For some of my blog readers, today’s blog may not be filled with political discourse or general policy overviews. Instead, I again will once again write about the North Carolina State University athletics program. When I attended N.C. State I wrote for The Technician about the University piss poor athletics programs. In fact, during that reporting period, the athletics department was headed by athletics director Lee Fowler. Shortly after my scathing, but honest, assessment Fowler retired from the University. He was replaced by Debbie Yow, which is the sister of the late N.C. State basketball coach legend, Kay Yow.
First, to understand a typical dedicated Wolfpack fan comes with a standard set of guidelines. 1. The program has an incredible history. 2. The entire athletics program seems focused on only beating Carolina. 3. Preseasons are filled with hype only to dissipate as the season progresses. In other words, the Wolfpack doesn’t have the caliber programs found at Notre Dame, UNC, Arizona or Florida. Instead, it will throw millions of dollars into a “Field of Dreams” style building project to build a reputable and loyal fan base to immediately fail on the field or on the court. Granted, its athletics facilities are some of the best on the planet. Any athletics coach would be in awe to have equal access to such services. In fact, the recruitment is on par with just about any other major university program. Coaching staff typically has some remarkable stats at the initial phase. But once at N.C. State all that falls apart. It’s a university filled with hopes of athletic excellence that consistently fails to deliver.
The last time N.C. State basketball program went to the NCAA Elite Eight was in 1986. That program was led by the late Jim Valvano. Les Robinson took over the program after Valvano was forced to leave under athletics misconduct allegations. Then came Herb Sendek which took the Pack to a tournament for 9 out of 10 seasons before his firing and departure to Arizona State University. Sidney Lowe, a former N.C. State player became the next coach that never had one appearance at the NCAA tournament. Now we come to the current Wolfpack basketball coach, Mark Gottfried which seated the Pack at a NCAA Sweet Sixteen position at his first season as coach. As a coach for five seasons, Gottfried has been to the NCAA tournament four times. This season his Wolfpack is struggling. But the Wolfpack apparently, once again, want change. It is highly rumored that Gottfried will be fired after the end of this season. Why the Wolfpack hired Gottfried after being fired from Alabama is perplexing. Perhaps it’s because N.C. State athletics has issues securing good coaching talent. After all, it’s a trainwreck in the making.
A problem for the Wolfpack is that its programs and fan base utilize the eligibility rule to secure a seat at playoffs. Nevermind about becoming a conference champion or a NCAA ranking. Instead, Pack fans and its program will ever endure the Cinderella syndrome of its only hope of being crowned Champion. The Cinderella method is fine for UTEP or Pepperdine but not N.C. State. The University is a Division 1 contender with Duke, UNC, and Virgina in its brackets. Yet, the Pack seems unconcerned or effortless in securing solid and robust wins against those adversaries. This is why the Wolfpack and all of its athletics won’t win championships. If the Wolfpack wants to begin winning, then its coaching staff must stop being a friend to its fan base and become autocratic, disciplined and focused leaders on the field and court. Until then, the Wolfpack athletic program will continue to be the hum-drum back pages issue filled with canned expectations and mediocre write-ups. After all, that has been the typical sports writing style since the departure of Valvano.
Mark my words, the Wolfpack will hire another coach, and you will hear the same canned commentary each and every time. “The new coach must be given several seasons to select his own players” or “the Wolfpack signed one of the best recruits for next season.” The end result is that without a robust and disciplined coaching staff none of that will matter. The Wolfpack, in my opinion, will continue to rank between mediocre and below average regardless of what stellar facilities it builds. Go ahead and fire the Wolfpack basketball coach. It will only make it harder to find a better replacement. It only gives the university another poor excuse of additional time and recruiting to rebuild with same repeated insanity laced expectations that NC State fans have come to endure.