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Search begins for next NC State football coach

Posted November 25, 2012
Updated November 26, 2012

— After six seasons and a 40-35 record, Tom O'Brien is out as head football coach at North Carolina State University, athletics director Debbie Yow said Sunday.

Less than 24 hours after a 27-10 win over Boston College finished the Wolfpack's regular-season at 7-5, O’Brien was “released” of his duties, Yow said. Wake Forest vs. NC State Our lens on Tom O'Brien

"The reason we are doing it now is because there are many openings and time is of the essence to try and put in place the right person to lead us to the Top 25," Yow said. 

O'Brien's buyout will pay him $1.2 million total over the next four years.

Debbie Yow on Tom O'Brien firing Gravley: Yow needed change to reach goals

Offensive coordinator Dana Bible will serve as the Wolfpack interim head coach for the upcoming bowl game. All other assistants will stay on staff and continue bowl preparations. 

An internal search committee, which includes Yow, has already formed and met for the first time Sunday night to begin a search for a new head coach. 

"It sounds to me that she (Yow) has somebody clearly in mind for this job," said Joe Ovies, co-host of the afternoon and evening sports talk show on 99.9 FM The Fan ESPN Radio.

Yow did not discuss a potential salary for a new head coach or a deadline on a hire, but did say that she would like to do it "sooner rather than later" and that "there are certainly people in the marketplace that are not viable for us."

O’Brien, 64, guided the Wolfpack to three consecutive bowl games and four in the past five seasons, but he never managed to crack the .500 mark in ACC play, posting a 22-26 record. NC State finished this season 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the ACC.

“I appreciate the opportunity to have coached at North Carolina State University and I feel that the program is in a better place now than when I started,” said O’Brien. “I’m proud of the young men that I have coached here, for their accomplishments on the field and in the classroom."  

Yow said the ultimate goal of the NC State program is to be a perennial Top-25 team and that it can be done in part by attracting top in-state talent. She said she first met with O'Brien Friday about the direction of the program and made the decision Sunday to part ways.

"Coach O’Brien and agree on the goal of becoming a Top 25 program, we just don’t agree on what it takes to get there," Yow said.

Yow also pointed to a decline in ticket sales as a factor noting that it was an indication of the program's direction. 

"We’ve lost over 1,000 season ticket holders in the last six years," Yow said. "I have to say that matters some in the direction of the program."

Debbie Yow on Tom O'Brien release NC State AD: Focus on excellence led to O'Brien ouster

O'Brien leaves mark on NC State

NC State’s high point in 2012 came in a win over then-No. 3 Florida State, however the next three games saw a close call against Maryland followed by losses to UNC and Virginia.

In the last three seasons, O’Brien has led the Wolfpack to 24 wins. NC State had also defeated rival North Carolina five consecutive times before losing this season, 43-35.  N.C. State vs. West Virginia - December 28, 2010 Timeline of Tom O'Brien at NC State

O'Brien's 8-2 mark in bowl games in his career ranks tops among any head coach in terms of win percentage during the modern history of the bowl system. His 103 career wins entering the 2012 season placed him 19th among all active FBS head coaches.

However, O'Brien's teams had trouble winning within their own division during his tenure at NC State, going just 11-19 against ACC Atlantic Division teams and just 1-14 on the road against them in six seasons.

NSCU fans NCSU fans: O'Brien 'didn't shine'

O’Brien, the 33rd head coach in NC State history, came to Raleigh from Boston College in Dec. 2006 and signed a 7-year deal that was to pay him $1.1 million annually. He later signed an extension under then-AD Lee Fowler that runs through 2015.

O’Brien got his coaching start at  his alma matter Navy in 1975. He left  for Virginia in 1982 where he stayed until 1997 when he became the head coach at Boston College.

O'Brien departs NC State with a winning percentage of .533 placing him fourth in program history among head coaches with at least five years on the sidelines behind Eddie Green (1909-13, .743), Dick Sheridan (1986-92, .637) and Chuck Amato (2000-06, .570). 

"Coach O’Brien’s service to NC State over the last six years has been sincerely appreciated by Wolfpack Nation,” Yow said in a statement. “We especially appreciate his attention toward NCAA rules compliance, a value that will continue to be held by NC State. We wish him well in future pursuits.”

Seven former O'Brien head coaches have gone on to become collegiate head coaches including three current ACC head coaches - Miami's Al Golden, Virginia's Mike London and Boston College's Frank Spaziani.

457 Comments

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  • Hoops 4 All Nov 28, 9:06 a.m.

    I'm Hearing John DOC Holliday coming to town tomorrow.. FWIW !!

  • GridironGuru Nov 27, 2:03 p.m.

    Could be time for former NC State player, and NFL great coach, Bill Cowher, to come back into... View More

    — Posted by Big Mike

    There have been several posts about Cowher coming back to State. Let's be objective here. I'm... View More

    — Posted by kheffn

    I don't think Coach Cowher would want to work for Dr. Yow! REALLY!

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again01 Nov 27, 10:59 a.m.

    7-5. Lost early to Tennessee. Lost a close one @ Miami. Lost a close one @ UNC. Lost to a... View More

    — Posted by BigfootBeliever

    Best case we could have been 11-1. Worst case, we could have lost a few others.

    Keep in mind, in order to reach 7-5, Maryland had to miss a chip shot and we had to steal one from FSU.

  • BigUNCFan Nov 27, 10:32 a.m.

    Debbie is certainly not well liked at Md. and she left behind a lot of debt and some say she ran off Gary Williams although I think at the end, he just had reached the end and wanted to retire. Gary did not want to deal with AAU coaches and that hurt him b/c the recruting game has changed so much and he wanted no part of that. Needless to say, he and she did not get along.

    As for her tenure here at NCSU, she has made what we can consider a pretty good hoops hire as far as we can tell. He immediately took Sid's players and parlayed them in one year to a sweet 16 and almost an elite 8 if one or two more shots fell.

    He did the same thing at Alabama early on but things trailed off win wise and he had a personal scandal there than combined with his not winning enough games, probably got him fired. The jury is still out on him but it does look promising.

    I suspect that there will be an announcement by the weekend or early next week if I had to guess. If they have to go through several names and end up with a young assistant, then Debbie messed up. If you fire a coach like TOB that ran a clean program and went to bowls, you had better have a home run hire in your pocket that will take the job and you'll have to pay big time hire money. If you get the next "hot assistant" that has no HC experience, then you really took a risk. It worked with Chip Kelley so it might work out but it is a big risk.

  • drcurrin Nov 27, 10:24 a.m.

    at least this article takes the heat off the heels for awhile. the n& o and wral keep repeating the same old stuff. they will report sec by sec your coach searching process till u are sick of it.

  • gswalker51 Nov 27, 10:19 a.m.

    Great coaches come along once in a lifetime. So-so coaches (Sheridan, O'Cain, Amato, O'Brien, etc.) are a dime a dozen. I've been saying it since they gave Athletics Director/Basketball Coach Jim Valvano the boot back in 1990, NC State deserves 100 years of frustration and disappointment. 22 down, 78 to go.

  • uBnice Nov 27, 9:53 a.m.

    Military personnel are dying in the Middle East, children are hungry, the U.S. elected officials... View More

    — Posted by LovemyPirates

    I am retired US Army and a Iraqi Freedom Veteran. I served in Iraq for a year of my life. When... View More

    — Posted by mrwufabc

    Yes, job well done, soldier. And I thank you.

  • uBnice Nov 27, 9:43 a.m.

    TOB ran a solid program. Why is winning big in football so important?, I hope
    that Yow doesn't... View More

    — Posted by dbjhuff

    Unfortunately, NCSU is doing what almost every Div 1 school is doing in football: bringing in a ton of unqualified students as athletes and then not graduating them. NCSU football roster has a ton of "exemptions" because of their athletic prowess.

    What was the graduation rate under O'Brien?

    NCSU is not graduating their players because they get players who cannot graduate.

    This is not a particular dig at NCSU because obviously UNC-CH did the same thing. So does Miami, FSU, Clemson, VT, etc, etc.

  • dbjhuff Nov 27, 12:23 a.m.

    TOB ran a solid program. Why is winning big in football so important?, I hope
    that Yow doesn't lower academic standards for recruiting like they did at
    Maryland. I can live with a 7-5 record and a bowl bid for the players. I can't
    live with a lowering of the NCSU Academic Standards upon major Universitys.
    We are a top ten educational value for the 4th straight year. Is there a better
    top ten to be in?

  • kheffn Nov 26, 9:35 p.m.

    Could be time for former NC State player, and NFL great coach, Bill Cowher, to come back into... View More

    — Posted by Big Mike

    There have been several posts about Cowher coming back to State. Let's be objective here. I'm a transplant and have no allegiance to anyone here flaming other schools. If Cowher were to coach again, it would be for the Panthers; not the Wolfpack. First he would make more money there; especially counting endorsements. Second, one of the big problems Yow had with TOB was his unwillingness to be an active recruiter as opposed to letting assistants doing the recruiting and him coming in as a closer. Do you really think Cowher wants to spend all of his time recruiting for less money than he could make in the pros? It's not happening. The best State can do is get an up and coming small conference head coach like UNC did when they hired Mack Brown from Tulane. If they do, it will be a good move.

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