Head Football Coach Kent Briggs gets to build continuity with 3-year extension

On September 13, the executive committee of Western Carolina University’s board of trustees unanimously agreed to a three-year contract extension with head football coach Kent Briggs. With this extension, Coach Briggs will get to keep building onto the Western football program and have a chance to prove that he can be successful in Cullowhee despite what his past record might say. Coach Briggs originally came to Western in 1976 as a player and played quarterback for the Cats from ’76-’79. After graduating, Briggs joined Bob Waters’ staff at Western as an assistant and stayed for nine years before spending 11 seasons as an assistant coach at NC State. From ’96-’99, Briggs was co-defensive coordinator for the Wolfpack. Briggs became defensive coordinator at Connecticut in 2001, and after one season, he came back to Cullowhee as a head coach. His second time in Western has not been as successful as his first turn as a Catamount. From 2002 through 2005, Briggs has compiled a record of 19-24, including 12-18 in conference play. The Cats posted their first winning season under Briggs last year by going 5-4. While producing a mediocre record, it should be noted that Briggs still has the second best winning percentage at Western with a .442 winning percentage. Briggs stands behind only the great Bob Waters’ mark of .550. Briggs carries this sense of history with him when discussing his losing record. “If you look history wise at Western Carolina, we had some success in the ’80s, but if you look overall as a football program we don’t have a winning record. Coach Waters is obviously the most successful coach, but what we have to keep doing is build our program and improve our financial base so we can do more with recruiting and our operational budget,” said Briggs. “Right now we’re not in the upper level of coaching salaries or operational budget in our conference. We have to get there to enhance our chances of improving.” It doesn’t help Briggs’ chances of winning that the competition in the SoCon is so tough. “Well, I think you have to look at the total picture. First off, we play a lot of guarantee games. In my career here, I know we’ve played five I-A schools for financial reasons. We play in the Southern Conference and I think I’ve counted up over the last four or five years about 12 ranked teams that we’ve lost to. You throw together those five 1-A games and those ranked games and the competition is really stiff in this conference,” said Briggs. The Cats have still enjoyed some success under Briggs despite the stiff competition. “We’ve beaten a lot teams over the past four years that we hadn’t beaten in a long time. We beat Appalachian, we beat Furman, and we beat Wofford when they were a ranked. I think we have shown improvement as a program even though our record has been mediocre, and I think over the next three years you’ll see big improvements,” said Briggs. While Briggs has had some success over the last four years, he knows that continuity in the program is the best chance for succeeding even more over the next three years. That is why the extension is a very exciting prospect for Coach Briggs and supporters of Western Carolina University. “I’m excited for the football program. The fact is that we can have continuity, and our players can have basically the same philosophy here, plus our coaches can build a stable environment for their families. It’s really good for our program and for recruiting. It gives us the ability to go out and recruit players and know we’re going to be here for the next three years. I think that is really important in the decision making process of high school athletes,” stated Briggs. “Continuity is also really important because if you look at the teams that win every year in the Southern Conference, they are built around continuity. If you look at Furman, their staff has been there for years and years. Appalachian has had Jerry Moore for 17 years, and all these factors kind of go into building a program. One of the biggest factors in winning is continuity of staff.” Briggs is not only excited about the continuity that the extension gives the program, but also about the fact that he will have a shot at fulfilling his goals. It’s always been his goal to be head coach at Western and now that he is head coach, his goal is to build a program that will make alumni proud. Briggs calls being head coach at Western not a job but a “love,” and one reason for that is the relationships that he has been able to build in Cullowhee. “The People. I think what makes Cullowhee and Western Carolina unique is the relationships people have here. It’s not a city and that causes people to be near each other and to build a relationship and have a social life and have fun. The guys that were in my wedding, the guys that were around when my kids were born, and the guys that are probably going to carry me off in a casket are all guys that I played ball with at Western Carolina. I’ve been at NC State and UConn, and those are great institutions, but I’ve never seen anything that even comes close to the relationships we have here,” said Briggs. Those relationships really helped Briggs through some tough times last year after he was diagnosed with cancer. Briggs kept coaching even though he had cancer, and while it was tough, he got through it using teamwork and a positive attitude. Luckily, his cancer finally went away after treatments. “It was a lot tougher than I thought going into it. To be honest, I had it set in my mind that I was going to coach, and once you start something you never want to back away from it. It was difficult, but I really want to thank the support that Western Carolina gave me, and more importantly I want to thank our players,” said Briggs. “They gave me the ability to coach because I did have some limitations. My voice wasn’t as strong. I had a blood clot in my leg so I was limited in my mobility. The players really allowed me to coach because they stepped up to the plate and did the things it took to win football games. Being the head coach, I’ll always be in debt to that team last year, but I also had great support from family, administration, and the coaching staff. I can’t say it was easy, but hey that’s part of life.” After surviving cancer, Briggs is as optimistic as ever and hopes to take the Catamounts to new heights over the next three seasons. The new extension should help with that. “Well our goal since I was a player, an assistant coach, and definitely as a head coach is to win the Southern Conference Championship. That is our goal, and I truly believe we’ll make that in the next several years. I think we are very close,” said Briggs.