Debbie Yow is going home.
Last week, Yow, the University of Maryland‘s athletic director the last 16 years, announced that she will be leaving Maryland to take the vacant athletic director position at NC State University, the school where her family has a long and prestigious history.
Yow will look back on her time at College Park with great memories.
“I’ve been grateful to have been there. I’ve been blessed to be Maryland’s AD for 16 years.”
Since she made the decision last week, Yow has been flooded with responses wishing her the best on a new endeavor.
“Terrapin Nation’s been pretty awesome. I’ve received probably between 150 and 200 kind and gracious notes about the 16 years together. Im very apprecitative of that and their understanding about my need to get closer to my roots and the family.”
Yow said it will be hard for her to adjust, given how much time, effort, and heart she has put into rebuilding the athletic program for the Terrapins.
“But you don’t do what I do for a living sustaining for 16 years walking away for without any emotion,” Yow told Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” Tuesday morning.
Yow said that this chance was a once in a lifetime opportunity and she couldn’t pass it up. She even said that she has had these offers come her way before, and she turned them down. But not NC State.
“I’ve already had these opportunities [with] Kentucky and Baylor. I couldn’t because of how I feel about the Terps. It had to be NC State. That was pretty much it with the history my family has here.”
Debbie’s sister, Kay, was the coach of the Wolfpack’s girls basketball team for 34 years, winning over 700 games in her career.
A Naismith Hall of Famer, Kay became diagnosed with breast cancer in the late 80’s and battled the disease for over 20 years. With it recurring within the last couple years, Kay Yow finally succumbed to the disease last January, 2009.
Her younger sister, Susan, was the first All-American on the girls basketball team in the school’s history. And her cousin, Virgil, is the coach at nearby High Point University.
Yow also felt like NC State needed her, and with Yow’s demeanor, she felt like she had done enough at Maryland and it was time to move on to another administration that needed her help.
“Some of us like to do this for a living…we get a lot of joy out of trying to find out what the needs are, and trying to provide for thse needs,” Yow said. “That’s probably the art of trying to achieve at the highest levels.”
During Yow’s time at UMD, the school won twenty national championships.
And already, she likes the atmosphere she is in with the new staff she is working with, and she said that with some new people coming into Maryland’s administration, that could have had an impact on her making the jump to Tobacco Road.
And when asked if she sees any similarities between NC State and when she took over a sanction-laden Maryland program years ago, Yow said that there really isn’t a correlation between the two, and if there was, she wouldn’t know it yet.
“I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to draw comparison like that. It’s like comparing two jobs of anybody. The traditions are different, the culture is different, so is the history. So its not apples to apples. It’s not going to be an event..it’s going to be a process. Maryland was a process and still is a process.
When Yow took over at Maryland, the school had a deficit of over 50 million dollars in its athletic department.
16 years later? It’s down to 5.5 million, and Yow says that they have balanced the budget every year in the last ten.
Yow really didn’t see it as a big deal. It was just another hurdle that had to be jumped in order for her to do her job well, and to help the coaches do their jobs just as good or better.
“I didn’t have a choice. If your going to do the job, you have to do the whole job. It was the thing that I had the least interest in, and the least passion for, but was the thing that mattered the most initially.”
“But it was a prerequisite to building the program is to prove that we could manage ourselves fiscally. As those years ran by…it really changes peoples’ willingness to cooperate with you.”
Now that she is leaving Maryland, if you had to nitpick her time at College Park, there isn’t a lot to point out. But the elephant in the room would be her relationship-or lack thereof-with the one coach that was before her time at Maryland-head basketball coach Gary Williams.
Williams and Yow had their back-and-forth relationship drag on the past several years. The two have butted heads over graduation rates and the success of the program, and when it came to education in particular, Yow said that she won’t ever apologize for making education a priority.
“Gary is Gary. I think the thing we talked the most about was graduation rates. I cant apologize for wanting good graduation rates.”
And while she had a battle with Gary in the Washington Post several years back in which it appeared Yow called Williams out on several issues, Yow says that she has to give Williams credit for turning the program around this year on the court and in the classroom, where Williams’ program graduated 100% of its players and is poised to do it again next year.
“We turned the corner last year. Now that’s a change. I’m very proud of it, and it really had something to do with my decision to nominate him for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame…and to submit paperwork to the campus to put his name on the court at Comcast.”
“Do you do that for someone you don’t respect especially when you’re on the way out?”
Now Yow will have new problems to deal with, but she still feels at home. And she will continue to feel that way until the next time her old employer plays her new one in any sport.
“I’m very familiar with all this. It wont seem odd to me at all. Unless NC State is playing the Terps, that’s who I’m going to be pulling for.”
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