RALEIGH, N.C. — It was an unusual year for North Carolina State athletic director Debbie Yow.
The Wolfpack again flirted with Yow’s long-term goal of becoming a top-25 overall sports program while having five coaches win top honors in the Atlantic Coast Conference. But she also had the same number of coaching changes during the 2016-17 season, including for one of the school’s highest-profile programs.
“You deal with what you have,” Yow said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And I have high expectations. We don’t back away from those expectations. I always feel like you have to be sure you give coaches plenty of latitude and opportunity to change course, to get things straight.
“But at the end of the day, it’s all about N.C. State, not about any of us individually — including me.”
Yow has spent seven years in Raleigh, and this marked the first time she had to hire five new coaches. Most notably, Yow fired men’s basketball coach Mark Gottfried after a two-year slide following four straight NCAA Tournament trips and hired Kevin Keatts from UNC Wilmington.
Longtime gymnastics coach Mark Stevenson (37 years) and men’s golf coach Richard Sykes (46 years) retired, while there were also changes atop the men’s soccer and men’s tennis programs.
“It’s a lot of energy,” Yow said of the turnover. “I wouldn’t call it upheaval.”
In football, Yow announced in November that coach Dave Doeren would return for a fifth season. Doeren is 25-26 overall but just 9-23 in league play, though N.C. State has gone to three straight bowls, nearly upset eventual national champion Clemson on the road and will have Doeren’s most experienced roster this fall.
Yow said 2017 is “not a make-or-break year” for Doeren.
“We’re older, more experienced, been through the fire,” Yow said. “They know what it feels like and they’re just working so hard. I feel very encouraged about where we are under his leadership.”
Overall, North Carolina State finished 29th in the Directors’ Cup standings of top college sports programs, the third straight year that N.C. State hovered near Yow’s top-25 goal.
N.C. State had nine teams finish in the top 25 of their sports, with four — men’s and women’s swimming and diving, women’s cross country and rifle — reaching the top 10. Sixteen of 23 varsity sports reached the postseason.
Yow inherited a program that had finished 89th when she arrived in summer 2010. She had cautioned it could be tougher to complete the final steps of that climb than it was to reach the current position, which included N.C. State finishing 27th in 2014-15 and 32nd in 2015-16.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge,” Yow said. “It’s just different when you go through it and you get so close to breaking through. I’m the one that said top 25, so it’s there. It’s there to take. It’s just a matter of getting there. And we’re so close.”
The school completed a $35 million renovation to Reynolds Coliseum last year and Yow is focused on a $15 million project to build a centrally located dorm to house the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The Case Commons project, with non-athletes making up 51 percent of the residents, was scheduled to open in August 2018 but Yow said it is being pushed back about a year so Keatts can have input in the project.
The school is also planning a $6.6 million project to create broadcast and production studio space at the football stadium for the 2019 arrival of the ACC’s TV channel — a requirement for all schools.
“I trust the brand of the ACC,” Yow said. “I was raised here. So this is a lifelong affiliation for me. I just feel like perhaps that’s why I have such faith in it.”
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap