After picking Mark Gottfried to bring the North Carolina State basketball program back from the scrap heap, athletic director Debbie Yow has a bigger decision in front of her — name a new football coach.
Right now, there appears to be signs Yow is ready to select the next top dog for the Wolfpack Nation and the announcement could be made as early as today. Yow knows she has to move quickly because there are a number of quality jobs to be filled and she didn’t want to be the one left standing out in the cold.
When Yow pulled the plug on Tom O’Brien it didn’t come as a big shock. N.C. State was expected to be among the ACC’s elite this season, battle for the conference title and maybe have an outside shot at a BCS bowl game.
Instead, it opened the season with a horrible loss to a bad Tennessee team and never recovered. As the season progressed things got so bad in Raleigh, the Wolfpack were forced to squeak out a two-point win against a not-so good Maryland squad. O’Brien’s fate was probably sealed two weeks later with a 33-6 loss to Virginia at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Yow decided seven wins in the regular season wasn’t going to cut. Neither was going 4-4 in the ACC.
Since the conference first expanded in 1992, when the Seminoles came aboard, the Wolfpack are a respectable 139-115-1.
But in ACC play, N.C. State is just 79-89.
Those conference losses didn’t come to schools like Alabama, LSU, Michigan or Ohio State. They were against Boston College, Duke, Maryland and even North Carolina should be tossed into this mix.
While Tar Heels fans believe their program should be considered among the best in the ACC, it is closer to N.C. State’s than Clemson or Florida State. During this same 20-year period, North Carolina is 141-114 overall and 83-85 in ACC action.
Perhaps Yow believes the Wolfpack can seize this opportunity to become the top team in the state while the Tar Heels try to dig themselves out of the NCAA investigation hole they are currently in. It won’t be easy because last year North Carolina went out and hired Larry Fedora, an energetic young coach who has an offense which puts points on the scoreboard in bunches.
To counter Fedora’s hire, Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes appears to be the leading candidate on Yow’s wish list. If Dykes says the right things today and the price is right, Yow just might have her man to do what O’Brien couldn’t do in his six seasons — turn the Wolfpack into consistent winners.
“Coach O’Brien and I agree on the goal of becoming a Top 25 program. We just don’t agree on what it takes to do that, how to get there.”
On paper it looks relatively easy to make N.C. State into a power because the ACC won’t be confused for the SEC anytime soon. Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech are the only conference schools which are regularly ranked among the nation’s best.
In reality, it is a tougher road.
And that’s the problem N.C. State’s new coach will have to confront — being a top 25 program and facing unrealistic expectations.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.