I think you can get a fine education at most all state flagships, including NC State. One thing I would look for in a large school is a wide variety of majors and departments, because changing one's mind about courses of study, especially with an athletic regimen, occurs often. I think NC State fits this bill, and academics, like running, matters what one puts into it.
NC State is a high mileage place, so one never knows how even a super talented athlete will react (I never was a high mileage guy and was best on 60-70 a week) to a high mileage college regimen. The matriculating athletes surely know this, so they are making a rational choice, albeit one with some risk (like everyone else, really).
I ran at a competitive university in the state years ago, and while stereotypes are always dicey, my impression of State people (and some were my friends) is that they were genuinely good people and down to earth. I can see why the school (and Raleigh has improved) is attractive.