    Now with regards to the basketball program. We have a great example of public expectations to draw on- Chuck Amato and Tom O’Brien. Has Tom O’Brien ever said his goal was to win a National Championship? Now I loved both coaches, but what happened when Chuck talked about National Championships? It became a weight around his neck and it helped to negatively define him. I think that just because he doesn’t make those thoughts public doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe it.

    BTW thanks for the comments!

  4. WolftownVA81 07/11/2009 at 10:12 AM #

    ^Have to disagree with you hball57 on the non-revenue sports. As I recall, some of the most vocal detractors of LF on this site played non-revenue sports or were closely associated with those sports and have first hand stories of how badley some of those programs are run and the lack of support from our AD.

  5. ruffles31 07/13/2009 at 11:48 AM #

    After listening to his 40 minute interview on 850, I thought Fowler did a better job than some of his other interviews in the past. Now, that is a pretty typical Fowler like expectation level. When that bar is as low as it is set at, exceeding that isn’t that much. It would be like not being in the Les Robinson play in game from a few years ago.

    I thought that while Fowler addressed every question, he never answered any of them either. I have determined that Fowler is now simply a politician. He knows where his bread is buttered and he makes sure that those constituents are happy. His constituents are the BOT and a few big donors. The rest of the fanbase doesn’t matter. And he knows this. And the problem with this from our viewpoint is that while politicians can be voted out of office every 2, 4, or 6 years, Fowler doesn’t have to worry about that. He can’t be voted out by the people.

  6. Wufpacker 07/13/2009 at 9:52 PM #

    ruffles31 Says:
    July 13th, 2009 at 11:48 am

    “His constituents are the BOT and a few big donors. The rest of the fanbase doesn’t matter. And he knows this. And the problem with this from our viewpoint is that while politicians can be voted out of office every 2, 4, or 6 years, Fowler doesn’t have to worry about that. He can’t be voted out by the people.”

    It might seem this way, and LF may want you to believe this, but don’t. If enough so-called “small donors” cut their donations and are vocal as to the reason, this will add up. Eventually something will have to be done.

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