Yow Savors Wolfpack's Work

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Athletic director Debbie Yow has spent five years pushing to turn North Carolina State into a top-25 program. The 2014-15 sports season has brought the Wolfpack to the edge of that goal.

Athletic director Debbie Yow has spent five years pushing to turn North Carolina State into a top-25 program. The 2014-15 sports season has brought the Wolfpack to the edge of that goal.

North Carolina State earned its best finish in the Directors' Cup rankings of Division I sports programs. It's finishing an indoor practice building that will end football's long wait for the status-symbol facility and recruiting chip. And it has started a renovation to a venerable campus arena that will displace several programs for more than a year but is part of the always-keep-improving drive.

"I am pleased about it," Yow said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think one of the challenges for me is to stop long enough to celebrate what (teams) have achieved."

When Yow was hired in June 2010, North Carolina tate was 89th in the Directors' Cup standings. In last week's results, North Carolina State ranked 27th — its previous high was 32nd — and sixth in the 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference. The school also posted its best Federal Graduation Rate of 71 percent.

That made for some smooth end-of-year meetings with coaches.

"A number of those conversations this year are just going to be celebrations," Yow said. "I mean, what am I going to say to (men's swimming and diving coach Braden Holloway), who just finished No. 8 in the country and four years ago we were eighth in the ACC? ... So the conversation will be, 'How do we maintain this level?'"

In men's basketball, coach Mark Gottfried made a fourth straight NCAA Tournament and reached a second Sweet 16 in what Yow called "a sea change" for a program that had missed the NCAAs for 15 of 20 years before his arrival. And second-year football coach Dave Doeren's squad shook off its first winless ACC record in a half-century by winning eight games, including a road rout of rival North Carolina.

North Carolina State joined Notre Dame and UCLA as the only schools to win a bowl, reach the NCAA Sweet 16 in men's basketball and qualify for an NCAA baseball regional.

In addition, wrestler Nick Gwiazdowski won a second straight NCAA heavyweight championship while Shawn Rychcik's softball program reached its first NCAA super regional.

"The coaches in general have embraced in some cases and in other cases accepted the fact that top 25 right now is the goal for us competitively," Yow said. "And that we're not going to back off that."

Off the field, work is nearly complete on the $14 million Close-King Indoor Practice Facility, designed primarily for football though also available to soccer, baseball, softball and track programs.

"We didn't spend 20 (million), we didn't spend 25," she said. "We spent what we needed to spend and we spent it wisely. That means something to me. ... So yes, I feel like we got a big bang for our buck."

Work is underway on a $35 million renovation to Reynolds Coliseum, displacing sports such as women's basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling through August 2016.

The school spent about $300,000 to move team and sports medicine offices, along with weight and training equipment to an available campus building. Women's basketball will play primarily at a nearby high school. Other sports will rotate among several venues.

"There will be some different types of planning for this year for all four of them," Yow said. "I'm not sure exactly what to expect."

Plans include shifting the arena bowl to one end of the building, making room for offices and an athletics hall of fame. Seating capacity will fall from about 8,600 to 5,500, though Yow said men's basketball will "absolutely" continue to hold a game or two in its former home annually because those games typically draw around 5,000.

Yow is eager to see it all through. The school announced a two-year contract extension in April for Yow, who turns 65 in September, through July 2019 with a nearly 34-percent pay bump.

"I'm grateful for it," Yow said. "I still have my energy level and I still have my focus. One of the things ADs should be thinking about is at the point you lose either one of those, you need to step aside."

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