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N&O Editorial: Awkward Out


It is going to cost the athletic department at N.C. State University about $900,000 to pay off the contact of Lee Fowler, who has been fired as athletic director. He deserves the money, because he's upheld his end of the bargain of 10 years ago - to run a clean program and to oversee the expansion and improvement of facilities while balancing all the challenges of setting priorities, emphasizing academics and being a superb public representative of the university.

The decision is apparently the result of pressure from big donors to the university's sports programs, who weren't happy with the Wolfpack teams' performances in the last few years, particularly in men's basketball and football.  There's some sad irony there, because football coach Tom O'Brien, charged with rebuilding a troubled program, has his team on the upswing, as does basketball coach (and NCSU alum) Sidney Lowe. Perennially powerful athletic programs aren't built on short notice, and are subject to ebb and flow.

The problem isn't so much the convenient, hasty, and mostly baseless contention that the revenue sports are on the up-and-up, although that's a glaring problem.  The idea that it simply came down to that, and just in the last few years, ignores so many of the issues that have plagued the athletics department throughout the last decade.  I especially like the last sentence of the paragraph, which implies that the fan base lacks either the patience or the comprehension necessary to support the department and really sets the tone for the obtuse wreck that is this editorial.

But N.C. State athletics weren't exactly in a downward spiral when, The News & Observer reported, interim Chancellor Jim Woodward, who came in after the resignation of James Oblinger, told Fowler he needed to look for a job.

What in the world, then, did the man do wrong? Some boosters are apparently grumbling about recent football teams. Others expected a quick resurrection of the basketball program. The not-so-subtle translation of that dissatisfaction is a fear on the part of university officials that big contributors will tighten their purses.

One of Fowler's great assets at this point in his career is his experience. He's witnessed the explosion in both the financial side of college athletics and in the pressure on all involved to win. He's demanded the best academically of N.C. State. Some school will be lucky to land him. N.C. State would have been wise to keep him.

Does anyone have the Mississippi State chancellor's home address?