Cullowhee, N.C. - Former Western Carolina football student-athlete and longtime football coach Don Powers has been selected to be enshrined into the Western Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame. The Hall's 28th induction class will be honored the weekend of Nov. 10-11, coinciding with the Catamount football regular season home finale against Southern Conference opponent, Mercer.
Powers played for the Purple & Gold from 1963-67 under head coach Dan Robinson, and had two different coaching stints at his alma mater spanning 18 years. Beginning as a graduate assistant under Robinson, Powers first coached at WCU from 1968-83, where he served most extensively under legendary head coach Bob Waters, and again later on Kent Briggs' staff in 2006-07. While at Western Carolina, Powers was associated with some of WCU's most prolific teams and coached some of the greatest players in school history.
Western Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame
Powers joined Robinson's coaching staff at WCU in 1968 as a graduate assistant. Then, the following year under Waters, became a full-time assistant assigned to the linebackers, a post he held until 1974 when he was named defensive coordinator. In 1982, Powers was named assistant head coach, becoming the first person in WCU history to earn such a title.
His impact at WCU was felt immediately upon being named defensive coordinator for the 1974 season as the unit finished fourth in the nation in scoring defense, limiting opponents to just 87 points in 11 games in helping guide the Catamounts to the NCAA Division II national playoffs, its first NCAA postseason appearance.
After losing its first game of the 1974 season, the Catamounts won nine straight to gain a berth into the playoffs. Although Western Carolina fell, 10-7, at Louisiana Tech, it finished the season ranked eighth in the final Associated Press College Division poll and its defense established impressive records. Most significant was allowing just nine touchdowns on the season and only three TDs over the final six.
A combined five times from 1976-83, WCU ranked among the NCAA leaders in pass defense, pacing the nation in the category in 1977 by allowing just 77.5 yards per game. Also, the Catamount defense led the SoCon in passing defense from 1977-79.
In the final season of his first coaching stint at WCU, Powers helped the Catamounts reach the 1983 NCAA I-AA national championship game -- the first SoCon school to reach the title game. That talent-laden team featured four players who would earn All-American honors in their career including Mark Buffamoyer, Louis Cooper, Tiger Greene, and Clyde Simmons. Also, Buffamoyer, Greene, Bernard Jones, Ricky Pate, Richard Dukes, and Steve Marshall would be named All-Southern Conference during that magical season.
All told, since WCU became a full member of the SoCon for the 1977 season, a total of 27 all-league honors were bestowed upon Catamount defenders over a seven-year period under Powers' watch. Upon his return in the mid-2000's, Powers had defensive back Mitchell Dukes garner first team All-SoCon plaudits within his system in 2006. Linebacker Quintin Phillips collected second team all-conference honors from the league's head coaches in 2007, while defensive end Jeff Bradley collected honors from the media that same season under the tutelage of Powers.
Prior to the SoCon years, Powers coached WCU greats David Rathburn, Harvey Walker, and Alan Stubblefield, who rank first, third and fifth, respectively, on the WCU career interceptions list, as well as two-time, All-American linebacker Steve Yates. Of the 31 All-Americans in WCU's 86-year history, Powers played a key role in bringing six to Western, including Alonzo Carmichael, Cooper, Steve Kornegay, Darrell Lipford, Simmons, and Yates, as well as Academic All-America selections, Mike Wade and Eddie Maddox.
After leaving WCU after the 1983 season, Powers continued his collegiate coaching career at three different stops. From Cullowhee, he ventured to Western Kentucky in 1984 before returning to his home state the following year where he worked under legendary head coach Art Baker at East Carolina. With the Hilltoppers, Powers served as the assistant head coach, defensive coordinator, and coached the defensive backs in '84. In 1985 Powers served as the Pirates' defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. Then, from 1986-88, he was Baker's assistant head coach and continued coaching the defensive backfield.
In 1988, Powers traded his second shade of purple and gold for light blue as he landed in the South Carolina Lowcountry at fellow conference school, The Citadel. He spent the first seven years as the defensive coordinator and the final five (1996-2000) as the program's 20th head coach all-time, taking over in 1996.
Powers twice garnered Southern Conference Defensive Assistant Coach of the Year honors in both 1990 and 1992 in helping guide the Bulldogs to their second conference title in the latter and a No. 1 national ranking in Division I-AA. That team went 11-2 overall and 6-1 in the SoCon, while recording victories over Arkansas and Army, and reached the second round of the then NCAA I-AA playoffs. The 1992 Citadel defensive unit ranked first in the NCAA I-AA in scoring defense, yielding only 13.0 points per contest. He also mentored two-time consensus All-America selection and Citadel Hall of Fame inductee, Lester Smith, who had his No. 15 jersey retired, and former cornerback Torrence Forney, who was also a first team All-America selection in 1992.
In his first season at the helm, Powers directed the Bulldogs to four victories. Of the 13 Citadel previous head football coaches, only three posted more wins in their inaugural season.
In recent years, many of Powers' former players from The Citadel have banded together to compose a book in tribute to Powers called "The Powers In Us." The document stemmed from a Facebook group that collected a variety of "Powerisms" -- or sayings attributed to their former coach that remained with each of the contributing players.
Originally from Lincolnton, N.C., where he was a 2004 inductee into the Lincoln County Hall of Fame, Powers graduated cum laude from Western Carolina in 1968 with a B.S. in Health and Physical Education. The following year in 1969, he received his Masters of Education from WCU in Health and P.E.
Powers is married to the former Ms. Jane Strickland, who is a 1971 graduate of WCU. The couple has two daughters, Cassie Powers Hanna and Carrie Powers Zipperer, and have three grandchildren, Simmons, James, and William.
Including this year's induction class, Western Carolina's Athletics Hall of Fame has enshrined 118 individuals, five athletic teams, 11 Patron Award winners, and two recognized for career achievements since its creation and establishment in 1990.
To be considered for induction into the Western Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame, nominees must be submitted to the Hall of Fame committee where they are kept on file for a period of five years. Each spring, the committee convenes to vote upon a list of nominees that are approved by the Hall's executive committee, which checks that those nominated meet the criteria as put forth by the committee's constitution. Appropriate forms are available online at CatamountSports.com.