Wolfpack wrap up quick coach search, hire O'Brien
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Tom O'Brien came away impressed by the scene at Carter-Finley Stadium three months ago when North Carolina State upset his Boston College team.
The Wolfpack's boisterous fan base, upgraded facilities and largely untapped potential helped convince him to switch sidelines.
"The excitement that fateful night I was here in September was as good as any place I've ever been," O'Brien said Saturday at a news conference introducing him as coach. "There's great people and great excitement at Boston College, but timing is everything. ... This is N.C. State or bust for me."
The 58-year-old O'Brien came to Tobacco Road after going 75-45 in 10 seasons at Boston College and leading the Eagles to eight consecutive bowl berths. He replaces Chuck Amato, a former N.C. State linebacker who was fired the day after the Wolfpack closed a 3-9 season with their seventh consecutive loss.
O'Brien received a seven-year contract worth $1.1 million annually, but that amount could jump to $1.8 million if several on-the-field and academic incentives are reached, athletic director Lee Fowler said. The contract also includes a buyout of $600,000 for each year remaining on the deal, Fowler said.
"I think he's coming here to finish his career," Fowler said.
ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach first reported the hiring on Wednesday.
Fowler said O'Brien first appeared on his radar when his name was mentioned as a possible candidate for the North Carolina job, which ultimately was filled by Butch Davis.
After Amato was dismissed, Fowler said he interviewed a few coaches -- including Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow, a former N.C. State assistant -- and later became aware of O'Brien's interest through headhunter Chuck Neinas.
Fowler requested and received permission from Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo to speak to O'Brien on Dec. 3, and he discussed the job with the coach that night. Talks increased Wednesday, Fowler and O'Brien reached an agreement that night and the school's board of trustees approved his contract two days later.
The rare in-conference coaching switch -- just the second in the Atlantic Coast Conference's history -- comes with a noteworthy increase over O'Brien's reported salary of about $734,000 at Boston College, and a jump from the $995,000 N.C. State paid Amato annually.
"There was never a question in my mind, when I talked to his representation, that he was really interested. It wasn't like this guy was going to ask for the moon, and if we didn't give it he was going to walk away," Fowler said. "It came together pretty quickly as far as that was concerned."
O'Brien, who was an assistant at Navy and later Virginia before going to Boston College in 1997, called the N.C. State program "a sleeping giant" because the school has spent millions recently on its facilities yet has remained a middle-of-the-pack team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"Just the whole thing of a state university, the state of North Carolina, a great high school football state, the opportunity to recruit in this part of the country and get back down here, that's the thing that enticed me most," O'Brien said.
N.C. State hasn't finished higher than fourth in the ACC since the Wolfpack placed second in 1994. N.C. State finished in last place in the Atlantic Division this season, and Amato's tenure at his alma mater ended with consecutive losses to in-state rivals North Carolina and East Carolina.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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