Briggs’ era ends at Western

On Monday, November 12, Western Carolina Athletic Director Chip Smith announced that WCU head football coach Kent Briggs would be reassigned to another position at Western and the rest of the coaching staff would be replaced. The news does not come as a great surprise considering Western’s abysmal record of 3-19 over the last two seasons, including 15 straight losses in the Southern Conference. It didn’t help that the Cats were destroyed 79-35 by hated-rival Appalachian State two days before the announcement. “This has been a hard decision to make. Kent is a hard worker and he and his family are respected members of the university community,” said Smith in a statement released on the 12th. “This has been a difficult and trying season for everyone associated with Catamount football. As has been widely known, the football program has been under continuous evaluation for an extended period of time. There have been on-field improvements, but overall the program has not progressed as we all had hoped.” The only surprise in the situation is that Western made the move with Briggs still being owed $110,823 for two more seasons. The Western athletic department is not particularly rich in funds and many people thought Briggs would still be coach for one more season due to the three year extension he signed early last year. Western still had one game left when they made the decision to re-assign Briggs which brings into question why they didn’t wait until after the Furman game. No matter the reasoning for the in-season announcement, Briggs, an Asheville-native and graduate of WCU, was obviously very disappointed with the decision. “I’m a Catamount – will always be a Catamount. This is a great University and I appreciate the privilege to have been the head coach here. It will always hurt my heart that we did not turn the corner with regards to the win-loss record, but I believe we are very close,” said Briggs in another statement released on the 12th. “In fact, the future is bright and great things are going to happen.” In the end, Briggs will finish his six-year head coaching career at Western with a record of 22-43. Briggs had many negatives during his tenure which included a .338 winning percentage (6th-worst in school history, 2nd-worst among WCU coaches after 1950), the most losses in one season with 10 this year, and a program that has seen many player suspensions and defections during the last two years. The Briggs’ era while statistically among one of the worst at Western still had some highlights. The Cats came from behind to upset Appalachian State 30-27 at home in 2004. Briggs also proved to be an inspiration to many people the next season as he produced what would be his only winning record at WCU (5-4) during his most trying time as he dealt with cancer. After the Furman game, Briggs addressed his legacy as coach. “The only thing I ever even thought was us winning the Southern Conference Championship and anything else less to me was not getting the job done. If anything, these past two years have caused people to jump in and say, ‘You know what we’ve got to do something to make this program as good as it could be.’ This is the turning point, and the people who love this program have to do something more.’ The Southern Conference is very competitive and in order for this team to stay competitive we’ve got to do more and I truly believe that is going to happen. If anything I’ll remember the task force came through and saw things that we needed. Obviously, for this coaching staff, we didn’t take advantage of it. It’s kind of like the Calvary is still out there coming our way, it just hasn’t gotten here yet, but it will. I believe that the task force showed we’ll be taken care of in the years to come.” Briggs may be gone as head coach of Western, but after the game he left one last reason as to why he was so liked around campus. “Whatever situation I land with next, my family is my priority and is my focus point.” That is the true Briggs legacy. Maybe he wasn’t the right coach for Western, but he was one heck of a nice guy.