Curtis Dail, a longtime supporter of Wolfpack athletics whose name adorns multiple athletic facilities, died Tuesday at the age of 85.
When Deborah A. Yow was hired to be NC State's director of athletics on June 25, 2010, her goal was to make the department she inherited one of the best in the nation.
In three short years, she has taken many steps to accomplish that goal. She has re-engineered and transformed the department, from revamping the department's coaching and administrative personnel; to increasing its annual budget by nearly two-thirds, significantly increasing revenues from all sources; to upgrading the school's athletic facilities.
Through her leadership, the Wolfpack's program of 23 varsity sports has made remarkable improvement in its national standing in the NACDA Director's Cup, a measure of competitive accomplishments for all NCAA varsity sports. From 2010-12, the school made the biggest single jump of any ACC school in the 20-year history of the rankings, improving from No. 89 to No. 37.
In 2013, NC State moved up No. 34, as a record 18 sports were represented in postseason play.
All eight of NC State's spring teams qualified for postseason play in 2013, with baseball hosting an NCAA Super Regional for the first time ever and advancing to the College World Series and softball winning the ACC championship and participating in an NCAA Regional for just the third time in school history. The men's and women's tennis, golf and track and field teams also qualified for NCAA participation.
NC State was one of only three NCAA institutions in the nation to have their football teams go to a bowl game, their men's basketball teams go to the NCAA Championship and their baseball teams go to the College World Series. A record number of student-athletes graduated in the spring of 2012 and NC State had more than 80 ACC All-Academic honorees the last two years.
The Wolfpack clearly has embraced Yow's comprehensive and energized vision for the future of the department, which has rallied under its trademark motto: "Wolfpack Unlimited: Refuse To Accept the Status Quo."
Yow's expectations are clear and concise:
Every sport with a full complement of scholarships should be among the nation's top 25, working towards the top 10 and competing for conference and national championships. Every student-athlete should be provided the opportunity and resources to be as successful in the classroom as on the field of competition. Every alumnus and supporter should be treated as a valued customer, with dedicated service from athletics department personnel.
"We have made great progress and I understand the challenges ahead of us," said the veteran administrator, who held similar positions for four years at Saint Louis and 16 years at Maryland. "I know what it takes, and we will do that."
In her first three years on the job, Yow has made significant changes to the structure, branding and outcomes of the athletics department.
She has hired eight new head coaches: men's basketball coach Mark Gottfried, men's soccer coach Kelly Findley, women's soccer coach Tim Santoro, men's and women's swimming coach Braden Holloway (a former NC State swimmer), wrestling coach Pat Popolizio, softball coach Shawn Rychcik, football coach Dave Doeren and most recently women's basketball coach Wes Moore.
These new coaches are beginning to accomplish extraordinary things in recruiting and in NCAA competition. Gottfried has led the men's basketball program two NCAA Championships in his first two seasons, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance. Holloway was named the 2013 ACC Coach of the Year after leading the men's swimming team to a No. 15 finish at the NCAA championship, its highest since 1978-79, and the team was named the national "Breakout Team of the Season" in the prestigious College Swimming and Diving Honors Program. Rychcik, in his first season, guided the Wolfpack softball team to the ACC title and an NCAA regional championship game appearance. Popolizio signed the No. 4 recruiting class nationally in his first season.
She also brought in nationally renowned Bob Alejo to serve as the director of the strength and conditioning programs for all student-athletes.
Senior administration has been geared to oversee the implementation of her vision for the Wolfpack's future success. She has also helped change the face of NC State athletics with overall improvements and upgrades to administrative and competitive facilities on campus.
The department has established Wolfpack Sports Properties in a new working agreement for multi-media rights with Learfield Communications and Capital Broadcasting Co.; a department-wide apparel agreement with Adidas Sports; and a new Five-Year Strategic Plan. She also led in the creation of the comprehensive NC State Athletics Hall of Fame, which inducted 10 members in its inaugural class in 2012 and added another 10 members for 2013.
Yow has made it clear to her coaches and staff they will be provided with the resources they need to be competitive at the highest level of college athletics. She has also made clear her expectations for excellence in all 23 varsity programs at the institution.
"We can become what we believe we can become, if we rally the Wolfpack family to lock arms as a collective force and move forward in a united way," Yow said the day she was hired. "In fact, that's the only way we can reach these challenging goals for NC State.
"We will work hard. We will work smartly. I will listen and learn about the challenges we face in order to make wise choices. The only limitations we have are those we place on ourselves."
Yow knows the importance of her position, leading the gateway department of the largest university in North Carolina. The ACC's first female athletics director also knows NC State's reputation as a pioneering program that first established basketball as a dominant sport in the South, was the first to integrate varsity athletics in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was the first public school in the state to dedicate full resources to women's athletics.
Hardly unfamiliar to Wolfpack fans, the native of Gibsonville, N.C., has been deeply connected to NC State since her youth, when her parents Hilton and Lib Yow introduced their three daughters and one son to college athletics. At the time, that meant legendary basketball coach Everett Case's fast-breaking style that dominated the early days of ACC basketball.
Later, she watched her older sister, Kay, become the first full-time women's coach in the state of North Carolina, when she was hired by then-athletics director Willis Casey to coach NC State's first three women's sports: basketball, volleyball and softball. Her first all-star, and the first women's All-American in NC State history, was the youngest of the Yow sisters, Susan.
For the next 34 years, Kay Yow served primarily as the Wolfpack women's basketball coach, winning numerous ACC championships and coaching the women's U.S. Olympic Team to the gold medal during her Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame career. Through her family ties, Debbie Yow always had an affinity for the school that opened the door for her family's role in major Division I athletics.
Debbie Yow served as a high school coach at Burlington's Williams High School and Gibsonville's Eastern Guilford High before becoming the women's basketball coach at the University of Kentucky. She also served as the head coach at Oral Roberts University and the University of Florida, before switching career paths to become an administrator, at both Florida and UNC Greensboro. In 1990, she was named the athletics director at Saint Louis, where she hired Charlie Spoonhour as men's basketball coach. In his first season, Spoonhour was named ESPN National Coach of the Year.
She moved to the University of Maryland in 1994 and in 2000 selected Ralph Friedgen as football coach. Friedgen was named consensus National Coach of the Year in 2001 after leading the Terps to the ACC championship and an appearance in the Orange Bowl. In 2002, she brought in Brenda Frese, the 2002 Big Ten and AP National Coach of the Year, to guide the Terrapin women's basketball program. In 2006, Frese led Maryland to the NCAA championship.
Under her leadership, Maryland's 27 varsity programs won a remarkable 20 national championships and consistently graduated student-athletes, including an all-time high federal graduation rate of 80 percent. In 2009, the NCAA News named Maryland as one of the Top 10 athletics programs in the nation.
At NC State, Yow oversees a department with 23 sports that includes approximately 185 full-time staff and 525 student-athletes.
"When we started this process, we set out to find someone with impeccable experience and a proven ability to manage and lead a complex organization," Chancellor Woodson said at Yow's introductory press conference. "Our goal was to find someone who fit with NC State, someone with the ability to build on an athletics program that has a rich history and a very, very bright future.
"Debbie Yow is experienced, tough, tenacious and successful. We could not have hired a better person and a better administrator."
Yow has served as president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and the national Division I-A Athletic Directors Association. She is a member of the National Football Foundation board of directors, as well as the USA Football board of directors and has served on the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Academic Enhancement Committee, as well as having represented the ACC on the NCAA Management Council.
Both Street and Smith's Sports Business Journal and the Chronicle of Higher Education have cited Yow as being one of the 20 most influential people in college athletics. She was selected to serve on the President's U.S. Department of Education Commission on Opportunities in Athletics to review the status of Federal Title IX regulations. She earlier served as the chair of the Atlantic Coast Conference Committee on Television, which is charged with overseeing the league's TV contracts and other related broadcast issues.
Like her older sister, Yow has been inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
Yow has written numerous articles and books on athletics management and human behavior. She holds a bachelor's degree from Elon University and a master's degree from Liberty University. She also has been awarded honorary doctorates for professional achievement from Elon, Liberty and the United States Sports Academy. She is married to Dr. William W. Bowden.
Yow is excited that her path of extraordinary achievement in college athletics has now returned her to the state where she was born and the school where her sister remains a beloved icon of athletics. And she's energized about leading the Wolfpack to even greater heights.
"It's good to be home," Yow said. "I know we will continue to build on NC State's tradition of athletics excellence. We have great fans and generous donors who are standing with us as we build. And the Wolfpack Club is a great partner in all our efforts.
"I am appreciative of Chancellor Randy Woodson and the university's senior management team for all their assistance in helping us advance this athletics program, an integral part of our great institution."