Leader of the (Wolf) Pack: CHD interviews NC State AD Debbie Yow

Debbie Yow has been director of athletics at NC State since 2010 and has spent the past few decades putting her stamp on some of the biggest basketball programs in the country.  She hired Mark Gottfried to coach the Wolfpack men’s basketball team, spent many years herself as women’s basketball coach at Kentucky, Oral Roberts, and Florida, and as athletics director at Saint Louis she hired Charlie Spoonhour as men’s basketball coach. She has served on the D-1 Men’s Basketball Academic Enhancement Committee and also been inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.  After meeting Ms. Yow at last weekend’s NCAA annual convention, CHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with her about her own career in addition to a variety of cutting-edge topics.


You are the AD at North Carolina State: how do you like the job, and what made you hire Coach Mark Gottfried? I spent 16 years at Maryland before coming home to NC State in 2010. I am very proud that Coach Gottfried is here. I have actually known him since he was 18…when he was dating 1 of my women’s basketball players!

When you were at Maryland what was it like to be the 1st female AD at an ACC school, and what did it mean to you to win a men’s basketball title in 2002 and a women’s basketball title in 2006? Unfortunately I am still the only female AD in ACC history, but am looking forward to the day when I am not the only 1. Winning a national title is very special, and I am blessed to have been in charge of programs who have won 20 of them. Coach Gary Williams was a special coach who had a great run in both 2001 and 2002. I hired Brenda Frese in 2002 and it looks like she has a team this year that is capable of winning it again.

Before that you were head coach of the women’s basketball teams at Kentucky, Oral Roberts, and Florida: what was the best part of being a coach and what was the worst part? I do not think I am that different from any other coach. The best part is practice and the teaching elements. The worst part is losing a game that I believe we should have won or losing a recruit that I thought we were going to get. It is hard to understand the stress of recruiting, and it is more stressful than ever in 2015.

Your sister Kay was head coach of the NC State women’s basketball team, your sister Susan is head coach at Queens College in Charlotte, and your cousin Virgil was head coach of the High Point men’s basketball team: who is the best coach in the family? I think it depends on what aspect you look at. Susan, Kay, and I all shared information: there was 1 strange set of 3 Saturdays in a row back in the day where we each took turns coaching against Tennessee.  My team was the last of the 3 to play the Volunteers, and we were able to win that game, which was rare because Pat Summit was such an extraordinary coach. Susan and I each played for Kay at a small school in North Carolina called Elon, where we would play against ACC teams like UNC and Wake Forest. Susan was by far the best player of the 3 of us, and we also have a brother who played football at Clemson.

You served on the US Department of Education Commission on Opportunities in Athletics that reviewed the status of Title IX regulations: do you think the regulations still require change, and what must be done to keep making women’s sports as strong as possible? The changes in the last year from a judicial perspective have changed the face of college athletics. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that we need to pay the cost of attendance and create a trust fund of $5000/year for the name, image, and likeness of every men’s basketball and football player, but we do not know what impact this will have on other sports. At the convention we voted to pay the full cost of attendance and at NC State we plan to do that across all men’s and women’s sports, but I do not know what we are going to do about the trust fund payments in 2016.

You also worked as chairwoman of the ACC’s Committee on Television that oversaw the league’s TV contracts: how happy are you with the current contracts, and how do you think they will change in the future? The ACC Network is seen all over the country and I believe we are the strongest men’s/women’s conference in the country with the addition of some great schools over the past few years. We will probably do something like the SEC Network with our own channel, but I do not know when that will happen.

What do you think is the short-term and/or long-term impact of the recent autonomy discussions? Cost of attendance passed overwhelmingly, and the other interesting thing that passed was the proposal to ensure that scholarships cannot be removed exclusively for athletic reasons. If a coach makes a recruiting mistake (as I have before when I was coaching), that does not necessarily mean that a player’s scholarship should be revoked. Most individuals in that category will simply transfer down a level so they can play elsewhere.

What steps are being taken by NC State to increase the role of technology in its athletic programs? We are looking at Internet connectivity at PNC Arena, which is much like a professional venue in that it has a lot of bells and whistles that older facilities do not have.  We will be touring some newer facilities in New York later this year to see what amenities we can provide to our fans who deserve the best.

How can you give the fans the seat they want at the price they want? I am not sure if that is always possible. The fact is that there are fundraising arms who have to provide the best seats in the house to our donors (outside of the student section): there will always be LTRs (life time rights) for seats on the 50-yard line. The revenues from basketball and football help cover all other sports, so those 2 sports have to carry them because we do not get any state or university funding.

How far do you think the Wolfpack can go in the NCAA tourney this March? We are playing the 7th-toughest schedule in the country and our RPI is around 35. We are very young at the 4 and 5 spot (2 sophomores and 2 freshmen), but I have never seen a coach who has the patience he has from a teaching perspective. He knows what needs to be said to get players to increase their level of play: he is a tremendous teacher 24-7.