Part I: Q&A With Lee Fowler

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Earlier this week Pack Pride met with NC State Athletic Director Lee Fowler and asked him questions submitted by our premium subscribers. Here is part I of our three-part interview with the Wolfpack's AD!

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

NOTE: The questions asked were submitted by our premium subscribers.

Is it possible to have our football and basketball games not picked up by the ACC's television partners to be shown on local stations? That would be huge for NC State fans to see every game possible and most importantly it would increase our fanbase. I also want to thank you for hiring Sidney Lowe and Tom O'Brien. They are first-class people and great coaches.
The rights to all our games in basketball and football are owned by Raycom. Those are then distributed to Fox, ESPN, ABC, CBS... all of the affiliates. From time-to-time you will see Raycom sell the games to Jim Goodman over here at WRAL. With that being said, this year they are looking at putting some games on the Internet. What that means is this year if a game is not on television, you should be able to watch it online on ACC Select.

Can you give insight into your evaluation process of each sport at the end of their respective season? Do you speak with both the players and the coaches? What criteria do you use to measure progress or success within a program? I assume that will vary for each program.
I think it's different for each program. It depends on how long a coach has been here, what type of shape the program was in when he or she arrived here... scenarios such as those. I'm a big believer that it normally takes four-to-five years to turn a program around, depending upon the state of the program when a coach is hired.

"I think it's
different for each program."

Volleyball is one that has been really confusing because we have had two different coaches who were successful where they arrived from, but they have had trouble turning around this program. It is one of those situations where you have to be patient and give it time. I do believe that we are improving in volleyball, but unfortunately we haven't shown it with wins. We are are much more competitive than we had been in past years.

In terms of evaluating the programs, what I do is I will sit down with an administrator and the head coach, and we discuss what went on within the program over the course of the year. We have assistant athletic directors and associate athletic directors who are actually assigned to each specific sport. They attend the games and practices so they know what is going on and are able to track the program much more closer than I can. The administrator is my eyes and ears. Now, any issues that arise with the student athletes are brought to me and I deal with them, but the evaluation process is mainly between me, an administrator, and the head coach.

I know when Herb Sendek was under .500 at 13-16 several years back, everyone wanted to get rid of him, but I could see the recruiting class coming in was real strong. I believe you have to consider all factors of the situation. You just can't say, "we lost nine games so somebody has to go." You have to know all of the ins-and-outs.

We mainly will talk with the coaches, but we do discuss the program with the graduating seniors. Now, if we have a program that we feel is really struggling, for instance two or three years ago we had swimming, we will bring all of the student-athletes in and go from there. Since I have been here, we've met with probably five teams where we individually met with each player so we could try and get to the core of the problem. Generally, we will interview seniors because they are much more likely to give you information you need to hear because they won't be affected by playing in the future... that sort of thing.

Another thing we might do is talk with trainers and managers because they are also really close to the team. If there are issues I have questions about, I can sometimes go to them and see if it is really an issue or if just one student-athlete feels a certain way.

With all of that being said, we do an in-depth evaluation each year with each sport.

"We do an in-depth evaluation
each year with each sport."

Do you feel there is a huge disconnect between the Athletic Department and the NC State fanbase? If so, why do you believe that is the case? What can you do, and what can we do, to fix the it?
I don't feel like there is. When I go on these Wolfpack Club Caravans, people really close to the program who attend those events seem very upbeat and positive. Now, I'm not crazy enough to believe that after eight years on a job there won't be any detractors. You are going to have people who really like what you do and you will have some detractors. That is one of the tough parts of having a public job... everything you do is judged by the public and some people will dislike you and some will like your approach.

I feel like my approach has always been customer-friendly. We are very interested in the customer being happy and keeping the customer happy. Unfortunately, we have to raise prices like everybody else. We have to stay in the mainstream to be competitive.

I'd like to hear back from you sometime on what the issues are that the fans believe we aren't connecting with. I'd really love to see a list of those things, and maybe we could work on addressing them.

What are the success metrics for the men's soccer program? What have been the facility upgrades for the men's soccer program?
You know I'm not going to talk much about individuals, but George [Tarantini] has been here a long time, and he's gone up and down... he's been in the tournament and he's been out of the tournament.

We're just now about to play our first game on the new field out here. We will now be able to play games at night. Our soccer program has never played at night because the Method Road complex has an ordinance in that neighborhood... they didn't want lights over there. That put a huge disadvantage on our program in-terms of recruiting... high school players couldn't come watch us play because they were practicing and playing games in the afternoon. Our women played their last game of the year, an exhibition game against Greensboro, on the new field and they loved the facility. They raved about it.

With the expectations, in the ACC all of our sports are at the top in the country. We have to demand our coaches to now win at a high level because we have the facilities. I'm not saying win just every so often and go to the NCAAs every so often. We need to be going to the NCAA Tournaments on a regular basis and then have a chance to win it in those sports too.

What are the metrics of success for a major university athletic director? I assume those are what the university wants you to achieve.
The university wants me to graduate players, not have any characters where we are downtown dealing with issues, mesh academics and athletics... they want high integrity and successful kids that can and will graduate, and of course they want us to win. That is what we all want. The main thing is winning... being successful. However, when you're talking about a university, academics are first. Sure, winning is important to me, the chancellor, and the fans, but on our campus and with the university, academics matter.

"I care about every sport."
At their last meeting, the Faculty Senate gave me a resolution. They stated it's the best it's ever been here at NC State between the faculty, students, and athletics department. That was from their last meeting, which was three or four weeks ago.

It's all important. Winning is No. 1. That is first. Being an integral part of the university and doing it the right way... and winning. I know winning is the main thing to the fans and it is to me too. It's the main thing to me.

You can check my record. As a college player, I won a SEC Championship, there had only been one won at Vanderbilt before that. In high school, I played on a team that went to the state tournament for the first time in 20 years. At Memphis State, I was a member of a coaching staff that went to the Final Four and they had only been twice before this year.

I've always won and winning is very important to me. It's the most important thing as long as we do it with character and integrity. I care more about that. My wife will tell you that I'm up watching baseball down at Florida State at 10 o'clock at night on Gametracker because we couldn't pick it up. I care about every sport. My coaches will tell you if you interview them that I know about every sport, how they are doing, who's doing well, who's performing well in school. Those are things that are really important to me... the integrity and of course winning is what I know I have to do.

Mr. Fowler, when you were hired at NC State you did a radio interview with WPTF in which you stated that your goals were, "for the football and basketball teams to consistently be in the top 20 and all the other sports to compete for the conference championship on a regular basis." What is your feeling about those stated goals now in light of your tenure here?
Those are still my goals. With our facilities in place now, and our athletes improving... with the coaches we have in place, those are my goals. I think we are moving towards them. A few sports have taken a step or two back, but I believe most of our programs are moving in that direction. Those remain my goals. They are attainable.

*****

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part II of our exclusive interview with NC State Athletics Director Lee Fowler.


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