N.C. State’s Quest for Directors’ Cup Excellence Continuing in Right Direction

July 10th, 2017 | by Francis Giknis
N.C. State’s Quest for Directors’ Cup Excellence Continuing in Right Direction
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Directors’ Cup

The standings for the Learfield Directors’ Cup were published at the end of June, and to no one’s surprise, Stanford scored its 23rd straight Waterford crystal trophy. While Stanford’s domination over the past two-plus decades is a story in its own right, I wanted to focus this week on a player lower in the Directors’ Cup rankings: North Carolina State.

While most College AD readers will be aware of the Learfield Directors’ Cup, here’s a quick rundown for the unfamiliar. Originating in 1993 and originally just for DI programs, the Directors’ Cup is awarded by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. Expanding to DII, DIII, and NAIA schools in 1995, the award is determined by an equal measure of success in men’s and women’s sports throughout a year. If you’d like to get a deeper look at the quasi-byzantine scoring system, you can check it out here.

With that said, performance in the Directors’ Cup each year is an important metric for athletic departments. While no one has been able to topple Stanford, extended periods of losing or gaining ground can be telling for a university’s trajectory, and incoming athletic directors often make promises or have goals for lofty Directors’ Cup ranking.


This is where N.C. State becomes noteworthy. AD Debbie Yow now has seven years of experience at N.C. State, and upon taking the head position, she promised a top-25 finish in the Directors’ Cup standings. At the time, this could’ve been dismissed as press conference platitudes; after all, she was inheriting a department that had just finished the year ranked 89th. However, it seems Yow’s goal was not an empty promise, as over the past three years the Wolfpack has finished 27th, 32nd, and 29th.

So what has been the key to N.C. State’s rapid improvement in Directors’ Cup finishes? Some might point to Yow’s shake-up of the coaching ranks in her first years as AD. Yow changed seven head coaches in a little over two years, including head football coach Tom O’Brien and basketball coach Sidney Lowe (and recently once again with the removal of Yow-hired Mark Gottfried).

What has also made a difference are the fundraising and facilities projects Yow has overseen. Reynolds Coliseum and an indoor football practice facility have raised the profile of the university’s athletics. Furthermore, with the development of an ACC television deal with ESPN, the choked financial pipeline that was limited by state regulations has opened once again.

While Yow’s “bulldozer” approach has upset a number of N.C. State loyalists, if the Learfield Directors’ Cup rankings are a measure of success, it seems as if those methods are working. Furthermore, perhaps N.C. State can stand as a symbol that settling for the status quo is not the only option for incoming athletic department personnel.

About Contributor Francis Giknis
Francis Giknis joins College AD as a contributor after seven years of teaching and coaching throughout the east coast. Prior to writing for College AD, Francis earned an English degree from the College of William and Mary and his masters at Columbia University. Raised in a cable television-free household, he remembers binge-watching ESPN while on vacations away from home, much to the chagrin of his parents.

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