In a telephone press conference this afternoon, former Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow announced that she would be leaving the program, taking up the same position at North Carolina State University after 16 years with the Terrapins.
Yow led the Terps to 16 national titles, including one each in men's and women's basketball. When asked what she was most proud of in her tenure as the Athletic Director at Maryland, Yow cited the national championships as well as the progress made on the school's budget.
"I'm proud of the national championships, how could I not be?" she said. "So much of that credit lays at the feet of some terrifically talented coaches and student-athletes, and it was all a team effort. You have to have a critical mass of individuals moving in the same direction in order to achieve excellence usually, and we developed that while we were paying down that nasty inherited $51 million debt."
Yow also mentioned the incredible graduation rate of the Terrapin student-athletes as one of her most gratifying achievements as Athletic Director.
"I already know," she said. "That the graduation rate for all the student-athletes at Maryland, that will be released in the fall report nationally, is 80%. It's the all-time high, and I know what it took to get to that level, and I'm proud of that for everybody associated with Maryland."
At some point in the past two weeks, Yow began meeting with the NC State Athletic Department to discuss the position. She said it was an opportunity for her to "pick her own boss", as Maryland President Dr. C. Daniel Mote will be leaving the school at the end of the year. She spoke of her first meeting with NC State's new Chancellor as the turning point in her decision.
"I would say that when I met the new Chancellor of NC State, Randy Woodson," she said. "It was such a wonderful fit in terms of values, and he shared his vision for the University and for the athletics program. So I would say that that was a point in time that made a difference."
Yow, a North Carolina native, has family ties to NC State. Her older sister, the late Kay Yow, coached the Wolfpack women's basketball team for 34 years, and her younger sister, Susan Yow, was the first All-American women's basketball player at NC State.
"This is home," she said. "I've always been affectionate toward NC State because of my family history."
Maryland now begins the task of finding a replacement for the highly successful Yow. While Dr. Mote has already stated that the Terrapins will be hiring an interim Athletic Director, the search for a long term solution is one that Yow does not see herself being heavily involved in.
"I really don't think so," she said. "With Dr. Mote retiring in September, they'll have to decide whether they hire now or whether they wait for a new president, and in that, of course, I will not be involved."
Yow did make a suggestion to Dr. Mote for her replacement – Connecticut Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway. Hathaway is a Maryland graduate, and Yow said she will contact him at some point in the near future.
"The ACC I think offers stability," she said. "And with a new TV contract, [there's] better money, so I will at some point make a call to Jeff, personally, to ask him to consider that."
Hathaway's Connecticut program has recently come under fire for possible recruiting violations in the men's basketball team, who are currently under investigation for eight major NCAA infractions. Yow says she does not know if this will affect Hathaway's candidacy.
"It's a good question, I'm not sure," she said. "I would say that when things go wrong, most times the AD is not aware of what's happening and is usually part of the solution, not part of the problem, but that's something I don't know enough about to comment further on."
It has been no secret that Yow and Maryland men's basketball coach Gary Williams have had their differences, and two of Yow's last actions as Athletic Director helped mend that relationship.
"There are a couple of things that I'm really glad that I was able to get down," she said. "One of those was nominating Coach Williams for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame three weeks ago, and the other, most recently, was submitting to the Committee of Naming Opportunities at the University a request that Coach Williams' name be added to the board."
When asked specifically about her relationship with Williams, Yow was vague with her feelings towards the coach.
"I'll just tell you that I wish him nothing but the best," she said. "That's about all I can say and that's all I've ever wished him."
When commenting on Yow's departure to the Baltimore Sun's Jeff Barker, coach Williams was similarly cryptic.
"I have nothing to say specifically," he said. "Other than I'll let other people judge the 15 or 16 years Debbie Yow was at the University of Maryland."
One of the hallmarks of Maryland athletics under Yow has been the success of the "smaller programs", such as lacrosse, soccer, and field hockey. While she acknowledged that she hopes to continue this success at NC State, Yow said that good results in the bigger sports allows the smaller ones to thrive.
"The focus, first and foremost, always has to be on the success of the revenue sports," she said. "There's just no way around that. They fuel the success and the opportunity for success in the others because that's where the money is. I do believe in broad-based excellence. I don't think you should have a sport that you don't have a chance to excel in. It's a waste of money, and it sends the wrong message that some sports are expected to excel and other sports are not, so I will be looking at all 23 of their sports."
Overall, Yow said she is pleased with how the program has done in her time at Maryland. The Terrapins have nearly eliminated the large debt that Yow was first confronted with, and have won numerous national titles across many different sports.
"I do feel so good remembering where we were in 1994," she said. "It is so gratifying to know that the program is in better shape now. And I say that with a full knowledge that there are many things that need to be corrected and rectified, and that will be the job of the new A.D., their management team and the coaches."
Maryland will face North Carolina State in men's soccer at College Park on September 18th.
Yow Heads to NC State
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