CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University Chancellor John W. Bardo announced Tuesday (Aug. 16) that he will ask the university’s board of trustees to grant a one-year contract extension for Kent Briggs, the Catamounts’ head football coach who is battling head and neck cancer.
Briggs, who is recovering after a seven-week round of chemotherapy and radiation treatments following surgery to remove a cancerous growth from his neck, is in the final year of a four-year contract.
“As most people know, Kent is dealing with a very serious, potentially life-threatening illness right now. He and his family obviously have enough on their minds without worrying about his status at the university at the end of the current football season,” Bardo said.
“We want to be sure we make evaluations about all university employees based on their on-the-job performance during normal circumstances. These are not normal circumstances for Kent, and I feel it only fair and reasonable to give him an extension on his contract through the 2006 season,” he said.
Bardo said he plans to ask the board to approve the contact extension at its Sept. 2 meeting.
“I think it is important that Coach Briggs and his family know we are behind them,” Bardo said. “Kent and his wife, Lisa, have been a part of the university family for many years. Both are graduates of Western, and both have a great deal of affection for this institution. The university needs to stand by its people in times of difficulty.”
Briggs, 48, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Western. An Asheville native and graduate of Reynolds High School, he played quarterback at Western under legendary coach Bob Waters from 1976 until 1979, and later worked as assistant coach with Waters from 1980 until 1988. Lisa Briggs, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western, is an assistant professor of applied criminology.
Chip Smith, director of athletics at Western, called Bardo’s decision “sensible and compassionate.”
“I appreciate the support of Chancellor Bardo in working out this agreement,” Smith said. “Kent and his family have experienced a very difficult summer. This will let Kent focus on his recuperation and the season ahead without any unnecessary concerns.”
Briggs said he is grateful to the university administration for the decision to extend his contract.
“First of all, I would like to express my gratitude on behalf of my staff and family for the great show of support Dr. Bardo and Chip Smith have given me through this difficult time. Extending my contract is a great gesture of faith in me as a person, as well as what we are doing and how we are doing it,” Briggs said.
“I am a Catamount and always will be. I will continue my effort in making this program the best it can be. The coaching staff and players are excited about the upcoming season and feel like the future is a good one. This year’s team has a good mix of experience and newcomers, which should make this challenging year an exciting one,” he said.
“This year extension will give this staff, current players and players we are recruiting solid continuity over the next year.”