RALEIGH — It took seven children, including five straight boys, for Gene Corrigan to finally consent to naming one after himself.
Even then, the former ACC commissioner disliked his name so much that he began referring to his youngest son as “Boo.”
Fifty-two years later, Eugene Francis Corrigan Jr. still answers to “Boo.” But not because he’s distanced himself from his lineage or legacy.
In fact, his name isn’t the only thing he has in common with his father. He also has a talent for athletic administration, a trait that made him a natural choice to succeed retiring Debbie Yow as NC State’s next athletic director.
“Among all the people that I talked with and all the people I considered, Boo’s name always came back to the top of the list,” said State’s chancellor Randy Woodson, who described Corrigan as being “steeped in the understanding of athletic administration and preparing for this job throughout his life.
“I was looking for someone that this wasn’t their first rodeo, that they know what Division I, Power 5 athletics is about and all the issues that come along with it,” Woodson said in introducing Woodson last Wednesday at Reynolds Coliseum. “I wanted people that were visiting with me about this job to be sold on this university and this job before that first conversation occurred. And that box was checked for me in Boo early on because he knows this conference. He knows this part of the country, and he knows the great history of NC State athletics.”
Corrigan will officially take over the Wolfpack’s 23-sport varsity program on May 1.
He joins the Wolfpack after eight years as athletic director at Army, which enjoyed a period of significant growth and success under his leadership. During his watch, the Cadets won 20 Patriot League championships and saw their football program improve from 2-10 in 2015 to 11-2 and a third straight bowl bid this season.
The program Corrigan inherits at State has experienced a similar renaissance under Yow, having accomplished the goal she set upon her hiring in 2010 to turn the Wolfpack into a consistent top 25 contender.
State has finished 17th and 15th in the Directors’ Cup standings over the past two years, its highest ranking ever in the national all-sports competition.
“It’s a chance to get better, and I think that’s how I look at every day when I’ll be the AD,” Corrigan said. “How can we continue to develop our student-athletes? How can we continue to develop our coaches for that matter … to make sure that they have every resource they need? But (those are) high-class problems because of the great job that Debbie did.”
As a fellow administrator and someone with such a strong ACC pedigree, Corrigan said he noticed the Wolfpack’s recent prosperity from afar and was attracted to the job even before anyone approached him about it.
“You have to see the success that’s occurred here and not only athletically, but academically and from a brand and from every aspect of the institution. It’s going in such a positive direction,” he said. “When Debbie announced that she was leaving, (wife) Kris and I kind of looked at each other like, ‘Boy, that’d be a great place for us to go because of the success that’s occurred, because of the coaches that they’ve hired.”
If there was any doubt that he would accept the job once it was offered to him, it was dispelled almost immediately upon leaving his interview with Woodson last week thanks to a text from his friend and Army Gen. Ray Odierno — a West Point graduate who earned his master’s degree at State.
“Call me ASAP,” it read.
“I don’t know if y’all have ever received a text from a four-star general, but it’s a little intimidating when you get that,” Corrigan said. “I had a chance to talk to (Odierno), and his first words were, ‘This is a great job. This is a great place. I think you’re the right person to be there.’”
Corrigan joked about how rivals State and UNC will soon have athletic directors named Boo and Bubba, suggesting that the combination sounded like the name of a comedy act.
A self-described “emotional guy,” he got choked up several times during his introductory press conference — especially when he was asked about his father.
“He had two phrases that he used to tell all seven of us,” Corrigan said. “‘It’s better to remain silent and appear stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt’ was one of them. The other one that I really do take to heart is, ‘Take your job serious, but not yourself.’
“We were jokingly talking the other day and Chancellor Woodson looked at me and said, ‘You’re kind of a big deal.’ And I said, ‘Well, the job is.’
“Dad had a great humility about him as well, and I think you have to have an ego in these jobs to a certain level to even get to this point. But it doesn’t have to be what leads you through the door.”