It was a good weekend for NC State in the local media. The headline in Saturday’s morning’s News & Observer proclaimed that academic fraud was found at UNC-Chapel Hill (shocker!) and the feature story of Sunday’s sports section was, “Yow’s challenge: Put N.C. State athletic department on top” (Link).
After taking over as athletic director at N.C. State in June 2010, Debbie Yow declared her five-year plan for the program: to become a perennial top 25 school as measured by the Directorsâ€™ Cup rankings, which award points for national places in varsity sports.
To achieve that goal, the school would need successful teams across the board â€“ not only the big-ticket sports, football and menâ€™s basketball, but also the Olympic sports, from swimming and wrestling to womenâ€™s basketball and soccer.
All of Stateâ€™s 23 teams would have to step up. OK was not going to be enough; passable would no longer get a pass.
â€œI think being mediocre is boring,â€ Yow said in a recent telephone interview. â€œItâ€™s a disservice to the university as well. Itâ€™s a disservice to anybody who contributes to athletics. I donâ€™t think people say, â€˜Gee, let me make a gift to Wolfpack athletics, because I think theyâ€™re going to be mediocre.â€™ So I donâ€™t make any apologies for expecting worth and movement toward excellence in each of our sports.â€
Any NC State who has given money to support NC State Athletics in the last 20+ years has to really ‘love’ the following admission:
But with the school willing to step up its commitment to all of its teams, Yow expects every coach to take on the challenge of becoming a top national program. (Not as though it would be a surprise to anyone with a pulse.)
Gymnastics coach Mark Stevenson said that level of accountability hasnâ€™t been the norm for Olympic sports at N.C. State.
â€œIâ€™ve never been in a position where anybody said I was going to win,â€ Stevenson said. â€œUsually, it was, â€˜We donâ€™t expect you to win, because weâ€™re not supporting you enough.â€™â€‰â€
Stevenson became a head coach at N.C. State in 1980 â€“ he shared a hiring party with Jim Valvano â€“ and has seen administrations come and go.
â€œNobody has stood in front of me like Debbie did and said, â€˜Iâ€™m going to support you and youâ€™re going to be a top 10 team, or you will find a different job,â€™â€‰â€ Stevenson said. He added that Yow might not have used those exact words, but he got the message.
â€œThereâ€™s that little bit of extra pressure, and Iâ€™m OK with that.â€
Stevenson thinks that support is already paying dividends. In 2010, the team finished sixth in the NCAA regionals. In 2011, the team moved up to fourth, and this year finished third, coming within two-tenths of a point of advancing to the NCAA finals. Stevenson was named 2012 Southeast Regional Coach of the Year at the tournament in Raleigh.
â€œWeâ€™ve seen an increase in our funding, and just from last year to this year we moved up nine spaces (in national placement). Weâ€™re finishing the season 17th in the country. Last year we were 26th.â€