‘Don of Donations’ Retires
After 33 years with the Wolfpack Club and 39 years at NC State, Bobby Purcell has retired from his position as executive director to become a special assistant to Athletics Director Boo Corrigan.
To be 100% accurate, the door to NC State opened for Bobby Purcell with a trade: a job as a football graduate assistant coach for the young Atlanta Falcons intern in exchange for a tryout for an aspiring placekicker with the NFL franchise.
Nathan Ritter, despite being one of the most accurate kickers in college football during his playing career at NC State, didn’t last long as a professional with the Falcons, but Purcell has spent the last 39 years building solid foundations for Wolfpack athletics, the last 33 in leadership positions with the NC State Student Aid Association, more commonly known as the Wolfpack Club.
He turned over day-to-day operations at the independent booster organization to new Executive Director Ben Broussard at the end of June, but Purcell’s association with NC State will continue as he assumes new duties as a special assistant to NC State Athletics Director Boo Corrigan.
“I’ll still be here and be available to any fans who need me,” Purcell says. “I don’t know what all I’ll be working on, but my life has been NC State and hopefully that’ll continue for several more years.”
Purcell began chasing his dream to work in college athletics not long after he enrolled at NC State, as both his grandfather and father had done. He arrived just in time to see the Wolfpack win the 1973 ACC football title, the 1974 ACC and NCAA men’s basketball titles and the 1974 ACC baseball title.
“It was great,” he says. “I thought it was always going to be like that, championships in all the sports every year.”
He spent two years here, but later transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill to complete a degree in business administration that was not available at NC State at the time. After two years in private sales, he asked for personal meetings with the athletics directors at NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, asking them how he could get a job in college athletics.
They all told him to go to graduate school.
He was part of the second class of sports administration students at Georgia, with part-time jobs with the Bulldog football team and the Falcons. In 1980, when first-year NC State football coach Monte Kiffin was trying to get an NFL tryout for Ritter, he called a friend with the Falcons, who told him he would take a look at the kicker if Kiffin could find a place on his staff for Purcell.
For six years, he was a football graduate assistant and a recruiting coordinator for Kiffin, then Tom Reed, then Dick Sheridan. He was responsible for recruiting, among others, 1986 ACC Offensive Player of the Year Erik Kramer, a future NFL quarterback.
In 1987, he moved over to the Wolfpack Club to begin a career in fundraising and athletics development, under the guidance of then Executive Secretary K.M. “Charlie” Bryant.
“Those four men had a huge impact on my life,” Purcell says. “Monte Kiffin taught me so much about being enthusiastic about your work. Tom Reed had confidence in me before I had confidence in myself. He gave me a lot of confidence because he really trusted me. And Dick Sheridan just taught me about preparation and attention to detail and treating people.
“And Charlie Bryant just taught me so much about life. He had a tremendous amount of wisdom that he shared with me and all those around him.”
Purcell’s longevity has been amazing, in the ever-moving and ever-changing world of university administration and college athletics. He’s worked under six chancellors and eight athletics directors and with 19 Wolfpack football, men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball coaches. Countless other student-athletes, coaches, administrators, faculty and interns have benefited from his guidance and wisdom.
He’s been heavily involved in the National Association of Athletics Development Directors, for which he served as president in 2004-05, was named the University Division Fundraiser of the Year in 2007 and was given the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. The Wall Street Journal called him “The Don of Donations” when the Wolfpack Club became only the third booster club in the nation to reach 20,000 members.
The Clinton, North Carolina, native is slated to be inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame next May, an honor that was announced earlier this year, but has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He has helped the athletics department raise the money needed for the $165 million PNC Arena; some $150 million in expansion and improvements at Carter-Finley Stadium, including the Murphy Center, Vaughn Towers and the Close-King Indoor Practice Facility; the Dail Basketball Facility; and the $35 million renovation of Reynolds Coliseum.
And, each year, the Wolfpack Club has raised the money necessary to pay for more than 500 student-athlete scholarships, plus a few more for trainers, managers and student support personnel, a total that is now more than $13 million annually.
“I’m proud of what we have done,” Purcell says. “But I’ve really just been part of a larger team that has accomplished all this.”
And, as always, his team is NC State.