Yow retires as a trailblazer for women in college athletics

May 5, 2019

Debbie Yow has worked her last day at NC State. Having put in nine years with the Wolfpack and four decades in college athletics, will she miss it?

“Oh absolutely!” she quickly answered. “You can’t be in college athletics for 43 years as a coach and then as an administrator and then as (an Athletics Director) and go, 24-7, 365 (days) for 43 years and say, oh no, I’m not going to miss it.”

Yow has seen the world of college athletics from the perspective of a pre-Title IX athlete to a coach and then as an athletic administrator. She took another step in 1994 when Maryland hired her as the first female director of athletics in the ACC.

“It’s a different world now than it was 25 years ago. It was brutal 25 years ago. I survived it and flourished. I’m grateful for all the help I received in order to do that,” Yow said.

Over the last two decades, small steps and major strides have been taken for female athletes and women in college athletics.

“It is still a non-traditional role for a female even though from a political sense, it’s just better. People are more self-aware of what they say and how they frame situations,” Yow said.

There are currently two female athletic directors in the ACC, and in some ways, Yow has been a lead blocker, carving a path for others to follow.

“If that has been the case, I am proud to have been able to do anything to open the door a little bit wider for them to have an opportunity to do something that they love and, by education and experience, are prepared to do, which is lead,” she said. “Leadership is not a gender issue. It’s a matter of education, experience a propensity for the work. That’s what it comes down to, period.”