RALEIGH N.C. States next football coach will be the seventh head coach Debbie Yow has hired in 29 months as athletic director. Some of those coaches left of their own accord and some were fired. Tom OBrien, unquestionably, was among those fired.
That decision to fire OBrien, a good and honorable man in who had taken the Wolfpack to bowl games in four of the past five seasons, including this one and the previous two, is Yows biggest gamble yet.
Yow wants to replace him with a high-intensity recruiter, preferably with head-coaching experience, whos more hands-on than OBrien and who can reinvigorate the program and get it in the top 25 on a regular basis without running afoul of the NCAA.
Needless to say, resumes like that arent exactly falling out of the sky. Yow is undeterred.
That goal is challenging, but I believe it is truly achievable here at N.C. State, Yow said Sunday. I believe that more today than I did when I was hired.
Theres no doubt the decision is consistent with Yows mandate. She has set out to remake, from top to bottom, an athletic department that had grown stale under Lee Fowler. Shes taken that on with gusto, whether its making coaching changes or taking on the ACC hierarchy.
Some of the changes were obvious: Sidney Lowe was on borrowed time without serious progress in the basketball program. Some changes never happened: Fowlers parting gift to N.C. State was volleyball coach Bryan Bunn, who less than an hour before N.C. States press conference to discuss OBriens firing found out his team was going to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 25 years. He fits right in.
Yow has had the opportunity to replace coaches in mens basketball, mens and womens soccer, softball, wrestling and swimming and diving since taking over. Not one of those shook the earth. Even when the search for Lowes replacement went on far longer than anyone ever thought it would, she ended up settling on a coach, Mark Gottfried, who no one ever thought she would and he turned out to be a far better fit than anyone thought he would be.
This is different. This is as much about the Wolfpack winning seven games this season, when 10 seemed possible, as anything. The question posed Friday has been answered: Is good enough good enough? Yows answer, on Sunday, was no.
Still, despite his losing record in ACC play and the missed opportunities that kept piling up, OBrien still got the Wolfpack to bowl games on a regular basis, beat North Carolina on a regular basis and kept the program clean. And N.C. State can look no farther than its rivals in Chapel Hill for an object lesson on the perils of striving for football glory.
John Buntings record was a heck of a lot worse than OBriens, but the point of hiring Butch Davis was to aim for the college football stratosphere at any cost. For all the money wasted, for all the rules broken, for all the investigations launched, for all the reputations tarnished, the Tar Heels went 24-15 in Davis final three years. OBrien was 24-14 in his final three years at N.C. State, not including the bowl game Dana Bible and his other assistants will coach this season.
This is as much about culture, Yow said, as anything else.
The culture change at N.C. State continues. The Wolfpack had a pretty good football coach. Yows betting she can find a great one.