FREE: Q&A With Lee Fowler

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Last week we ran this article for our premium subscribers, and today we're going to run it as a special free story. Lee Fowler, NC State's Athletics Director, discusses several hot topics in this exclusive Q&A with Pack Pride!

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Pack Pride got the opportunity to sit down with NC State athletics director Lee Fowler and discuss a number of issues surrounding Wolfpack sports.

If the baseball team has another good season and a legitimate shot at hosting a regional at Doak Field, will State make a more aggressive financial bid to try to secure a host site?
We made a competitive bid last year. I think it has a lot more to do with where the team is and if they are one of the top 16 teams.

We definitely made a bid last year as competitive as over half the teams that got them. I think a lot of people heard we didn't but we definitely want to host. It gives you a much better chance of making the tournament.

We're making a bid we feel like is competitive with over half the other teams. We feel like we did that last year. Our team must not have been ranked high enough to receive one of the bids.

I know it has been stated that the amount of the bid doesn't matter as long as the minimum is met, but if that is the case why does the NCAA have schools bid at all?
Well I think they want people to host, so the only way you can get somebody ready and prepared to host is to have a team make a bid where you make a commitment to hosting.

I don't think money kept us from getting it last year or any other year. I think it has more to do with the top teams and who the selection committee feels are the top teams.

I think you've got to make the minimum bid at least, but I don't think someone will outbid another team. I don't think a 20th place team will get it over the 16th place team if the better team at least makes a minimum bid or higher. That's the advantage of having a host... to give a better team a chance of doing better in the tournament.

"It gives you a much better chance of making the tournament."
Are there any plans to improve the Aquatic facilities for the swimming and diving teams?
We've talked a lot about that, but we don't have the money at this time to do it. We've talked on-campus and off-campus about that. We talked to Cary about maybe leasing some of the time at their pool when they build their new pool that they are planning, and we also talked about in the future looking at some sort of pool on Centennial Campus.

You're talking about a 15-20 million dollar building so it's not something that you can just talk about and have it done. It's going to be something done in conjunction with the university where the swim team can use it as we've done here with Carmichael.

Any updates on the Centennial Campus golf course?
Yes, I think there's going to be an announcement pretty soon on a major gift and if that comes through then I think we'll start work sometime this summer on building the golf course.

How is the Athletic department doing financially? Is there much debt left with the stadium expansion?
I think it's tightened our day-to-day operations simply because when you do something in a five-year period that most schools have done over the past 20 or 30 years, it puts a bind on you financially. We've been very fortunate that the students have stepped up, the Wolfpack Club has stepped up to pay for the facilities but we still have debt on some of the facilities on campus that we still have to pay for.

It has tightened our budget, but we're in good financial shape. We need to build up a reserve where we can be in even better financial shape. I would say that football and basketball need to keep doing as well as they are and we'll be fine financially.

Will the weekly football/basketball TV show continue to be at 11:30 Sunday night in the Raleigh market? Why would Virginia Tech have a more favorable time than NC State? How are those decisions made?
Wolfpack Sports Marketing gets involved in that. They do a lot of research on when the show has better ratings and when the most people are watching it.

We shifted to that this year because it had a higher rating and more people were watching it at that time than Sunday morning. We try to do it year-to-year based on what the ratings say as far as when more people would watch. We try to put it in a time where most fans would watch it.

Has there been any discussions on the relief of the four-hour tailgate rule?
I think the Chancellor here within the next month is having a meeting called with that same group to discuss that. There will be some kind of recommendations coming out from that again. We should know something in the middle of February or the end of February.

Is there a timetable on building an indoor football facility?
There really isn't. As we talked about earlier in those other questions about debt, that's something we really wouldn't take on debt for. It would be something that we'd have to get a major giver who would want to put his or her name on it to build it without any debt on it because we wouldn't want to put any more debt on the Wolfpack Club or our department.

"You can't have a guy on TV every Saturday ripping your program."
Four days before the Clemson game (November 7th) you were quoted in the N&O talking about Amato's job status: "It's not an issue at this point. Some fans talk, and there's the Internet squawk; but it's not an issue with me."

Exactly two weeks later you said: "I don't want to say anything about Coach Amato at this point. We'll look at the season when it's over."

Were the losses to Clemson and UNC what turned the tide in the Athletic Administration?
Well, I think I've always said, I'll tell my trustees and I tell the Wolfpack Club that I'll never be negative in public. Things do change from time-to-time and you don't know what's going to be until you finally do make a decision. The main thing is I've got to try and make the team the best it can be. You don't make negative comments in the paper even though you may know what's going to happen at the end of the year. That hurts recruiting for three or four more weeks that you don't need it to be hurt.

Everyday that I work here, I try to make things the best they can be until we make a final decision. I'm always going to be positive of my coaches. That doesn't mean that my mind changed that much, it just means that until a decision is made I'm going to be positive.

I've got to do the best I can do for this program knowing that some people are going to like it and some aren't going to like it. I'm just trying to do what's best for the overall program and the longevity of the program.

Do you regret calling Mark May in the middle of the season saying that Chuck Amato wasn't on the hot seat?
No. I've got a national guy saying my guy is gone, and at that point in time there was no reason to make that comment. You've got a national guy hurting NC State, I'm not going to sit back and take that.

Mark May called me and apologized and just said he was going on hearsay. I promise you at the time he made that statement, there were no trustees…there wasn't anybody after Chuck Amato. So I was doing once again what was best for the program at the time.

You can't have a guy on TV every Saturday ripping your program because it tears it down from the roots. Mark and I had a good conversation. He apologized and he didn't say it anymore and it accomplished what I wanted to accomplish.

I promise you he didn't know that because I didn't know that at that time. He was pretty much going on hearsay.

Do you feel like entering the East Carolina game that Chuck Amato felt he was coaching for his job?
It would be something that Chuck would have to answer... not me. I know that three or four weeks before the North Carolina game he and I had a conversation and we both knew how important the North Carolina game would be.

I can't remember exactly when, but it was probably the Monday a few weeks before we played North Carolina, and he and I both talked about how important the North Carolina game was going to be.

There seemed to be block student tickets either given away or sold to ECU fans even though there were a lot of students that still wanted tickets but didn't get them? Did NC State sell ECU extra tickets in the student sections?
We don't sell any student tickets unless the students didn't pick up all the tickets. I don't know at this point whether they picked them all up or didn't.

If they did not by the deadline we may have sold tickets but we wouldn't have sold them to ECU. The tickets may have been bought by ECU fans, but we didn't give them to ECU to sell to their fans.

Is it true that NC State has scheduled a road basketball game at East Carolina sometime in the near future? Why is that in the best interest of NC State? Next year. I don't think that playing ECU is a bad thing. Terry Holland and I have had a long relationship. I think Wake and Duke are going to do that. I don't know if Carolina is.

We're going to play two-for-one. We need home games... it's an advantage for us to get two home games for one road game.

We're going to get more tickets... we're going to get like 1,500 of their tickets for Wolfpack fans. Our boosters in the eastern part of the state, we're going to be able to take care of them to come to the game. We don't ever do anything in the eastern part of the state, we have a lot of great fans that give a lot of money and a lot of those fans are positive about us playing East Carolina. It's part of their culture, where they live, and they are Wolfpackers. Those things are the reason we're doing it.

"I don't think that playing ECU is a bad thing."

If NC State would schedule East Carolina, would you consider playing at App. State or UNC-Greensboro?
I think we will probably do something like that in the future. We're playing Valpo now home and away... if you look around the country, there are a lot of schools starting to do that.

Michigan State went to The Citadel... if you know the mathematics of the RPI, you're better off. If we beat the Citadel here it means nothing, but if you go there and win it gives you extra points in the RPI. You're going to see some teams starting to play two-for-ones and going to some places and play because road wins mean more than home wins.

It has to do with RPI. If you look around, you would see other schools are starting to do it. Those kinds of games will mean something down the road. I believe next year we're looking at going to The Citadel because the year after that we're going to Valpo and East Tennessee State. If I remember correctly, next year I believe we'll have at ECU, at The Citadel, and we go on the road for the Big Ten Challenge.

If you look around, other people are doing that too. What the committee says is if you play everyone at home and win all the games, they say you should always beat them. They don't give you much credit for beating teams at home. If you go on the road you'll get bonus points for beating them on the road. They are trying to drive teams where they can really tell how good teams are. They'll say, "Look at NC State, they went to The Citadel. They want to show everybody they are not afraid of going to play on someone else's court."

It doesn't really matter unless you're on the bubble. If you're on the bubble it helps you. If you're not on the bubble and fourth in the country it doesn't matter where you play them.

Why did you decide to use a search firm for the football coaching job and not the basketball coaching job?
In basketball I didn't because I know every head coach in the country personally, and I've worked with basketball my whole life. I had no need to get access to coaches with someone being an intermediate for me and the basketball coaches. In football, I felt like to get the best coach for this school, using a search firm would be good because he has contacts with football coaches. He's a football guy.

I felt like it was very important to get that help in this case. It turns out we may have ended up at the same place we did but I didn't know that going in. I sure as heck like where we ended up. I felt like it was best for the university at that time to use a search firm.

Looking back at the basketball search, do you feel like you would have used a search firm if you had to do it all over again?
I wouldn't because I've worked with a firm. I know how a firm conducts their business and that's the same way I did it.

A firm is more about a coaching feeling comfortable where he can call them and his name wouldn't get in the public. In this case, the coaches felt they could call me and their names wouldn't get in the public. If I had to hire another basketball coach tomorrow I probably wouldn't use a search firm.

A lot of football guys don't know me, don't know a lot about me, but a lot of basketball guys do. Just because I was on the basketball committee, the head of the basketball committee, they know who I am, they know I know basketball. Football guys don't know much about me, don't know what I know about football. It gives them a comfort level with them being able to call and talk to someone they feel will know a lot about football.

I look at both of those hires as hiring major corporation leaders. They've got to be leaders. It's a process you go through.

"We're in such a great area with such a great basketball tradition."

In high school there were two or three girls I really wanted to date, but they didn't want to have anything to do with me. I knew I wanted to date them, but we didn't date because they didn't like me. I did date someone in high school, but she wasn't in the top three. So you don't always get the person that you think is good for the program because they may not want to come here.

I can assure you, in the basketball search I talked to every coach in America that I felt like I had any chance at all with because I didn't want to leave any stone unturned. That's all a search firm can possibly do... I got to more people than a search firm could probably get to.

More thoughts on the basketball coaching search:
The only reason I got abused for my search is mine started after every other had finished. Other searches take that long, but I was the only person out there so the national media had to write about something.

[A week] or so into the search we were through with [John] Calipari and the guy from Texas. That didn't take long, and then we started our real work as we started to make sure we talked to... I'll go to my deathbed with people not knowing who we talked to, but I talked to nearly every coach in the country.

A lot of coaches... people like to be courted but not everyone wants to be under contract with you. There's always interest. We're in such a great area with such a great basketball tradition. We have two national championships.

Comparing both searches, were you surprised by the interest you received in the football search?
Not really. It's funny, people always tell me you need to have a list... I always have an ongoing list of people that I watch, I like the way they coach, or the things about their program. When I talked to the Chancellor and the search firm the first time, I had a list of about eight coaches, and Tom O'Brien was one of them. I didn't know if I could get to him, but he is a guy I've always respected.

In basketball, the only reason Sidney wasn't on my list is because I didn't think he had a degree and I didn't even think he was close. He would have been on my first list. He would have been one of my first guys. Sidney and I know each other, we've played golf a few times together, and I really thought he was good... very talented. We zeroed in on him real quick when I found out he was real close to getting it. That made it a little bit longer because we had to feel comfortable with that happening.

Since Tom O'Brien has taken the job, what has impressed you the most about him?
I think his organizational skills, his staff that has come with him, and the longevity that he has with those staff members.

He's a man of few words but with a lot of actions. He knows where he wants to go and what it takes to get there. That's what has really impressed me.

Can there be fewer "commercials" on the video board at football games? Other schools have a lot of frequently updated stats and scores?
Some of the things we do we have to do because we seat 60 [thousand] and others seat 90. Revenue is very important to us to make sure we can compete, so some of those things are dictated by the amount of money that we need to do what we do with less fans.

"He knows where he wants to go and what it takes to get there."

When you've got 90,000 fans coming like Florida State does, that's a lot more revenue. Some of those things are driven by that, but I've never noticed if ours are a lot more than someone else. I haven't done research on that so I don't know if it's true or not, but it may seem that way.

Why do you sometimes very publicly, either accidentally or not, throw back-handed comments at NC State fans when they do not necessarily agree with the way that you think things should be?
Any statement I've ever made I've never meant to back-handidly get after NC State fans. I made statements about the Internet. The only thing I don't like about the Internet is there is no opportunity to discuss. It's all statement out there, whether it's right or wrong, and then people take the statement and run with it as fact. After the horse is out the barn, there is nothing you can do about it.

I believe that if you have a disagreement with somebody you ought to call. I'll talk to anybody. Call me on the phone, and we'll discuss it. Of course I talked with one guy and he put the whole conversation on the Internet and some of that stuff I didn't say.

As a matter of fact my greatest quote ever was... what was that the "lunatic fringe?" I never used the word lunatic in my whole career. I never said that but that's what he... I said there was a fringe group out there that seemed to be 20 or 30 people that control everyone else, and he just put "lunatic fringe." Now everybody in the country talks about the "lunatic fringe."

I never said the [phrase] "lunatic fringe." There's a fringe of people, 20 or 30, that are on the Internet controlling everyone's opinions. He called it lunatic fringe. He thinks we're all the lunatic fringe. How do you fight all that stuff? You can't. People write me horrible emails, and I'll put "God Bless You, Thanks for your opinion and Go Pack." If I start arguing with every single person... but I'll be glad to talk on the phone with anybody.

I'll explain these things. It's hard for people to know it because they are just out there blasting away at you. I truly don't think some of them want to know. They just like being mad at the world.

From your position, 2006 was probably the most interesting year since you arrived at NC State. What are some of the accomplishments of the athletic department that make you the proudest?
I'm proud of our coaches and our student-athletes everyday of how they go about their business. I know the bottomline is winning, but they really do. We've come a long way.

I think the programs that already have the facilities up-and-running are starting to show that they can compete on a national level. We still have a few sports that are in need of their facilities, softball, track, and our soccer program probably more than anybody else.

I'm probably the proudest of getting Reynolds finished, getting baseball and tennis completed. I honestly believe a lot of people gave to it, and I came here wanting all programs to have a chance to compete.

I probably feel when I go home at night the best about the fact that we've improved every sport here and given them an opportunity to have a better chance to win.

"Sidney cares so much about NC State, and he cares so much about the college game."

How impressed have you been with Sidney Lowe in his first season?
I've been really impressed. I wasn't that concerned after we talked about who his staff would be. He knew and I knew that he needed to hire a college staff. Now if he would have hired two or three pro assistants that would have worried me.

Sidney cares so much about NC State, and he cares so much about the college game. He came through on a national championship team which makes a big difference.

A lot of people have probably never thought about this, but I get the comments so many times, "Sidney is so much better a floor coach than I could imagine he would be." I'm not saying that, they are, and I'll say, "Do you realize Sidney has coached 15 years in the NBA?" If you go 15 years times 82 games, do the math. He's coached more games than Kryszewski has, more games than Roy Williams has. He's been involved in basketball, actual game-coaching, more than all of those guys. At most they are coaching [35] games a year... he's coaching 82 or more. He's coached a lot of basketball. He's seen situations... nearly every possible situation. He's been a head coach, he's been an assistant coach.

He's been preparing himself for a top job. I'll be honest with you. This is the first head coaching job he's had where he's had a chance to compete because of the two franchises he was with. I talked with Joe Dumars at Detroit for a long time and Joe said, "Lee, I'm telling you, Sidney is about to be a head coach at a franchise he can win. The problem was when you're young in this league you're only going to get head coaching jobs at newer franchises. That's where the young guys coach. Now Sidney is so well thought of in the NBA he's going to be a head coach at the Knicks or the Lakers or somewhere like that because people really respect him and know he can do the job."

He was getting ready to be a head coach at a major franchise and be successful. I knew Sidney was going to be really good because I knew he loved the Red and White, I knew he cared about it, I knew he was very organized, and I knew after he got his staff together that he was going to recruit well.

I think the one thing, you can look at Pitino, Calipari, guys that have been in the NBA, high school players will be attracted because they want to get to that level and those coaches know what it takes. I knew with his personality he'd be a great recruiter. That's half the war... getting players. He does such a good job of reading people, knowing who he can get on to... he's got all the tools to be a great coach. He really does.

In talking with you, it seems you're really happy. How happy are you at NC State?
I love it here. I kid the Chancellor, I tell him I'm ready for a lifetime contract. The only job I went after was the Georgia job, and I turned it down before it was offered to anybody. The Tennessee job, I never talked to them, never interviewed for it but everybody thought I was in it because I'm from Tennessee. I'm not interested in any other job. I want to see this thing through.

We're just now getting to the point where I think we can be very competitive in the two major sports and every other sport. As my daddy would say, "The grunt work has been done." Now we've just got to get the right coaches in place, and they may already be here. With facilities we should be able to tell that, move forward, and be successful.

I think the future for NC State is now. It's a very exciting time to be here, and I'm not looking to go anywhere.

I'm very happy. My youngest daughter has already been accepted to State, and she'll be going here next year. I promise you I love my daughter so I'm not going anywhere unless someone shows me the door.

*****

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