It really wasn't that long ago, but in college football terms, it seems like a half century has gone by. When NC State hired Chuck Amato, it ended up saving a lot of money because the career assistant accepted less cash than Bill Cowher (still a laughably ludicrous option to this day) or Jim Donnan (also a disaster waiting to happen) would have demanded. That gave NC State added flexibility with its assistant coaching staff, which ended up being the most well-compensated group in the nation.
All told, N.C. State has the highest paid assistant coaching staff in the country at $1,007,00, [sic] just a little more than the $1 million Mack Brown pays his staff at Texas.
I forget sometimes how much that investment meant to the program, and just how much it paid off. When Chuck Amato took over from Mike O'Cain, the football culture at NC State was average at best, and the facilities were a joke. Football is an ingrained part of the NC State athletics culture now, which is something I would never have thought possible back in the 1990s. Football seemed more a distraction than anything else.
The million-dollar staff that came with Amato, as well as the facilities upgrades he inspired, altered the entire atmosphere surrounding the football program. No longer did State have to do more--or do just kinda something--with less; the Murphy Center was tangible proof that NC State need not rely on Dick Sheridan-level wizardry to compete for league titles. And that was an important step because wizardry can only go so far, which in most cases is not far at all.
Amato's ground-breaking staff made NC State a hot topic within recruiting circles, and it led to a top-10 class in 2003, which just seems a ridiculous notion now. That's blue-blood territory. That's where Alabama and Florida and Georgia and LSU and USC and Ohio State end up. What Amato did in a brief time was unprecedented, and unfortunately that momentum died in a hurry. Staff turnover and the resultant declining recruiting efforts ultimately ruined the Amato regime, as did the inability to properly evaluate quarterback prospects. But damn if it wasn't fun as hell for a while. Like Ole Miss this past year, NC State stole away attention from the traditional powers with fantastic recruiting results.
That most likely never will happen again. Amato walked into a situation where Carolina was terrible, South Carolina was still South Carolina, Virginia Tech wasn't in the ACC, and the regional squeeze just wasn't as debilitating as it is now. Dave Doeren hasn't inspired any buildings, but if he can somehow overcome incredibly adverse recruiting circumstances to construct a team talented enough to win ACC titles, he should be given whatever the hell he wants. The task is that difficult.