Western Carolina Catamounts

The Western Carolina Catamounts are the athletic teams of Western Carolina University. The Catamounts compete in the NCAA Division I Southern Conference. Western fields sixteen varsity sports teams. The Catamount football team competes in Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

Western Carolina Catamounts
UniversityWestern Carolina University
ConferenceSouthern Conference
NCAADivision I (FCS)
Athletic directorRandy Eaton[1]
LocationCullowhee, North Carolina
Varsity teams16
Football stadiumE. J. Whitmire Stadium
Basketball arenaRamsey Center
Baseball stadiumHennon Stadium
Fight songFight on! You Catamounts
ColorsPurple and Gold[4]


The university's mascot is the Catamount. This moniker has been Western's mascot since 1933."What exactly is a Catamount?" Wild cats of the "catamount variety", including the bobcat, cougar or lynx, have roamed the southern Appalachian Mountains for years.[3] But the nickname evolved from a contest that was held on the Cullowhee campus in 1933. The contest came down to Mountain Boomers, a small ground squirrel that scampers about the woods and is extremely difficult to catch, and Catamounts.[5] Head Football Coach C.C. Poindexter selected Catamounts, as he wanted his players to display a "fierce spirit, savage attacks, and lightning quick moves." WCU is one of only two universities in the United States with this mascot (the other is the University of Vermont).

"Paws" the Catamount is the official mascot of Western Carolina University. He appears at numerous events and functions across western North Carolina.[2]


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

Men's Intercollegiate Sports Team Article Head Coach Women's Intercollegiate Sports Team Article Head Coach
Baseball Bobby Moranda Basketball Catamounts women's basketball Stephanie McCormick
Basketball Catamounts men's basketball Mark Prosser Cross Country Jesse Norman
Cross Country Jesse Norman Golf Courtney Gunter
Football Catamounts football Mark Speir Soccer Chad Miller
Golf Tim Eckberg Softball Jim Clift
Track & Field (Indoor & Outdoor) Jesse Norman Tennis Bret Beaver
Track & Field (Indoor & Outdoor) Jesse Norman
Volleyball Karen Glover

WCU's SoCon Championships


1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1992 1993 1997 2003 2007 2013 2014 2016

Men's Basketball


Women's Basketball

2005 (Southern Conference tournament championship), 2007 (co-regular season championship), 2009 (tournament championship)


2006 Regular Season


1996 1985 1986 1989

Women's Soccer

2001 2005 2008

Men's Track and Field


1999 2004 2006 2008 2012[7]


1999 2006 2007 2009[8] 2013

Women's Track and Field


1996 1997 1999 2000 2008 2010[9]


1997 1999 2000 2001 2008 2010[10] 2013


  • E. J. Whitmire Stadium: Whitmire Stadium is the 13,742-seat home of the Western Carolina Catamounts football team.
  • Catamount Athletic Complex: The Catamount Athletic Complex is an on-campus sports complex for track and field, soccer, and tennis at the university.[11]
  • Catamount Softball Complex: The Catamount Softball Complex is the home of the Western Carolina Lady Catamounts softball team.
  • Hennon Stadium: Hennon Stadium is the home of the Western Carolina Catamounts baseball team. The baseball field's dimensions are 325 feet down each line, 375 feet to the right and left center power alleys and 390 feet to straight away center field. The "Purple Monster" in left field is 100 feet long and is divided into two 50-foot levels. The first and tallest level is 20 feet high and the second level is 14 feet tall. A new clubhouse on the first-base side and stadium seating design are planned for the upcoming seasons.[12]
  • Ramsey Center: The Ramsey Center (often called "The RAC" or "The RACC") is home to the men's and women's basketball and women's volleyball teams.[13] The building was named for Liston B. Ramsey, former speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives and longtime representative of the 52nd House District that includes Haywood, Madison, Swain, Graham and Jackson counties. The Ramsey Center was completed in April 1986 and seats 7,826 for basketball and was built at a cost of $16.3 million. In addition to housing the athletic department's administrative offices, coaches’ offices, team locker rooms, and meeting facilities, it also contains an auxiliary gymnasium, handball and racquetball courts, a communications center, a firing range and weight rooms. Designed to accommodate cultural, entertainment, recreational, and athletic events, the Ramsey Center can seat up to 8,556 for major concerts.

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.[14]


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.[14]

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
2Ralph James1935–19384 years4–30–3
3James Whatley1939–19413 years6–1–1
4Marion McDonald19451 year1–3–0
5Tom Young1946–195510 years39–55–4
6Dan Robinson1956–196813 years51–67–6
7Bob Waters1969–198820 years116–94–6
8Dale Strahm19891 year3–7–1
9Steve Hodgin1990–19967 years31–45–0
10Bill Bleil1997–20015 years23–32
11Kent Briggs2002–20076 years22–43
12Dennis Wagner2008–20114 years8–36
13Mark Speir2012–7 years29–43

WCU and the Post Season

  • 1949

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.[15]

  • 1974

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.[15]

  • 1983

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.[15]

Battle for the Old Mountain Jug

Western played Appalachian State annually in the Battle for the Old Mountain Jug[16] 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).[16] 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.[16]

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


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.[17]

All-time coaching history

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

Larry Hunter, one of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) leaders in coaching victories, was named Western Carolina University's 17th men's basketball head coach on April 29, 2005.[18] Western Carolina began playing basketball in 1928, under head coach Pete Plemmons.[19]

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.[20]

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

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-PRES.7-25

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 Karen Middleton.[21]

All-time coaching history

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


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[22]

Megan Smith2006–0741-29
Christine Hornak2007–2011111–216
JIm Clift 2011–Present 136–189


Program History:[23]

  • Most consecutive wins: 5 (September 30, 2001 – October 14, 2001)
  • Most consecutive wins at home: 14 (October 3, 2000 – September 6, 2002)
  • Most consecutive losses at home: 2 (August 27, 1999 – October 19, 2003)
  • Longest unbeaten streak: 8 (September 16, 1999 – October 13, 1999)
  • Longest unbeaten streak at home: 17 (October 3, 2000 – October 11, 2002)
  • Longest unbeaten streak on road: 5 (September 4, 1999 – October 13, 1999)

All-time coaching history[24]

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

Track and field

  • Head Coach Jesse Norman

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 different 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 different 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.[25]

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:

  • Men Indoor: 1999, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019[7]
  • Men Outdoor: 1999, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019[8]
  • Women Indoor: 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015[9]
  • Women Outdoor: 2008, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018[10]


  1. "Western Carolina Official Athletic Site :: Athletic Department". Western Carolina University. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  2. "Western Carolina Official Athletics Site – Cheerleading". catamountsports.com. 2008-06-17.
  3. "What Is A Catamount?". catamountsports.com. 2012.
  4. Western Carolina University Athletic Guidelines (PDF). October 1, 2014. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
  5. Ellison, George (29 May 2018). "Blue Ridge Nature Journal: Reflections on the Appalachian Mountains in Essays and Art". History Press via Google Books.
  6. "Western Carolina". CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  7. "Southern Conference Indoor Track & Field Record Book (p.7)" (PDF). SoConSports.Com.
  8. "Southern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Record Book (p. 10)" (PDF). SoConSports.Com.
  9. "Southern Conference Indoor Track & Field Record Book (p. 17)" (PDF). SoConSports.Com.
  10. "Southern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Record Book (p. 16)" (PDF). SoConSports.Com.
  11. "Catamount Athletic Complex". Western Carolina Official Athletics Site. 2006.
  12. 2008 Western Carolina Catamounts Baseball Media Guide pp. 61
  13. "2005–06 WCU WBball Media Guide" (PDF).
  14. "Hall of Fame". Western Carolina Official Athletic Site. 2012.
  15. "Western Carolina University 2012 Football Yearbook (p. 105)" (PDF). Western Carolina University. 2012.
  16. "Battle for the Old Mountain Jug – WCU vs. ASU". Catamountsports.com. 2012.
  17. "Western Carolina 2012 Catamount Baseball Yearbook" (PDF). catamountsports.com. 2012.
  18. "WCU Names Larry Hunter Head Basketball Coach". catamountsports.com. 2005.
  19. "2008–09 Western Carolina Men's Basketball Media Guide (p. 70)" (PDF). catamountsports.com. 2009.
  20. "Harouna Mutombo Profile". catamountsports.com. 2012.
  21. "Women's Basketball History and Record Book (pp. 12–15)" (PDF). catamountsports.com. 2012.
  22. "Western Carolina Softball Record Book PDF (p. 37)" (PDF). Western Carolina Official Athletic Site. 2012.
  23. "2007 Soccer Guide" (PDF). Western Carolina Official Athletics Site. 2007.
  24. "2012 Career Soccer Stats" (PDF). Western Carolina Official Athletics Site. 2012.
  25. "Danny Williamson Profile". Western Carolina Official Athletics Site. 2012.
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