WCU students hope new athletic director will turn the tideWritten by Quintin Ellison
Randy Eaton has been selected Western Carolina University’s new athletics director and the man designated with rescuing the school’s floundering football program.
He was greeted last week by a throng of Western Carolina University coaches, administrators, faculty and staff. Some students also turned out to meet and greet Eaton.
Abraham Faison, a freshman from Burlington and a member of WCU’s track team, was among those Dec. 14 in the standing-room only crowd in the Ramsey’s Center homecoming room. Faison said he hopes Eaton can turn around a football program that has experienced a decided losing streak. This year, the team won one game, and the last winning season was 2005, when WCU’s football team went 5-4.
Eaton promised the crowd to hire a new football coach by Christmas.
“I came because I wanted to show my support,” Faison said, adding that he also wanted to meet the man chosen to lead all of WCU’s sports programs, including track and field.
Eaton, 50, most recently served as senior associate director of athletics at the University of Maryland.
Eaton’s first job is to replace former Football Coach Dennis Wagner, who posted an 8-36 record in his four-year career at WCU. Wagner was forced out last month, sent on his way with a $300,000 settlement for having his contract terminated. WCU, trying to find the key to a competitive football team, has now bought out the contracts of three football coaches in a row.
A football coach could be named as early as this week, with the university Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday to consider a name.
Eaton replaces Athletic Director Chip Smith who was fired in October, paving the way for Chancellor David Belcher to hire Eaton.
The new athletics director will receive $160,000 a year under the terms of a contract that runs through June 30, 2016.
“What impresses me most about Randy is his unwavering commitment to the student-athlete and the fact that he understands that the word ‘student’ is the most important part of that hyphenated term,” Belcher said. “He is totally committed to the concept that these young people who come to our university are students first, and athletes second. That’s not to say that Randy does not want success on the fields and courts of play, because he shares the same expectations of excellence that I have for all of our sports teams.”
Belcher touted Eaton’s “passion for winning.”
Shawn Dholakia, a student manager for the WCU men’s basketball team, said he attended the meet and greet because he’s excited about a possible new and positive direction for WCU athletics.
“I’m interested in athletics, and I’m involved in it,” Dholakia said. “I wanted to hear what he had to say.”
WCU’s new athletic director Randy Eaton until last week was serving as the senior associate director of athletics at the University of Maryland. He joined the Terrapins’ athletics program in 2003 as associate director in charge of business operations. At Maryland, he was the No. 2 administrator in the athletics department and oversaw a $60 million annual operating budget. He served as interim director in 2010 and recently assumed additional responsibility for new revenues, facilities and operations.
Eaton, in addition to his stint at Maryland, also has held positions at the University of Houston, Texas A&M University, East Tennessee State University, Ohio State University and the University of Texas at San Antonio, and with the Ohio Glory of World League Football.