When Willis Casey was hired by NC State to coach its swim team, it began a period of dominance for Wolfpack athletics in which Casey won 16 Southern Conference and ACC titles. He gave up coaching duties and became athletics director in 1969, a post he held for 17 years.
But it was on this day 28 years ago that Casey eschewed any farewell speeches or tearful goodbyes for just a “regular” day that would mark the end of his tenure at NC State and the beginning of his retirement.
“[Casey] just said a few good-byes to his department colleagues and added just a touch of uncharacteristic flamboyancy for a local television station by kissing golf coach Richard Sykes on the cheek,” the Technician reported, adding that Casey’s legacy at NC State was “unsurpassed in Wolfpack Athletic Department history.”
Apart from the swimming dynasty he built as a coach, Casey is credited with turning around an athletics program in the red as athletics director. According to the Technician, he took over a program that was more than $100,000 in debt, in part because of Carter-Finley Stadium’s construction. He also bolstered women’s sports at NC State, hiring Kay Yow as women’s basketball coach. And he also hired Lou Holtz and Jim Valvano, who succeeded Casey as AD.
“The picture most people have of me is I’m a mean son-of-a-gun,” Casey told the Technician his last day on the job. “But I’m really just a teddy bear underneath it all.”