N.C. State Athletic Director Debbie Yow and Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin can be best labeled as “frienemies” in preparation for the Music City Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
Franklin was the Wolfpack’s early top target for their head coaching job before he stiff-armed all interests and received an extension to remain with the Commodores. Yow hired Franklin in 2000 at Maryland as the program’s “coach-in-waiting” and has known the SEC’s brightest up-and-comer for more than a decade. The relationship ends there, however, at least for the next month. The two may exchange Christmas cards but that’s about it leading up to the bowl game, a sentiment shared by Yow Monday night on a local sports radio broadcast in Fayetteville, N.C.
“I’ve known his wife Fumi since before they were married and had their two girls, but this is all business,” Yow said directly to host Brett Friedlander of The SportsBlast. “As competitive as James is and as competitive as I am, there’s not much thought about anything other than how do we win this game?”
Yow and Franklin exchanged texts shortly after Tom O’Brien’s firing in Raleigh, but the two haven’t spoken since the Wolfpack and Commodores were paired up in Nashville.
“We’re in full-on game mode,” Yow said.
New N.C. State coach Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois’ former leading man, hopes to bring new life into a program that was mediocre by Yow’s standards under O’Brien. Yow believes N.C. State has all the bells and whistles of a perennial Top 25 mainstay and is in much better shape to compete on a national level than its recent record indicates.
Doeren won’t coach in the bowl game, but that doesn’t mean the Wolfpack won’t be ready to snap Vanderbilt’s SEC-high six-game winning streak heading into the postseason. Offensive coordinator Dana Bible will be N.C. State’s interim head coach, utilizing Mike Glennon — the Wolfpack’s talented veteran quarterback — against the Vanderbilt secondary. Tailback Zac Stacy is the Commodores’ top weapon.
Franklin’s won 14 of his first 25 games at a school that seems to be on an upward slope under his watch. According to various reports, Vandy preferred a bowl trip to Atlanta or Jacksonville, but nearby L.P. Field on New Year’s Eve could work in its favor. A rejuvenated fanbase should outnumber N.C. State’s red-clad supporters by as many as 3-to-1 depending on how many Commodores show up. N.C. State’s still a couple thousand tickets away from selling out it’s 10,000 allotment and the Tennessee Titans’ home field is just four miles from Vanderbilt’s campus.
“They’re basically playing a home game,” Yow said. “It would be like if we hosted a game here in Raleigh, which would be a nice thing.”
The Music City Bowl is considered one of those “swing” games if the SEC hopes on finishing the bowl season without a blemish.
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