David Glenn's ACC Journal David Glenn, editor of the ACC Sports Journal and ACCSports.com and host on 850 The Buzz, dishes out the latest news on top recruiting prospects and shares his insights on ACC basketball and football for WRAL.com.
Monday, May 01, 2006
Hidden (Lee) Fowler Factors
The N.C. State coaching search just entered its second month, one national sportswriter recently referred to Wolfpack athletic director Lee Fowler as a "clown," and coaches all over America are asking why in the world it's taking the Pack so long to find a successor for Herb Sendek.
Only Fowler can fully explain the reasons for the delays, but many NCSU fans understandably are frustrated after very public rejections from Texas coach Rick Barnes, Memphis coach John Calipari, former UCLA coach Steve Lavin and West Virginia coach John Beilein, plus no-thanks responses to unofficial Wolfpack inquiries from another dozen or so men.
Fowler certainly has left himself open to criticism, especially after week-long discussions with Lavin (West Coast, family matters, guaranteed money) and Beilein ($3 million buyout) broke down at least in part over matters all parties were aware of from their very first conversations. Those things simply don't happen in well-orchestrated searches, and if Fowler has a good explanation, he hasn't shared it yet.
Nevertheless, it's probably time to examine a few behind-the-scenes factors -- mostly ignored by the media to this point -- that make Fowler's job considerably more difficult and complicated than his critics would like to believe. These things certainly don't give him immunity for his missteps, but they do help explain some of the events of the last 30 days.
(1) N.C. State's current academic requirements. This factor is explained below in great detail.
(2) The rules of the UNC system, of which N.C. State is a part, prevent its schools from guaranteeing money to coaches beyond their base salaries. (As with everything else, it is possible but rare to get exceptions through the Board of Governors.) These guidelines, adopted in the early 1990s after UNC football coach Dick Crum and NCSU basketball coach Jim Valvano were owed big bucks long after their contracts had been terminated, are complicating Fowler's task in a market where many schools now guarantee higher percentages of coaches' total compensation.
(3) According to several ACC athletic directors, it is very difficult in a collegiate setting to get permission to pay a large buyout for another coach. One called it a "political hot potato" and said it's easier to get approval for a big-money contract than it is to get approval for a large buyout. In the case of Beilein, for example, State would have had to pay about as much ($3 million) just to hire Beilein (before paying him or his staff) as it paid Sendek over the past four seasons combined.
Leaving the details of #2 and #3 for later (perhaps), let's take a closer look at #1.
Much has been made of Calipari’s doubts about State’s ability to compete successfully against Duke and UNC on a regular basis, but there was far more to those sentiments than simply a coach who was afraid to go head-to-head with Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams.
State officials said that, during their discussions with Calipari, he asked many questions that fell into the domain of the school’s compliance director, admissions office and academic support staff. During his brief trip to Raleigh, he even asked to meet with some of those people. He later said that State’s academic requirements made the job less attractive to him.
One of the things that alarmed Calipari was the significant difference between UNC-system academic requirements and those of the NCAA. As a public university in North Carolina, N.C. State is part of the UNC system, which also includes UNC, East Carolina and a dozen other schools. Each of those universities must abide by the rules set forth by the UNC-system Board of Governors, which in recent years has raised minimum academic requirements to a point well above the NCAA minimums.
"I didn’t even know about (the new rules) in North Carolina," one ACC coach said. "Anybody who tells you it doesn’t matter doesn’t know recruiting. If your school’s (academic) requirements are higher than the NCAA requirements, whether it’s because of these state rules or your university’s philosophy or any other reason, it makes your job tougher. It’s not the only variable -- lots of other things impact whether a job is good or bad -- but it’s an important variable.
"Calipari probably looked at his roster at Memphis and asked himself how many of his best players would have been admitted under the new rules at N.C. State. If he doesn’t think he can get players into State, there’s no way he can take the job. It’s that simple."
At Memphis, generally speaking, the coaching staff could sign and enroll anyone who met basic (GPA, SAT) NCAA minimums. The Tigers even could sign non-qualifiers, who under NCAA rules must sit out a year and meet certain academic guidelines during that year before becoming eligible during their second year on campus, at the earliest.
State abides by the ACC rule against non-qualifiers, and the school (as part of the UNC system) also has several requirements that are higher than those of the NCAA. For example, starting this fall, all UNC-system schools will require at least two units of foreign language. (The NCAA requires none.) UNC-system schools also now require four units of math and three of science. The NCAA requires only two math and two science units right now.
As recently as 2004, the UNC-system had no requirements for foreign language and demanded only three math units. The extra (beyond the NCAA minimums) math units involve classes beyond algebra I and algebra II, such as geometry and calculus. The extra science unit typically involves biology, chemistry, physics or a laboratory course.
"Those are important differences," the ACC coach said. "Can you imagine recruiting a star player, and Memphis tells him he can take so-and-so classes as a senior, and you have to tell him that he still needs calculus and physics?
"Hell, yes, that matters. Many kids are thinking about basketball and girls going into their senior year, and the last thing they want to hear from you is that they have to take difficult classes that this team over here is telling them they don’t have to take."
There is some good news on the horizon for N.C. State, UNC and the other UNC-system schools. Beginning in 2008, the NCAA will require all Division I athletes to meet academic minimums in 16 core courses, rather than the current 14, and this is expected to lessen the impact of the UNC-system rules. Under the new NCAA rules, for example, recruits will need at least three math units, up from the current two.
"That will help to level the playing field a little bit," the ACC coach said. "Just remember: The more flexibility you have, the better it is for recruiting. Every school draws that line in a different place, and coaches know what (academic) questions to ask when they’re considering a new job."
UNC System Requirements -- Effective Fall 2006
Six course units in language, including:
* four units in English emphasizing grammar, composition, and literature, and* two units of a language other than English.
Four course units of mathematics, in any of the following combinations:
* algebra I and II, geometry, and one unit beyond algebra II,* algebra I and II, and two units beyond algebra II, or* integrated math I, II, and III, and one unit beyond integrated math III. Three course units in science, including:
* at least one unit in a life or biological science (for example, biology),* at least one unit in physical science (for example, physical science, chemistry, physics), and* at least one laboratory course. Two course units in social studies, including one unit in U.S. history, but an applicant who does not have the unit in U.S. history may be admitted on the condition that at least three semester hours in that subject will be passed by the end of the sophomore year.