Western Carolina Catamounts

Last updated
Western Carolina Catamounts
Western Carolina Catamounts logo.svg
UniversityWestern Carolina University
Conference Southern Conference
NCAA Division I (FCS)
Athletic directorAlex Gary [1]
Location Cullowhee, North Carolina
Varsity teams16
Football stadium E. J. Whitmire Stadium
Basketball arena Ramsey Center
Baseball stadium Hennon Stadium
MascotPaws [2]
NicknameCatamounts [3]
Fight songFight on! You Catamounts
ColorsPurple and Gold [4]
         
Website catamountsports.com
SoCon's logo in Western Carolina's colors SoCon logo in Western Carolina colors.svg
SoCon's logo in Western Carolina's colors

The Western Carolina Catamounts are the intercollegiate athletics teams that represent Western Carolina University. The Catamounts compete in the NCAA Division I as members of the Southern Conference. Western Carolina fields 16 varsity sports teams. The men's and women's teams are called the Catamounts.

Contents

Nickname

The nickname Catamount derives from cats of the catamount variety, including the bobcat, that roams the southern Appalachian Mountains where the school is located. The nickname evolved from a contest that was held on campus in 1933. The school was called Western Carolina Teachers College at that time and its teams were known as "the Teachers." Everyone on campus was invited to participate, and the usual names were suggested: Bears, Indians, Panthers. However, the college wanted an unusual name; a name that few others had and that everyone would not copy. The contest came down to Mountain Boomers, a small ground squirrel that scampers about the woods and is extremely difficult to catch, and Catamounts. Catamounts was the favorite of head football coach C.C. Poindexter and was the nickname chosen. Poindexter wanted his players to be Catamounts with "fierce spirit, savage attacks, and lightning quick moves." Paws the Catamount is the official mascot of Western Carolina University. He appears at numerous events and functions across western North Carolina. [2]

Western Carolina is the only football-playing school in the United States that uses the nickname Catamounts. The University of Vermont is the only other school with the moniker.

Sports sponsored

A member of the Southern Conference, Western Carolina sponsors teams in 6 men's and 8 women's NCAA sanctioned sports: [5]

Western Carolina Catamounts
Sport:Head Coach:
BaseballBobby Moranda
Men's Basketball Justin Gray
Women's BasketballKiley Hill
Men's Cross CountryJesse Norman
Women's Cross CountryJesse Norman
Football
Men's GolfTim Eckberg
Women's GolfCourtney Gunter
Women's SoccerChad Miller
SoftballJim Clift
Women's TennisBret Beaver
Men's Track & FieldJesse Norman
Women's Track & FieldJesse Norman
Women's VolleyballKaren Glover


Baseball

The Catamounts baseball team has reached the NCAA tournament 12 times, including five straight years from 1985-1989, three straight years from 1992-1994, and four other times in 1997, 2003, 2007, and 2016. They have made it to the Regional Finals three times in 1992, 2003, and 2007.

Men's Basketball

The Catamounts men's basketball team reached the NCAA tournament in 1996, where they dropped their only game against No.1 seed Purdue, 73-71. Western Carolina nearly became the first No.16 seed to beat a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament, missing two shots in the final 11 seconds to tie the game.

Women's Basketball

The Catamounts women's basketball team reached the NCAA tournament in 2005 and again in 2009 under the leadership of Kellie Harper, who went on to be the head coach for N.C. State and Tennessee. Western Carolina played West Chester in the first women's basketball national title game in 1969, dropping the game 65-39 to top seed and host West Chester.

Football

The Catamounts football team made it to the Division I-AA championship game in 1983, falling to No. 1 seed Southern Illinois. On their way to the championship, Western Carolina upset No. 2 seed Holy Cross and No. 3 seed Furman.

Southern Conference Championships

Baseball

Regular Season: 13 (1981, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1994, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2013, 2014)

Tournament: 10 (1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1997, 2003, 2016)

Men's Basketball

Division: 3 (South, 1996; co-North, 2009 & 2011)

Tournament: 1 (1996)

Women's Basketball

Tournament: 2 (2005, 2009)

Softball

Regular Season: 1 (2006)

Volleyball

Regular Season: 4 (1983, 1985, 1986, 1989)

Tournament: 3 (1983, 1985, 1986)

Women's Soccer

Regular Season: 1 (2001)

Tournament: 2 (2005, 2009)

Men's Track and Field

Indoor

1999 2004 2006 2008 2012 [6]

Outdoor

1999 2006 2007 2009 [7] 2013

Women's Track and Field

Indoor

1996 1997 1999 2000 2008 2010 [8]

Outdoor

1997 1999 2000 2001 2008 2010 [9] 2013

Facilities

Hall of Fame

The university established an athletic hall of fame in 1990. The hall of fame honors those athletes, coaches, and people whose outstanding contributions have enriched the athletic programs of Western Carolina University. [13]

Football

Western Carolina football was born in 1931, thanks to C.C. Poindexter. Often referred to as the "Father of Western Carolina Athletics" because of his efforts in organizing what was then Western Carolina Teachers College's first athletic program in the early 1930s. He was the first to be hired by the college to work exclusively in athletics and became the first head football coach. [13]

He accepted the dual roles of Athletic Director and football coach in 1931. Then, later he also assumed duties as the first head coach in basketball and baseball. His leadership and vision resulted in the construction of the first college football field on the Western Carolina campus. With the help of assistant coaches, he coached three separate scholarship teams. As athletic director, he developed the college's first schedule of strictly college competition.

All Time Football Coaches

CoachYearsNumber YearsRecord
1C.C. Poindexter1931–19344 years10–26–2
2 Ralph James 1935–19384 years4–30–3
3 James Whatley 1939–19413 years6–1–1
4 Marion McDonald 19451 year1–3–0
5 Tom Young 1946–195510 years39–55–4
6 Dan Robinson 1956–196813 years51–67–6
7 Bob Waters 1969–198820 years116–94–6
8 Dale Strahm 19891 year3–7–1
9 Steve Hodgin 1990–19967 years31–45–0
10 Bill Bleil 1997–20015 years23–32
11 Kent Briggs 2002–20076 years22–43
12 Dennis Wagner 2008–20114 years8–36
13 Mark Speir 2012–7 years29–43

WCU and the Post Season

In 1949, Coach Tom Young completed a four-year, post-World War II building program with an 8–2 regular season and the school's first North State Conference championship and first postseason appearance. The team was rewarded by a bid to play in the Smoky Mountain Bowl in Bristol, Virginia, where the Cats lost to West Liberty State. Art Byrd, a 165-pound guard, was named to the Associated Press Little All-America Team, Western's first All-America selection. [14]

The 1974 Catamounts, playing in a sparkling new stadium, lost their season and stadium opener to visiting Murray State and struggled the next two weeks before establishing themselves as one of the nation's top NCAA Division II teams. The Catamounts won nine in a row—including victories over top 10 teams Indiana State and Western Kentucky—and won a bid to the NCAA Division II playoffs where they lost to No. 1 ranked Louisiana Tech, 10–7. The 1974 Cats finished the season ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press College Division poll. [14]

The 1983 Catamounts got off to a slow start by losing its first two games to Clemson and Wake Forest. After these two setbacks, the Catamounts would go through the next 12 Saturdays unbeaten en route to the NCAA Division I-AA National Championship Game. Despite the strong comeback in regular season play that produced an 8–2–1 regular season record and a No. 9 national ranking, Coach Waters’ Cats barely made it into the I-AA Championship game needing come-from-behind wins the next three weeks. The Cats' wins over Colgate (24–23), Holy Cross (28–21) and Furman (14–7) carried the team to the National Championship Game. The playoff win over Furman was particularly pleasing as the teams had tied, 17–17, in the regular season, which allowed the Paladins to win the Southern Conference Football Title that year (Furman had played and won one more league game due to a scheduling quirk). Over 5,000 WCU fans traveled to Greenville, South Carolina, for the rematch which was aired by CBS-TV. The winning streak ended with a loss to Southern Illinois in the National Championship Game in Charleston, South Carolina. Seven members of the ‘83 squad went on to play in the NFL and the team set an NCAA record for the most games played (15) in a season. [14]

Battle for the Old Mountain Jug

Western played Appalachian State annually in the Battle for the Old Mountain Jug [15] The first game between Western and Appalachian was held in 1932, but the "Old Mountain Jug" was introduced in 1976. The rivalry ceased after the 2014 meeting due to Appalachian State moving to NCAA FBS. The rivalry between the two mountain schools was a natural, Appalachian and Western were the only public colleges in the western half of North Carolina for decades. Both schools made similar steps to their present status as comprehensive regional universities and both basically recruited athletes from the same high schools in the early years. Their graduates were, for the most part, school teachers – and alumni of both schools often found themselves working together, which helped foster the rivalry.

In 1974, while Western was seeking membership to the Southern Conference, an incident happened that heated up the rivalry. Prior to the WCU-ASU game that year, ASU's athletic director informed Western's President that if Jerry Gaines, Western's all-star wide receiver/kick returner – and arguably the school's best athlete ever – were allowed to play in the WCU-ASU football game in Boone, ASU would withdraw their support of Western's membership for the Southern Conference (ASU was Western's sponsor). [15] Their rationale was that Gaines was playing the 1974 season as a fifth-year [medical red-shirt] and red-shirting was not permitted in the Southern Conference at that time. Gaines had been injured in the first half of the second game of the 1971 season against Appalachian State. Catamount fans believed Appalachian State's motive was based upon Gaines' performance in the previous two meetings in the series, both won handily by the Catamounts.

Gaines did not play in 1974, but his replacement, true-freshman Wayne Tolleson, caught the winning touchdown pass in a 21–17 Catamount victory. [15]

Western's record in games played is 18–54–1, and 7–26 in the Jug's era.

Old Mountain Jug Series Notes
Most Points by ASU: 79 (2007)
Most Points by WCU: 41 (1983)
Fewest Points by ASU: 6 (1998)
Fewest Points by WCU: 3 (1995)
Largest ASU Victory Margin: 44 (2007)
Largest WCU Victory Margin: 27 (1984)
ASU Winning Streak: 13 (1985–1997)
WCU Winning Streak: 4 (1981–1984)
Battle for the Jug at Kidd Brewer Stadium: ASU leads 15–2

Baseball

Western Carolina University began baseball in 1928, however, records prior to 1951 are incomplete. The first head coach was C.C. Poindexter.

On July 19, 2007, Bobby Moranda was officially introduced as the 10th different head baseball coach at Western Carolina.

The baseball program has called Ronnie G. Childress Field/Hennon Stadium its home since 1978. Childress Field, built at an initial cost of $125,000, was dedicated April 26, 1978, and named in honor of the late Ronnie G. Childress, an avid supporter of WCU athletics and a special friend of the baseball program. In 1978, the baseball stadium was moved approximately 200 yards to the east from the former "Haywood Field". The Cats have won over 72 percent of their home games since then, with a 526–201 record in 30 seasons. Bill Haywood, head baseball coach from 1969 through 1981, and Mr. E.J. Whitmire, longtime supporter and benefactor from Franklin, were the driving forces behind the building of the facility. The baseball facility was officially renamed Ronnie G. Childress Field at Hennon Stadium in a dedication program on April 23, 1994. [16]

All-time coaching history

CoachYearsRecord
Jim Gudger1951–60, '63140–83
Charles Seeger1961–6220–21
Ron Blackburn1964–6878-65
Bill Haywood1969–81215-161-2
David Wright198228-12
Jack Leggett1983–91302-226
Keith LeClair1992–97229-135-2
Rodney Hennon1998–9981-38
Todd Raleigh2000–07257-209
Bobby Moranda2008-pres.189-146-2
Totals60 Years1,474–1,052–6

Men's Basketball

Mark Prosser was hired as the 18th head basketball coach on March 27, 2018. [17] Western Carolina began playing basketball in 1928, under head coach Pete Plemmons. [18]

Dikembe Mutombo's nephew Harouna Mutombo played college basketball for the Western Carolina Catamounts from 2007–12. Harouna was the team's leading scorer for the 2009 season and was named Southern Conference Freshman of the Year. [19]

Kevin Martin of Minnesota Timberwolves played for the Western Carolina Catamounts (2001–2004), and was a first-round draft choice, selected by the Sacramento Kings.

All-time coaching history

CoachYearsRecord
Pete Plemmons1928–3135-22
C.C. Poindexter1931–3550-30
Ralph James1935–3947-39
James Whatley1939–4233-18
Marion McDonald1945–4728-22
Tuck McConnell1947–5037–43
Jim Gudger1951–69311-222
Jim Hartbarger1969–7586-73
Fred Conley1974–7731–32
Steve Cottrell1977–87145-133
Herb Krusen1987–888–19
Dave Possinger1988–9012–16
Greg Blatt1989–9338–73
Benny Dees1993–9526–30
Phil Hopkins1995–200065–76
Steve Shurina2001–0548–97
Larry Hunter2005-18193–229
Mark Prosser2018 - present26-37

Women's Basketball

Lady Catamount basketball was added as a varsity sport at Western Carolina University in 1965. Betty Westmoreland started Western Carolina's intercollegiate basketball program and coached the Lady Catamounts for 14 years. The program grew from independent status to NAIAW, NCAA Division II, then NCAA Division I. Her team compiled a 190–89 record, never suffering a losing season in 14 years. The team was the national CIAW runner-up in the 1968–69 season and finished fourth the following year in the tournament. The current head coach is Kiley Hill.

All-time coaching history

CoachYearsRecord
Betty Westmoreland1965–79189-89
Judy Murray1979–8128-22
Judy Stroud1981–8546–58
Tony Baldwin1985–9051–83
Janet Cone1990–9317–65
Gary Peters1993–9734–74
Maria Fantanarosa1997–987–20
Jill Dunn1998–200023–33
Beth Dunkenberger2000–0465-50
Kelli Harper2004–0997-65
Karen Middleton2009-1563–121
Stephanie McCormick2015-1923-94
Kiley Hill2019-Pres.0-0

Softball

The Western Carolina women's fastpitch softball team completed its inaugural season in 2006. With a 41–20 record, it won the Southern Conference regular season championship. The Lady Catamounts' home field is the Catamount Softball Complex.

All-time coaching history [20]

CoachYearsRecord
Megan Smith2006–0741-29
Christine Hornak2007–2011111–216
JIm Clift2011–Present136–189

Soccer

Program History: [21]

All-time coaching history [22]

CoachYearRecord
Debbie Hensley1999-0455-52-11
Tammy Decesare2005-0958-36-13
Chad Miller2010-Pres.72-83-19

Track and field

In 2012, Danny Williamson began his 25th year as men's head coach and his 26th year as head of the women's program. During his tenure, Western's Track and Field Program the Catamounts moved from the lower levels of the Southern Conference to a prominent place in the top tier of the conference standings year in and year out.

Under Williamson, the Catamounts (men and women) have claimed 17 Southern Conference Team Championships between indoor and outdoor seasons. Williamson has witnessed over 700 of his athletes receive All-Southern Conference Awards and over 225 Western Carolina Track and Field/Cross Country Athletes be named an Individual Conference Event Champion.

Selected as Southern Conference Coach of the Year on 25 occasions and in 1999, 2004 and 2006 he was selected the NCAA Regional Track and Field Coach of the Year. A 1985 graduate of Western Carolina University with a bachelor's degree in Physical Education, Williamson returned to Western and completed his Master's in Education in 1986. [23]

Danny Williamson retired in 2016 and Jesse Norman was named the next head men’s and women’s cross country/track & field coach at Western Carolina as announced by Director of Athletics Randy Eaton.

Norman returns to Cullowhee after spending the previous 12 seasons as head coach of the UNC Asheville cross country and track and field programs. Under Norman’s guidance, the Bulldogs had four student-athletes earn All-American honors along with eight NCAA East Preliminary qualifiers, 18 Big South Conference champions and 57 Big South All-Conference honorees. Norman is a two-time Big South Coach of the Year, most recently claiming the 2018 Big South Women’s Track Coach of the Year.

Southern Conference Championships:

Club Sports

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The Western Carolina Catamounts football program represents Western Carolina University. The team competes in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and are members of the Southern Conference. Since the school's first football team was fielded in 1931, the Catamounts have a record of 341-502-23, have made two postseason appearances, and have played in one national championship game.

Western Carolina Catamounts mens basketball Mens basketball program representing Western Carolina University

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2013–14 Western Carolina Catamounts mens basketball team American college basketball season

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Western Carolina Catamounts womens basketball

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2016–17 Western Carolina Catamounts mens basketball team American college basketball season

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Mark Prosser is an American college basketball coach and current head coach of the Winthrop Eagles men's basketball team.

The 2018–19 Western Carolina Catamounts men's basketball team represented Western Carolina University during the 2018–19 NCAA Division I men's basketball season. The Catamounts, led by first-year head coach Mark Prosser, played their home games at the Ramsey Center in Cullowhee, North Carolina as members of the Southern Conference. They finished the season 7-25, 4-14 in Southern Conference play to finish in a three-way tie for eighth place. In the Southern Conference Tournament, they were defeated by VMI in the First Round.

References

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  13. 1 2 "Hall of Fame". Western Carolina Official Athletic Site. 2012.
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  16. "Western Carolina 2012 Catamount Baseball Yearbook" (PDF). catamountsports.com. 2012.
  17. "Mark Prosser - Head Coach" . Retrieved 5 March 2021.
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  19. "Harouna Mutombo Profile". catamountsports.com. 2012.
  20. "Western Carolina Softball Record Book PDF (p. 37)" (PDF). Western Carolina Official Athletic Site. 2012.
  21. "2007 Soccer Guide" (PDF). Western Carolina Official Athletics Site. 2007.
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  23. "Danny Williamson Profile". Western Carolina Official Athletics Site. 2012.