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 nine years, she took many steps to accomplish that goal by recalibrating competitive and academic expectations.
The Wolfpack’s program of 23 varsity sports 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.
Over the final five years of her tenure, NC State programs posted the five highest finishes ever, which included the best finish in program history in 2018, No. 15 nationally. After finishing an average of 65.8 in the final Directors’ Cup standings the four years prior to her arrival, NC State has averaged a finish of 25.8 over her final five years in Raleigh.
Inheriting a program that had just one team finish ranked in the Top 25 in their respective sport the year prior to her arrival, a combined 52 teams have finished ranked in the last five years, including a program-best 12 in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
The Wolfpack 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.”
In nine years on the job, Yow made significant changes to the structure, branding and outcomes of the athletics department.
She has hired 17 new head coaches. The department has established Wolfpack Sports Properties in a new working agreement for multi-media rights with Learfield Communications; a department-wide apparel agreement with Adidas; and a Five-Year Strategic Plan. She spearheaded the renovation of Reynolds Coliseum, a $35 million joint project with the university to create an incredible home environment for teams competing in the facility, while honoring the Wolfpack’s athletic legacy with the NC State Athletics Walk of Fame & History. In 2015 NC State opened the $14 million Close-King Indoor Practice Facility.
For her remarkable work, Yow was honored as a 2018-19 Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year, while also receiving the prestigious Corbett Award recognizing lifetime achievement in athletics administration. In April 2019 she was given Emeritus recognition by NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson, the first NC State Athletic Director to ever receive the honor.
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 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.
Former Athletic Directors Look Forward After Looking Back
You will hear from those who sat in the AD chair for many years, as they reflect upon their days at the helm of university athletics. They will also share their thoughts on the current landscape and future of intercollegiate athletics.