RALEIGH — Debbie Yow has announced that the 2018-19 academic year will be her last as athletic director at NC State. But even though her retirement looms just over the horizon, she is anything but ready to start coasting to the finish line.
In fact, she’s even more motivated than ever to build on the Wolfpack’s most successful year in recent memory and finish her tenure with a flourish.
In part one of the North State Journal’s wide-ranging interview last week, Yow focused on the process that helped accomplish her goal of elevating State into a top-25 national program. This week, she looks ahead at the challenges that remain and her new goal of leaving the program in better shape than she found it eight years ago.
NSJ: How great of a challenge is it to remain fiscally responsible while at the same time keeping up with the arms race that is currently going on in college athletics, especially when it comes to facilities?
Yow: We’ve finally gotten to having a critical mass of financial resources, but we have almost no flex. In other words, we’re not going to do too many things just because we can. We’re going to watch that money very carefully, and we’re going to spend it very carefully. It’s an ongoing dialogue with our head coaches. It’s like, “Here’s your money, spend it wisely. But understand that this is it. When it runs out, hopefully at the end of the school year, there is no more.” The key to that is having the critical mass of financial resources. We did not have that in 2010.
Why were funds so scarce in 2010, and what changed to solve the problem?
We had some very low-level contracts for multimedia, no all-sports deal for the apparel, and ticket sales were coming and going. We have all kind of statistics that show the past five years are the top five years we’ve had in football ticket sales. We have an all-sports apparel deal, and multimedia is getting better. We need to stay focused and stay diligent in our pursuit and not get caught getting refocused on something that doesn’t have the value it needs to have. We only have a limited amount of time and money and we need to spend both of those well.
How will the launch of the ACC’s linear television network in 2019 affect finances?
How successful will the network be is critically important to NC State. I can’t answer for every other school, but I can tell you that, for us, this matters. We’ll have the broadcast studio up and running in the spring, so it will be ready for the network.
Some of those resources went into keeping coach Dave Doeren at State last winter. How important for the continuity of the football program was it for him to stay instead of taking the job at Tennessee?
On the night of the draft, when we were second to Alabama in the number of picks, it took us to another level. That showed Coach Doeren had something to sell. Before that he was selling the dream: “We can, we will.” Now he can say, “We did.” If your goal is to have a career in the pros, then playing here will enable that for you. So, if it’s Coach Doeren or keeping (basketball coach Kevin) Keatts or hiring the right volleyball coach or swim coach or wrestling coach, it all makes a difference.
You used to keep a low profile, especially on social media, but recently you’ve become much more engaged with fans. What changed?
I’ve always thought it’s important that if you see something on social media that’s factually inaccurate, you should correct it. One time someone said, “I wish the lots were open for football five hours before the game.” And my staff said they already are. So we should correct anything we see like that.
The other part of it is that I can let our fans know that I am present and accounted for when we hit a difficulty. If we have a real issue with an official’s call and it’s obvious that people want to know if we’re taking it seriously, because they are, I can do what they can’t. I represent them. They can’t call the ACC office and talk to the director of officials, but I can. I think it’s important to let them know, “Yes, we did that.” I can’t tell them what was said because the program could be fined, but I can, out of respect to them, let them know that we’re standing up for the team and the school. I’m going to do that because it’s the right thing to do.
What is the primary goal for your final year before retirement?
Finishing in the top 25 (of the Directors’ Cup) is exciting, but can we do that again? What can we do next? What are we going to do to continue to establish this foundation that’s solid, because the profile of the program has changed dramatically in eight years. I’m excited about that for the future in attracting the next AD as I am anything else. It will be a much more attractive position, in my estimation. Chancellor (Randy) Woodson will be in charge of that. It will all go well.
Will you have any say in picking your successor?
That’s Chancellor Woodson’s job. But I’ll be here to help if he has any questions.
Do you feel like you’ll be leaving the program in a better place than when you got here?
I can’t answer that, because it takes me to a place where I can’t go yet. I’m not going to think about retirement until it gets here.
Every year, I meet with every head coach and every sports supervisor, and we look at everything you can think of. We’ll be doing that here in about a month. We look at that and then talk to the coach about what’s next. We’ll be talking to the Wolfpack Club about potential new projects. It’s all about staying focused on the things that matter.
None of this is going to be easy. It’s all about the perseverance. My theory is that people will persevere if the goal is worthy of their attention and their focus.