Although she has served as an athletics director for over 20 years, she has had to make just three coaching changes in the revenue sports: football and basketball.
Here is a close look at the three hires she made.
Charlie Spoonhour (Saint Louis, 1992-1999)
Debbie Yow took over as athletics director at Saint Louis in 1990, and she instantly started to make some changes. She engineered the school's move from the Midwestern Conference to the Great Midwest for greater visibility, more television revenue and a more competitive schedule. She also restructured the budget to allow for more funds for non-revenue sports while developing recruiting manuals to further inform coaches of NCAA rules and regulations.
Men's basketball was the most visable sport at the mid-major school, which doesn't have a football program, and her first move was to evaluate long-time head coach Rich Grawer. Hired at Saint Louis in 1982, Grawer won 25 games in 1986-87, 27 in 1988-89, and 21 in 1989-1990.
At the time, Charlie Spoonhour had it rolling at Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State) and was considered one of the top coaches in college basketball. Hired in 1983, Spoonhour had nine coached seasons at the school when Yow and Saint Louis came calling in 1992. He had nine straight winning seasons, had never finished below .500 in the conference, won six titles (four regular season, two tournament), and had led Missouri State to five NCAA appearances.
Hiring Spoonhour was considered a huge coup and a no-brainer for Yow as mid-major schools rarely land quality coaches from other mid-major programs.
Right away he turned around the Saint Louis program. In his first season he led the Billikens to a 12-17 season, but the next year was when he put his stamp on the program. Saint Louis went 23-6 overall and reached the NCAAs as an at-large team, and Spoonhour was named national coach of the year by ESPN and other media outlets. The NCAA bid was the school's first since 1957, and a year later the team returned to the tournament.
Yow departed Saint Louis in 1994, but she left with the men's basketball program in better shape than it was before she arrived. Spoonhour coached sevens seasons at Saint Louis, leading the Billikens to three NCAA appearances.
Ron Vanderlinden (Maryland 1997-2000)
Yow was hired at Maryland in August of 1994, becoming the first female athletics director at the school. Gary Williams was firmly entrenched as the men's basketball coach, and he was winning. However, the football program was struggling.
Maryland had been one of the top football teams in the ACC but hadn't won a league title since 1985 when the Terps had just won its third in a row. The school's last bowl appearance was in 1990, and Maryland had just one winning season between 1985-1993.
Mark Duffner was the head coach when Yow took over, and a winning season in 1995 (6-5) bought him another year, but Yow fired him in 1996 after he finished 5-6. Duffner compiled a 20-35 record over five seasons.
Looking to replace Duffner, Yow went a different route than Spoonhour, choosing to hire one of the top assistants in college football, Northwestern defensive coordinator Ron Vanderlinden.
An assistant coach at Colorado when the Buffaloes won the 1990 national championship, Vanderlinden also served as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Northwestern from 1992 to 1996. There he helped turn the Wildcats, arguably the worst program in the Big Ten conference, into back-to-back Big Ten champs in 1995 and 1996.
On paper, Vanderlinden seemed like a very good hire, but it just didn't work out. In four seasons, he compiled a 15-29 record at Maryland. His 1999 and 2000 teams both finished 5-6, narrowly missing a winning record and bowl opportunity, but he was fired at the conclusion of the 2000 season.
Ralph Friedgen (Maryland, 2001-2010)
Ron Vanderlinden's lack of success didn't prevent Yow from going the assistant route the next time around and to everyone at the time the choice seemed obvious: Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen.
An alum of the school, Friedgen had been wildly successful as an offensive coordinator in college and professional football, but it took him 31 years as an assistant before he got his first head coaching opportunity.
He took over a team that had gone 5-6 in 2000, had not had a winning record since 1995, and had not appeared in a bowl game since 1990, and no one expected what was about to happen.
In his first season, Friedgen and the Terps were the talk of college football. He led his team to a 10-1 record and the school's first ACC title since 1985. Maryland earned a BCS bowl appearance where they lost to Florida 56-23 in the 2002 Orange Bowl, but the program was back.
Friedgen was consensus National Coach of the Year in 2001 and also won the ACC Coach of the Year award for the stellar job he did with that team.
Maryland won an astounding 31 games in Friedgen's first three seasons (31-8). The Terps were one of just five programs nationally to win ten games each year from 2001-2003, and Friedgen became the first coach in ACC history to win ten or more games in his first three seasons as a head coach.
Friedgen, who was Yow's football coach for the remainder of her tenure at Maryland, was let go by new athletics director Kevin Anderson at the conclusion of the 2010 season. He ended his career with a 75-50 overall record and a 43-37 ACC mark. Friedgen led the Terps to seven bowl games in ten seasons (5-2), and he won eight or more games six times.
Obviously hirings in football are different than in basketball for a variety of reasons, but the common link between all three moves Yow made was previous success. Spoonhour, Vanderlinden, and Friedgen had been successful as coaches and were experienced with quality resumes.
Spoonhour was a proven mid-major head coach. At Saint Louis, you're not going to go and poach a coach from a high-major school, so it is impressive that Yow as able to hire a top mid-major leader for the job. Often coaches in Spoonhour's position will wait for a high-major program to come calling, but he didn't do that.
Vanderlinden was a quality assistant college football coach, and often schools will hire a hot-shot assistant or coordinator... in fact that is how a lot of head coaches get their start. For whatever reason, things didn't work out for Vanderlinden. He didn't win enough, and Yow deserves credit for recognizing that early and making a move.
A lot of athletics directors may have given Vanderlinden a fifth year after he narrowly missed a bowl game in 2000, but Yow knew the time had come to make a chance so she cut her losses. Vanderlinden does deserve credit for recruiting virtually all of the talent on Friedgen's first two or three teams.
With that being said, Friedgen deserves credit for winning with those players, something Vanderlinden couldn't do. Friedgen came in and changed the culture of the program, and right away he won a league title and was named national Coach of the Year. He retired in 2010 as one of the top coaches in school history.
Check back tomorrow for a closer look at some of the major non-revenue hires Debbie Yow made at the University of Maryland.