The Western Carolina football program is in the process of rebuilding their football program and they made their first step in doing so on Monday Nov. 12 when Athletic Director Chip Smith announced that Kent Briggs and his staff will be relieved of their duties following the Nov. 17 season finale against Furman. The hunt for the new coach has begun and there is a wide variety of candidates out there who could come in and immediately make a difference in Cullowhee. Of all the candidates that could come in here and do a somewhat decent job, there are a few who could come in and turn the Catamounts from pretenders to contenders in the Southern Conference. With men’s basketball coach Larry Hunter, and women’s basketball coach Kellie Harper, it is obvious that Catamount Athletic Director Chip Smith has made some incredible hires for the WCU Athletic Department and he can make another one for the football program. The following is a list of five potential candidates that would be elite for the Catamount football program. A lot of these guys have assistant coaching experience at some of the nation’s most elite football programs, and all of them could come into WCU and change things around for the better.
Geoff Collins: Director of Player Personnel at the University of Alabama
Why: Hiring this guy makes the most sense logically. Chip Smith likes to hire within the WCU family and Collins played at WCU from 1989-1992 as outside linebacker and defensive back. He was also the former defensive coordinator at Western working under Briggs from 2002-2005. In 2005, the Collins-led defense led the nation in pass defense and ranked 18th nationally. Ironically, 2005 was the last time the Catamounts posted a winning record at 5-4 overall. The main problem this season for the Catamounts was their defense. The Mountaineers were able to compile over 700 yards of offense against the Cats, so defense should be their primary concern and with what this guy has done with the Catamount defense in the past, he can do it again as their head coach.
Why Not: Apparently, a lot went down when Collins was the defensive coordinator at WCU that led to him leaving to become the Director of Player Personnel at Georgia Tech and then at the University of Alabama. While working as WCU’s Defensive Coordinator, the Catamount defense was in the best shape that they have ever been in and could play with anyone while the offense struggled. That and other factors could prevent Chip Smith from even giving him an interview. Another issue that could prevent Collins from coming to WCU is money. As Director of Player Personnel at Alabama, Collins makes $160,000 a year; the job listing for head coach lists the salary at $150,000 a year. The question remains as to whether he would want to take a $10,000 pay cut to be the new coach of the Catamounts in Cullowhee.
Randy Sanders: Quarterback’s Coach at the University of Kentucky
Why: This man has coached several talented quarterbacks at Tennessee such as the great Peyton Manning and has turned Kentucky’s quarterback, Andre Woodson, into one of the most talented players in the nation. Sanders served as offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Volunteers National Championship winning team in 1998. While he was with Tennessee, the Vols won four SEC Championships and had six Eastern Division titles. The Catamounts need a guy who knows how to win and someone who has won a National Championship and several SEC Championships looks to be the best option. He could bring a winning mentality back to Cullowhee, something that has been missing from the WCU football program for a long time. Why Not: This guy is obviously qualified to become the new head coach for the Catamounts. His only drawback is experience. Like Collins, he has no experience of being a head coach and that could be a factor later on. The Athletic Department went down the road of hiring an inexperienced coach with Briggs and it led to a six year 22-42 overall record and put the Cats at the bottom of the Southern Conference in wins, offense, and defense. The school needs a proven head coach who has an impressive resume that could get the job done immediately and knows what it takes to build a winning program.
David Bennett: Head Coach at Coastal Carolina University
Why: Unlike Collins and Sanders, Bennett has actually been a head coach before and has built a decent program down at Coastal Carolina. In 2001, CCU did not even have a football program and now in their sixth season, Bennett has put together a 38-17 overall record and a 14-5 overall record in Big South play. He has built the young Chanticleer team from scratch and could do the same thing in Cullowhee if given some time. His time could be up in Myrtle Beach because of some negative press the team has received for off the field incidents. Bennett has also made it clear that he wants to coach in the Southern Conference, and Western Carolina would be the ideal place for him to build another program like he did at Coastal.
Why Not: Recruiting might be an obstacle for Bennett in Cullowhee. Do you think an 18-year-old kid leaving home for the first time would rather come to Cullowhee or go down to Myrtle Beach? Bennett has established himself as a solid recruiter around the Myrtle Beach area, but this is not the beach, nor is it a big city. But hey, if he can do it at Coastal, who’s to say he couldn’t do in Cullowhee. The fact that he has built that team from scratch might also make it tougher for him to leave.
Dan Brooks: Assistant Head Coach at Tennessee
Why: First of all, he is a Western grad, which could continue the school’s trend of hiring with the Catamount family. He could change things around for WCU, especially in the area that needs the most help for WCU football-defense. He has served 14 years as the Volunteers Defensive Line Coach, and would improve Western’s struggling D-Line that gave up 79 points and over 740 yards against the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Why Not: He could be a coach that comes to WCU to gain some experience as a head coach, and then bails to go somewhere else. That is something the Catamounts do not need right now. Right when WCU is about to be somewhat decent, he could get offered more money at a bigger school to be their next head coach and then WCU is right back to the drawing board with a struggling program that has no coach and extremely bewildered fans. They need somebody for the long haul and that could be a problem with Brooks. Plus, he’s been an assistant at Tennessee for 14 years, and he could very well be a candidate for the Vols’ Head coaching position if and when that opens up. He could change the WCU program for a year or two, and then take his money and run over to Knoxville and take over for Phillip Fulmer. He may be worth pursuing but not worth hiring.
Bill Cowher: Former Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach
Why: He’s Bill Cowher. Enough said. Seriously, this guy could build a successful program in Cullowhee and could boost recruiting because of his name alone. With his family living in Raleigh, Cowher could come to the ‘Whee and build a winning program in the snap of a finger.
Why Not: He’s Bill Cowher. Enough said. It’s all about the Benjamin’s and $150,000 is pocket change for Cowher. If he were to ever come to WCU (which is a really long shot, I just think it would be awesome), the Athletic Department would have to give him millions. Plus, if he came to WCU, he would probably leave in a few years to go to an NFL team and then WCU football would be back to square one.