CULLOWHEE — C. Jeffrey Compher, senior associate director of athletics at Vanderbilt University and formerly assistant director of athletics at North Carolina State University, will be the next director of athletics at Western Carolina University.
The appointment of Compher was announced Thursday (Feb. 10) by Western Carolina Chancellor John W. Bardo following a national search and on-campus interviews with four finalists selected from a field of more than 120 applicants.
Compher, whose appointment was approved by WCU’s board of trustees during a special called meeting Thursday morning, will begin work at Western on March 15. Current athletics director Larry L. Travis, who will retire June 30, will assist in the transition and then begin work with Chancellor Bardo on national issues in intercollegiate athletics.
Announcement of the new director of athletics comes at “a crucial milepost in the growth and development” of Western, said Bardo, citing a rise in academic standards, establishment of a residential Honors College, innovative applications of computer technology to learning, and a growing reputation as a national leader in undergraduate research.
“The university is moving forward and gaining recognition on many fronts. Today, we are taking an important step to assure that the university’s intercollegiate athletics program not only keeps pace, but perhaps steps up the pace and leads the way,” Bardo said.
“We searched for a person who understands the academic and athletic stature to which this university aspires. We have found one,” he said in introducing Compher. “We searched for a person who would embrace our goals: To compete for nothing short of the conference championship in every sport, every year; to have our student-athletes graduate at rates as good or better than any institution in the conference; to run a clean program, in full compliance with all Southern Conference and NCAA rules and regulations; to increase attention to the welfare of all student-athletes; and to be in full compliance with the letter and the spirit of all laws and regulations involving gender equity. Again, we have found the person for which we searched.”
Compher’s career in intercollegiate athletics administration began at N.C. State in 1986 when he joined the staff of then-athletic director Todd Turner. As assistant director of athletics, Compher played a major role in establishing the university’s first student-athlete life skills program and in developing such organizations as the Captain’s Table and the Varsity Club to give current and former student-athletes a voice in the department.
Compher served as assistant director of athletics at N.C. State until 1992, when he began a brief stint in pharmaceutical sales. He returned to higher education in 1993 as director of the Chancellor’s Circle at N.C. State, a fund- and friend-raising organization in the university’s advancement division. In 1994, he was selected by then-Chancellor Larry K. Monteith to serve as assistant to the chancellor, a key administrative post.
Compher remained in that position at N.C. State through 1996, when he accepted the position of associate director of athletics at Vanderbilt, joining his former athletics department supervisor at N.C. State, Todd Turner. He was promoted to senior associate director of athletics at Vanderbilt in 1998.
At Vanderbilt, Compher has been credited with revamping the university’s NCAA compliance program and opening up lines of communication. He has helped develop an open-door model of communication that invites input from coaches, students, student-athletes, staff, alumni and supporters.
Compher is responsible for overall management of all external components within Vanderbilt’s athletics program, including annual giving through the National Commodore Club, media relations, marketing and promotions, corporate sponsorship sales, radio and television properties and broadcast rights, and ticket sales. He also supervises merchandising and licensing efforts.
As associate director, he oversaw weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings for all athletics department administrators and coaches, and he had direct supervision, budget preparation and line responsibilities for several programs, including NCAA compliance, academic support, life skills for student-athletes, strength and conditioning, and equipment.
He hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology from James Madison University and a master’s degree in counseling and student personnel services from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.