Stokan: Hire Must Unite the School

Programs such as Indiana (Fred Glass), West Virginia (Oliver Luck), and Michigan (David Brandon) have looked outside the box by hiring CEOs of non-athletic related companies or prominent citizens with financial or law backgrounds to be their athletic directors in recent years.

It's a direction NC State could certainly go to fill its vacancy, and a potential candidate who fits that description would be Chick-Fil-A Bowl President Gary Stokan.

Not only has he made the Chick-Fil-A Bowl one of the top college football postseason games their season-opening contests held in the Georgia Dome have been extremely successful.

Stokan, previously the leader of the Atlanta Sports Council, has also helped make Atlanta one of the top sports cities in the country. With Stokan as head of the Atlanta Sports Council the city has hosted a Super Bowl, a pair of Final Fours, along with All-Star games in the NBA, NHL, and MLB.

Recently he was instrumental in the city securing the College Football Hall of Fame from South Bend, Indiana. The 30-year deal begins in the fall of the 2012 with the Hall of Fame moving into a 50,000-square-foot building expected to cost $50 million and be located near Centennial Olympic Park.

A former basketball player at NC State, Stokan is passionate about Wolfpack athletics. He served as an assistant coach under Norm Sloan after graduating from the school. Stokan remains in contact with former teammates such as Monte Towe and even played a role in the recruitment of current head coach Sidney Lowe.

Pack Pride reached out to Stokan Thursday afternoon to see if he would provide some comments for a feature we're going to publish on him in the near future. He replied quickly via email stating that he would be willing to do so, but pointed out that he didn't want to comment specifically on his status in the AD search.

"James, thanks for all of the great information that you have provided in Pack Pride for the Wolfpack," wrote Stokan. "It certainly helps in building our brand.

"I would be more than happy to talk with you, but I only ask your indulgence by not broaching the subject of the AD position. I think it is crucial to Chancellor Woodson's success and therefore NC State to allow him to make a decision on his timetable and with providing him personal courtesy of confidentiality."

Stokan discussed a broad range of topics in the interview, from setting up TV deals with ESPN and building relationships with various athletic directors as head of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, to inking Karl Malone with Adidas and formulating Kobe Bryant's 20-million dollar endorsement deal with the company.

He also commented on why individuals such as Brandon, Glass, Luck, or himself appeal just as much now to colleges looking to fill AD vacancies as the traditional hires often made.

"With everything there is evolution. When I played there were a lot of coaches at schools for a long period of time and the natural evolution of their career was to move up to the AD job," said Stokan. "Then you saw where it became more of people coming out of the administration side of college athletics to become ADs.

"Now you are seeing a further evolution because the lines of sports and entertainment have been blurred. People are either buying PSLs, paying a lot of money for season tickets, buying suites, making donations to get the rights to buy those tickets... it's a high-dollar proposition for a fan. They want more... whatever that more is it starts with winning, but they also want a great experience.

"I think to a large extent the evolution of sports has become more of a business... certainly on the pro level it's a business, but on the college level if you're not running it like a business you have a higher degree of probability that you might fail or your competition might pass you by.

"Being in the business side of sports for a long time, I believe what you're seeing is the business side of sports coming into play more in college athletics," he added. "You've got to have that strategic ability, the ability to unite people and get them on the same team... and that's the way you're going to be successful."

When asked specifically what he thought, as an ex-player and alum, NC State should be looking for in an athletics director, Stokan was willing to share his thoughts.

"First of all, I think whoever chancellor Woodson decides to hire for the AD position, he's got to have someone linked with his philosophies and strategic agendas as to what needs to happen for the good of North Carolina State University," said Stokan. "Secondly, you've got to have somebody that has the capabilities to unite the school. Whether it's the faculty, the alumni, the Wolfpackers, the student body, the administration, the community, the media... there are a lot of constituents in this day and time that come into play... you've got to build those relationships and at the same time be able to unite them and the school.

"I think that's important... hiring somebody who has the capability and competency to develop those relationships that will lead to prosperous partnerships. If you can put people together as a team and develop that team, you can reach the highest goals. No one can be as effective as all of us.

"I believe that if the next athletics director can do those things it will help drive NC State back to where I believe the Wolfpack needs to be and that is on top of the ACC."

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