Western Carolina Catamounts
UniversityWestern Carolina University
NCAADivision I (FCS)
Athletic directorAlex Gary [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]
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.


The nickname Catamount derives from cats of the catamount variety, including the bobcat, that roams the southern Appalachian Mountains where the school is located.[clarification needed] 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:
Baseball Alan Beck
Men's Basketball Tim Craft
Women's Basketball Jonathan Tsipis
Men's Cross Country Jesse Norman
Women's Cross Country Jesse Norman
Football Kerwin Bell
Men's Golf Tim Eckberg
Women's Golf Courtney Gunter
Women's Soccer Chad Miller
Softball Jim Clift
Women's Tennis Bret Beaver
Men's Track & Field Jesse Norman
Women's Track & Field Jesse Norman
Women's Volleyball Karen Glover


The Catamounts baseball team has reached the NCAA tournament 12 times, including five straight years from 1985 to 1989, three straight years from 1992 to 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

Main article: Western Carolina Catamounts 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

Main article: Western Carolina Catamounts 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.


Main article: Western Carolina Catamounts 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


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)


Regular Season: 1 (2006)


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

Tournament: 3 (1983, 1985, 1986)

Women's Soccer

Regular Season: 2 (2001, 2023)

Tournament: 3 (2005, 2009, 2023)

Men's Track and Field


1999 2004 2006 2008 2012 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019[6]


1999 2006 2007 2009[7] 2013 2016 2017 2018 2019

Women's Track and Field


1996 1997 1999 2000 2008 2010[8] 2013 2014 2015


1997 1999 2000 2001 2008 2010[9] 2013 2015 2016 2018


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]


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

Coach Years Number Years Record
1 C.C. Poindexter 1931–1934 4 years 10–26–2
2 Ralph James 1935–1938 4 years 4–30–3
3 James Whatley 1939–1941 3 years 6–1–1
4 Marion McDonald 1945 1 year 1–3–0
5 Tom Young 1946–1955 10 years 39–55–4
6 Dan Robinson 1956–1968 13 years 51–67–6
7 Bob Waters 1969–1988 20 years 116–94–6
8 Dale Strahm 1989 1 year 3–7–1
9 Steve Hodgin 1990–1996 7 years 31–45–0
10 Bill Bleil 1997–2001 5 years 23–32
11 Kent Briggs 2002–2007 6 years 22–43
12 Dennis Wagner 2008–2011 4 years 8–36
13 Mark Speir 2012–2020 7 years 29–43
14 Kerwin Bell 2021– 3 years 17–16

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


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

Coach Years Record
Jim Gudger 1951–60, '63 140–83
Charles Seeger 1961–62 20–21
Ron Blackburn 1964–68 78–65
Bill Haywood 1969–81 215–161–2
David Wright 1982 28–12
Jack Leggett 1983–91 302–226
Keith LeClair 1992–97 229–135–2
Rodney Hennon 1998–99 81–38
Todd Raleigh 2000–07 257–209
Bobby Moranda 2008–pres. 189–146–2
Totals 60 Years 1,474–1,052–6

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 to 2012. 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

Coach Years Record
Pete Plemmons 1928–31 35–22
C.C. Poindexter 1931–35 50–30
Ralph James 1935–39 47–39
James Whatley 1939–42 33–18
Marion McDonald 1945–47 28–22
Tuck McConnell 1947–50 37–43
Jim Gudger 1951–69 311–222
Jim Hartbarger 1969–75 86–73
Fred Conley 1974–77 31–32
Steve Cottrell 1977–87 145–133
Herb Krusen 1987–88 8–19
Dave Possinger 1988–90 12–16
Greg Blatt 1989–93 38–73
Benny Dees 1993–95 26–30
Phil Hopkins 1995–2000 65–76
Steve Shurina 2001–05 48–97
Larry Hunter 2005–18 193–229
Mark Prosser 2018–2021 37–53
Justin Gray 2021–2024 51–47
Tim Craft 2024– 0–0

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

Coach Years Record
Betty Westmoreland 1965–79 189–89
Judy Murray 1979–81 28–22
Judy Stroud 1981–85 46–58
Tony Baldwin 1985–90 51–83
Janet Cone 1990–93 17–65
Gary Peters 1993–97 34–74
Maria Fantanarosa 1997–98 7–20
Jill Dunn 1998–2000 23–33
Beth Dunkenberger 2000–04 65–50
Kelli Harper 2004–09 97–65
Karen Middleton 2009–15 63–121
Stephanie McCormick 2015–19 23–94
Kiley Hill 2019–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[20]

Coach Years Record
Megan Smith 2006–07 41–29
Christine Hornak 2007–2011 111–216
JIm Clift 2011–Present 136–189


Program History:[21]

All-time coaching history[22]

Coach Year Record
Debbie Hensley 1999–04 55–52–11
Tammy Decesare 2005–09 58–36–13
Chad Miller 2010–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 Cale McDaniel 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.

After a successful 2016, 2017, and 2018 McDaniel left to Kennesaw State University as director of track and field.

Jesse Norman was then announced in 2019 to be 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


  1. ^ "Western Carolina Official Athletic Site :: Athletic Department". Western Carolina University. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  2. ^ a b "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. ^ "Western Carolina". CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Southern Conference Indoor Track & Field Record Book (p.7)" (PDF). SoConSports.Com.
  7. ^ a b "Southern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Record Book (p. 10)" (PDF). SoConSports.Com.
  8. ^ a b "Southern Conference Indoor Track & Field Record Book (p. 17)" (PDF). SoConSports.Com.
  9. ^ a b "Southern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Record Book (p. 16)" (PDF). SoConSports.Com.
  10. ^ "2005–06 WCU WBball Media Guide" (PDF).
  11. ^ 2008 Western Carolina Catamounts Baseball Media Guide Archived 2011-05-22 at the Wayback Machine pp. 61
  12. ^ "Catamount Athletic Complex". Western Carolina Official Athletics Site. 2006.
  13. ^ a b "Hall of Fame". Western Carolina Official Athletic Site. 2012.
  14. ^ a b c "Western Carolina University 2012 Football Yearbook (p. 105)" (PDF). Western Carolina University. 2012.
  15. ^ a b c "Battle for the Old Mountain Jug – WCU vs. ASU". Catamountsports.com. 2012.
  16. ^ "Western Carolina 2012 Catamount Baseball Yearbook" (PDF). catamountsports.com. 2012.
  17. ^ "Mark Prosser - Head Coach". Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  18. ^ "2008–09 Western Carolina Men's Basketball Media Guide (p. 70)" (PDF). catamountsports.com. 2009.
  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.
  22. ^ "2012 Career Soccer Stats" (PDF). Western Carolina Official Athletics Site. 2012.
  23. ^ "Danny Williamson Profile". Western Carolina Official Athletics Site. 2012.