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Back From Vacation: Thoughts On Yow, The AD Search

July 7, 2010
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There’s nothing like taking a week-long vacation to make you realize how tough it is keeping up with a blog.

Blogging is fun, rewarding and keeps my writing chops sharp. It’s also a tremendous pain in the ass sometimes, especially when you’ve got life (i.e. work and family) that take precedent. So I hope you’ll forgive me for taking a sabbatical during my sabbatical last week, but thankfully there are plenty of things to talk about.

(Note: I’m thankful, and y’all should be as well, that no one on the football team was involved in a major automobile accident during my vacation this year. I can’t say the same was true last year.)

So yeah, Debbie Yow.

State’s new AD. Raise your hand if you picked her in your office’s “AD selection” pool.

After all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Parker Exec. Search Firm, the selection committee and their list of three, er, six names, Chancellor Randy pulled an 11th-hour switcheroo on everyone by going off the list of six and naming Yow as State’s new AD.

Initially, I was curious and puzzled as to why Woodson picked someone outside the group we’d heard about leading up to the search’s conclusion. It’s the same kind of puzzled confusion you have when the guy in your fantasy football league picks Jake Delhomme in the first round because he’s a huge Panthers fan. More than anything, you want to know WHY. It seemed on the surface that Woodson was doing his best Alec Baldwin impression from Glengarry Glen Ross: whipping the brass balls out of the briefcase, denying the committee coffee for not being “closers,” etc.

As we learned more, however, apparently Yow’s selection was simply a matter of convenient timing. Parker had identified Yow as a potential target early on and the committee was keen on her as a candidate, but at the time it seemed there was no chance she was available for the job. She was 16 years in on a job she’d rebuilt from the ground up and seemed entrenched where she was. But with Maryland changing university presidents, the time seemed right for Yow to move on after stepping on just about all the wrong toes. So with Yow now open to the idea of leaving Maryland for another opportunity–after the committee had already given Woodson their recommendations–he proceeded with courting Yow and the rest is history.

Kudos to my boy Chris Baysden of the Triangle Business Journal, by the way. He was on top of the AD story from the get-go and was the go-to source for information as the search progressed. But moreso, kudos to him for asking the tough questions of Woodson regarding Yow and her not appearing on the committee’s selection list during the press conference.

It’s easy to sit back at a “celebration” conference and toss softballs, but Baysden knew that a lot of folks were curious about Yow seemingly coming from nowhere. He asked Woodson about it, and Woodson tried to give him the stiffarm in saying, “She was on MY list.”

Baysden could’ve let it go at that point, but he pressed Woodson on the matter and Woodson realized he did need to account for how he appeared to skirt the outlined search process. Woodson then clarified the matter, helping himself in the process and giving the rest of us the answer we needed to hear.

That, folks, is good journalism. (Who says you need a J school to crank out great journalists?)

If State fans were angered in recent years for a perceived lack of accountability from their chain of command, brother, we’ve got it in SPADES now. We have a Chancellor that talks results with a firmness of one intent on getting results, and he hired a woman whose leadership style seems cut from his own mold. I wavered a bit on Woodson when I initially heard he went against the committee for picking Yow, and given that Maryland fans have been asking for her ouster ever since her dustups with Gary Williams and Ralph Friedgen, I was skeptical on the selection.

But the more I read up on Yow’s accomplishments within the department, I started to open up to the idea. She certainly met all the criteria Woodson laid forth and then some. And when she took the podium on June 25th, she absolutely hit a homerun in the press conference. She said all the right things without seeming like she was TRYING to say all the right things. She assured folks that any hard feelings that might’ve come about with her selection over perceived favorite Bobby Purcell were smoothed over in a one-on-one meeting prior to the PC. And she echoed a lot of the things we, as State fans, have been clamoring for for years: accountability, RESULTS-based performance evaluations of programs and clear, DEFINED goals for all sports.

She also managed to show us that–of all the potential candidates out there–she, and likely she alone, possessed the rare quality of being a part of the extended Wolfpack family without having existing ties to the dreaded “Good Ol’ Boy” network. Nearly all of the potential candidates fell into two camps: Either they had no prior affiliation to State in any way or they were too affiliated. Some were already here on campus (Purcell) or were recent “alums” of the existing athletic leadership structure that could’ve potentially led to decisions made more out of loyalty than what’s best for the overall program.

And that’s not to say that a Purcell couldn’t have done a WONDERFUL job as AD. I truly think he would have. I can safely say that no candidate came to the table with more passion for the school than he. But hiring Purcell–while appeasing those on “Team Bobby”–would’ve raised an eyebrow of those fearful of the “status quo” continuing on.

For those still defending Bobby, perhaps even to the point of panning Yow, I get it. Spare me your angry comments and emails. I do think he would’ve made a great hire, but his lack of experience and closeness to the existing shitstorm we’ve been blindly navigating through for the last two decades were legitimate concerns.

There were legitimate concerns for all the candidates, in fact, and Yow brings with her concerns, as well. Namely, her inability at times to play nice with some of her coaches, the media (John Feinstein apparently still tarries quite the sandy vagina over a tiff with her) and her constituents. She’s a southern woman who’s had to claw for everything in a male-dominated world, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about headstrong southern women over the years, they are ruthless when they need to be and will hold a grudge to their grave if you let them. (Feinstein apparently learned this the hard way. Southern women don’t just “get over” stuff, John–trust me, I’ve made my wife plenty irate over the years and those hatchets are the toughest to bury.)

But had Feinstein been able to put his feelings aside for a moment, he would’ve seen legitimate reasons for her blow up with Williams. To this day, I defy you to find me a college basketball coach in the last two decades that leveraged their national title LESS on the recruiting trail than Gary. It honestly almost feels like it never happened. Gary has always hated recruiting (and to his credit, it’s usually because he loathes dealing with the seedy underbelly of the business), but it’s a necessary evil to win in today’s game. And when he had the chance to cash in a title and build his rosters for years to come, he got lazy. He went after the wrong kind of prospects–guys with more raw talent than heart and kids with character issues. And when Yow took him to task for it, he blew up in typical Gary Williams fashion.

That’s not to say that Yow couldn’t have handled it better. It got far more public than it needed to be. And then there was the far-too-public plea on behalf of her fanbase to buy out the contract of Freidgen who woefully underperformed after landing a sweet payday following 30 wins in his first three seasons.

But the commonality in both of these events was that Yow was demanding greater results from her two most public coaches. One, a certain Hall Of Famer and the other, one of the winningest football coaches in school history.

Isn’t THAT what we, as State fans, have been yearning for from our top athletic administrator since the days of Willis Casey? For an AD unwilling to simply pat a coach on the back and say, “You’ll get ’em next time, champ,” but to demand consistent, balls-to-the-wall effort that yields results? If you–as coach–don’t live up to those high standards, start polishing your resume in advance of a hasty exit. Past results may have led you to feel entitled to a cushy stroll down the mountain, but she wouldn’t stand for it at Maryland.

Yow has asked from day one of all her coaches here at State, “What do you NEED. Let me get it for you.” She knows that when all the excuses about budgets, facilities and support are eliminated from her end, she leaves the door open for her to make changes if necessary for coaches not meeting lofty performance goals.

And that, my friends, is why I believe Yow was a great hire for AD at State. She will bust balls and crack skulls and piss you off and piss me off and piss off her coaches and piss off the media and piss off her secretary, her pet fish and her janitor. (Monkey Board, you’re officially on notice.) She will take ALL OF US to task–not for being too demanding or unrealistic, but because we’re not demanding enough in constructive ways.

We need that now. State Athletics has played the role of the ACC’s Fat Kid in dodgeball for too long. Too lazy, too lethargic, merely content to make it in the circle before one of the other kids mercifully pegs us in our flabby ass, allowing us to sit down while the rest of the league carries on with us on the outside looking in. We need someone that will trim the fat that’s there, nourish and strengthen atrophied muscles we haven’t flexed in years and stop letting State be a decades-long punchline to an unending barrage of jokes at our expense.

History will bear things out ultimately, but I think Woodson delivered and made the right hire.

For those of you that made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back. Take a break, drink some Powerade and have a protein bar; you’ve earned it. I apparently had a lot of words stored up from a week off, and tearing up Twitter yesterday one 140-character chunk at a time wasn’t cutting it. The scary thing? I had to SCALE BACK what I wanted to say in this one post to save it for later. (I’m a verbose mother effer at times.)

More to come…

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott permalink
    July 8, 2010 8:34 am

    actually, mike archer was involved in a serious car accident during your vacation. he didn’t get seriously injured however. i think you’re a jinx.

    • July 8, 2010 8:37 am

      So wrong, but so funny.

      Hey, I never pictured you as one who would’ve stuck with reading that entire manifesto to the bitter end. That took effort. I’m proud of you.

    • July 8, 2010 8:41 am

      Wait…you weren’t kidding about the Archer accident! I hadn’t heard until after I read your post; I figured you were being a smartass.

      Holy hell…

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