WCU Football: It’s Time for a Change

Football season for Catamount fans this year has been horrible. After finishing the season 2-9 and going winless in the Southern Conference there is only one logical conclusion to draw from this dreadful mess. It’s time for a change. When I say it’s time for a change, I don’t mean that the players need to change their attitude. I mean that Western Carolina University needs to change the football coach, because Head Coach Kent Briggs is not getting it done in the ‘Whee. The stats do not lie. This is the first time in school history that Western has gone winless in Southern conference play. At 2-9, it is the worst season in 15 years for the football program, and it is the first time in 50 years that the football team has lost nine straight games in one season. Those statistics represent just this season. Let’s look at Coach Briggs’ career statistics. Earlier this year when the Board of Trustees gave Briggs a three-year extension, he had the second best winning percentage in school history at .442. Coach Briggs now only has the seventh best winning percentage (out of 12 coaches) with a .389 mark. That is the worst mark for a Catamount coach since Dale Strahm’s .318, and Strahm only coached one season. Usually when a coach receives a three-year extension it’s because he has established himself as a premier coach at his institution or has shown significant progress, but there is little evidence to support either with Coach Briggs. This season wraps up Briggs’ fifth at WCU. Over his first three seasons Briggs’ record got worse each year (5-6, 5-7, 4-7). Last year, Briggs finally broke through with a winning season (5-4) and because of that he deserved the one-year extension that he received. But then the administration went out and gave him three more years for accomplishing nothing but beating Chowan and Eastern Kentucky. There are a lot of problems with this situation, especially the three-year extension that Briggs received. Usually, an extension is given at the end of the year. Instead, the extension was given two games into this season which is extremely unusual. Now you have a coach that is tied up for three years due to idiotic maneuvering by the Board of Trustees. There is a simple reason you wait until the end of the season to evaluate coaches and it’s because if you don’t, then you could end up with pie on your face like the administration has right now. There are little to no positives on the football team right now. Anybody that can remember the last coach, Bill Bleil, knows that Bleil was not fired because he was a bad coach. On the contrary, Bleil finished his last season at WCU with a 7-4 record. Bleil was fired due to off-the-field problems like when fullback Toren Gordon was charged with murder outside a North Carolina nightclub. No doubt part of the selection of Briggs as coach was due to his outstanding personality, and the administration probably saw Briggs as somebody who could clean up the program. At first, Briggs did solve those problems as he kept the team on the straight and narrow, but now he can’t even accomplish that. The Catamounts have suspended Morrio Clark, Nick Miller, Josh Smith, Brandon Breeden, Marcus Nellums, and Mark Burgess this season. If you haven’t heard, it is because the team has gone to great lengths to keep some of it from coming out. Clark, Miller, Breeden, and Burgess were suspended due to “violation of team rules”, but no comment was ever given on what rules were broken. Smith was suspended due to a non-injury medical condition and Nellums had “team issues” according to Briggs. The coaches swore team members to an oath of silence in the case of senior offensive linemen Mark Burgess, who was kicked off the team before the App. State game. Rumors are flying on the Catamount Pride message board (http://forums.delphiforums.com/catamountpride/start) as to what Burgess and others on the team have done to merit such suspensions. But this much is known for certain the program does not seem to be any cleaner than when Bleil was here. I really hate to rag on Coach Briggs because he is an upstanding man. Briggs is an extremely nice family man that coached his best in probably the darkest moment of his life when he had cancer last year. Briggs is a Catamount through and through and bleeds purple and gold as he has played here, been an assistant coach here, and now is the head coach, but unfortunately it has become painfully obvious that he is not the right fit for Western Carolina anymore. Briggs needs to go and athletic director Chip Smith needs to be given the chance to find somebody right for the program. Smith has been instrumental in finding some of the best coaching talents around in the last three years and has really improved Catamount athletics all around. If Smith gets the chance to hunt for a football coach I’m sure the same positives can occur for the football team.