The Wolfpacker

Sept.-Oct. 2022

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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50 ■ THE WOLFPACKER NC State Will Be A Player, No Matter What The Future Holds Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker and can be reached at PACK PERSPECTIVE BY TIM PEELER T he realignment fervor that swept col- lege athletics earlier this year is still roiling with the fall semester ready to be- gin. A hazy horizon still clouds the future. In general, college athletics are not in a great place. During the past few years, the NCAA has attempted to put new policies, rules and regulations in place that give student-athletes more free- dom and, in many cases, bigger bank accounts and more spending money. And it isn't just from wink-and-nod $100 handshakes anymore. From the transfer portal to name, im- age and likeness (NIL) policies that al- low direct payment to players, to the COVID considerations that granted sixth seasons to some, these new poli- cies were made with good intentions, if not sound forethought. Whatever you think of them, good or bad, these NCAA initiatives have dramatically changed the landscape of college sports from what most of us have enjoyed and understood our en- tire lives. They aren't, however, the college-sports-ending concern that some coaches, administrators and me- dia make them out to be. The real drivers of change — some would call them threats — in college athletics are the television and stream- ing services responsible for the current rush toward realignment, college play- off expansion and content distribution. NBC, Fox Sports and Disney (through ESPN) have created a 24-hour sports cycle, fed by enormous (for now) amounts of advertising dollars, cable subscriptions and other nontraditional revenue platforms that have added a strong touch of green to every school's traditional colors. The existential threat that awaits is whether that massive income will al- ways be there. Ask anyone who has seen their retire- ment investments cut in half in the first six months of this year whether they believe the promised gold of new tele- vision and grant-of-rights agreements will be there as promised, and you are likely to get a different answer than you would have in January. Some believe the ACC may be broken apart or will be diminished. There's talk that North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State and maybe Miami might chase money promised to them by the SEC. There's also talk the ACC may be swallowed up by the creation of mega- conferences that will cherry pick the favored schools and leave others to fight for scraps. So be it. In 100 years of conference partici- pation, NC State has often been a sec- ond-tier member. When the Southern Conference was formed in 1922, State College was not ready to join. That came a year later, and within a decade, dual head coach Gus Tebell had led the football team and the basketball team to their only Southern Conference titles. In 1933, when eight schools left for the SEC, NC State and Raleigh came to the rescue by offering up a new down- town auditorium to host the annual and quite popular Southern Conference basketball tournament. The success that followed Everett Case's arrival in 1946 has made tour- nament basketball a staple of college athletics. In fact, basketball saved NC State in the 1950s when a financial cri- sis in athletics nearly kept the break- away members of the newly formed ACC from inviting State to join the new league. Traditionally, NC State was mostly against the expansion of the league in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. Now that the ACC is at 15 (with some Notre Dame participation), the conference could be in danger of having chunks of its mem- bership falling into the money-chasing abyss. Hopefully, NC State's administration will tread cautiously on that ledge. The school has suffered in years past when college basketball was rocked by two gambling scandals. It also won basket- ball national titles in 1974 and 1983 un- der the guidance of two coaches who were hit with NCAA probation, however unwarranted those sanctions may have been. Some people believe that Wolfpack athletics has never recovered from the Jim Valvano-era probation of 1990 and that modern NC State athletics might not be a viable candidate to join the big- gest of the future mega-conferences. That's bunk. The ACC believes it has assured its future with an iron-clad grant-of-rights deal that is in place through 2036, which will prevent its schools from breaking away. NC State has built its future founda- tion on the success of programs out- side of football and basketball. It has reigning national champions in cross country, swimming, tennis and track and field. Those things do matter. The expectations for head coach Dave Doeren's 2022 football team are again exceedingly high, and it has the chance to break one of the most enduring streaks in college athletics — the lack of a football championship since 1979. Whether or not that happens, NC State is still poised to be a player in whatever version of games are played in the near and distant future. ■ Coach Dave Doeren's football program is just one of many success stories in the recent history of Wolfpack athletics. NC State has also won a team national championship in women's cross country and has claimed individual NCAA titles in track, swimming and tennis. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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