Chip Smith fired as WCU athletic director

Chip Smith has been relieved of his duties as director of athletics at Western Carolina University.

As first reported on The Western Carolinian’s Facebook page, WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher sent out an e-mail to university faculty and staff on Monday morning announcing that Smith would no longer be athletic director effective Tuesday, Oct. 25. The announcement came on the heels of many Catamount fans and sports columnists calling for a change in the athletic department after questionable coaching hires the past few years and continuing poor performance on the football field this season.

Belcher’s e-mail also announced that Fredrick Q. Cantler, WCU’s longtime senior associate athletic director for internal operations, has agreed to come out of retirement to serve as interim director of athletics.

Smith declined a request for an interview.

“I want to thank Chip for his hard work on behalf of Catamount student-athletes since he came to WCU in September 2004,” Belcher said in the e-mail. “The athletics program has achieved some significant accomplishments over the past seven years, both on the fields and courts of play and in the classroom. Nevertheless, upon careful consideration, I have reached the conclusion that a change in leadership is needed at this time.”

Smith came to WCU as director of athletics in September 2004 from Morehead State University, where he also was director of athletics. Previously, he was director of athletics at Eastern Kentucky University and held administrative appointments at Virginia Military Institute and University of North Carolina campuses at Charlotte and Chapel Hill.

Smith’s salary for the 2011-12 school year was $138,982 according to Western Carolina University budget figures. His contract was set to expire on May 25, 2012.

Cantler, who retired in March after 33 years in athletics administration at WCU, will serve as interim director of athletics as the university conducts a national search for a permanent athletics director, Belcher said.

“With Fred’s wealth of experience, including a previous stint as interim AD, I have the greatest confidence in his ability to keep the athletics program moving forward during this time of transition,” he said. “Fred brings extensive knowledge of athletics budgeting and NCAA compliance issues to this assignment, and I am grateful to him for his willingness to assume this responsibility.”

In his role of senior associate athletics director for internal relations, Cantler was the primary administrator for football, women’s soccer, men’s basketball and baseball. In addition, he served as the department’s compliance and eligibility officer, a duty he held from 1995 until his retirement. He also was responsible for game-day management, scheduling and supervising the maintenance of athletics facilities, organizing and scheduling athletics summer camps, serving as a liaison between athletics and other departments on campus, and overseeing the training, weight and equipment rooms.

Cantler also served as interim athletics director for WCU in 2004, after Jeff Compher left the position to become executive associate director of athletics at the University of Washington.

During his career as a sports administrator, Cantler helped develop the Catamount women’s soccer program from scratch in 1999. Two years later in 2001, the program captured the first of its three Southern Conference tournament championships. Also, the Catamount baseball team won both the regular season and tournament titles in 2003 and won the regular season in 2007, advancing to the NCAA regional tournaments.

Additionally, Cantler has served as the floor director at the annual Southern Conference men’s basketball tournament, and has served on the conference’s officials committee and the basketball tournament committee, as well as on various NCAA committees.

A 1978 graduate of Western Kentucky University, Cantler came to Western Carolina in August of that year as the department’s athletic trainer – a position he held for 17 years before moving into athletics administration.

He is married to the former Katrina Hipp of Charlotte, who is a teacher at Sylva’s Smoky Mountain High School. The couple has two children – Natalie Cantler Canter and Clay Cantler.