Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina University and Catamount Athletics were saddened this week to learn of the passing of former football player, coach, and athletics administrator Bobby Neil Setzer at the age of 86. A native of Haywood County, Setzer dedicated 36 years of his life to Catamount Athletics including 28-plus years on the football staff, six seasons as the head wrestling coach, and retired in 1992 after four years as the athletics director. He was enshrined in the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame the same year in which he retired.
Funeral services will be held at 11:00 am on Saturday, Jan. 26, at Cullowhee Baptist Church, with Dr. Jeffrey Vickery and the Rev. Tonya Vickery officiating. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. The family will receive friends from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm on Friday, Jan. 25 at Wells Funeral Home in Waynesville. An online memorial register is available at “Obituaries” at www.WellsFuneralHome.com.
The family would appreciate memorials be made to the WCU Foundation, (memo line) Setzer Scholarship Fund, Catamount Club, 92 Catamount Road, Cullowhee, NC 28723.
A four-year letter winner in football under legendary head coach Tom Young, Setzer was twice selected All-North State Conference as a lineman between 1951 and 1955, serving as a team captain on the 1955 team. He graduated from Western Carolina in 1957 after two years of service in the United States Army as a member of the 11th Airborne Division.
Following his graduation, Setzer earned his start in coaching and athletics administration on-staff in Cullowhee, earning a master’s degree from WCU in 1961. He then spent three seasons as a teacher, head football coach, athletics director, and later assistant principal at East Rutherford High where he compiled a 30-13 overall record and was inducted into the high school’s hall of fame in 2004.
Setzer returned to Cullowhee in 1966 as a tenured assistant professor in industrial education and technology, assistant football coach, and head wrestling coach, reviving WCU’s collegiate wrestling program in Cullowhee after a 20-year hiatus.
All told on the Catamount football coaching staff, Setzer served most of those years as defensive line coach under former head coaches Dan Robinson and Bob Waters. During his affiliation with WCU football, the program moved from the NAIA and the old North State Conference to the NCAA and the Southern Conference in the mid-1970s. He helped develop numerous defensive line all-stars at Western Carolina including college division All-America selections and professional players Steve Williams and Frank Stankunas, and such all-conference performers as Denny Williams, Keith Elliott, Kenny Lewis, Bobby Peche, and Ty Smith – three of which joined him in the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame as individuals as well as both the 1969 and 1983 football teams.
In 1983, he was elevated to assistant head football coach by Waters.
Setzer’s career in Catamount athletics culminated with him succeeding Terry L. Wanless as the program’s director of athletics. Of his appointment back in 1989, Setzer stated, “…I wish to provide the best athletic program possible for the students who choose to come to WCU to play a sport or to become a loyal fan of the Catamounts – a program that WCU alumni and other supporters can be proud of.”
In the release from February of 1989 announcing his elevation to athletics director, it was noted that throughout his career at WCU, Setzer managed to teach a full academic load while carrying out his dual responsibilities in athletics. In 1984, he received the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in the School of Technology and Applied Science. Two years earlier, he was elected faculty Citizen of the Year by the student government association.
Following his career at Western Carolina, Setzer served on the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission ninth district for 12 years, two of which were as Vice-chairman. In 2005, the Bobby N. Setzer State Fish Hatchery was dedicated, located at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education in Brevard. The same year, he
Setzer is survived by his wife of 63 years, Anne Bridges Setzer; two older brothers, Leroy and Joel, and twin sister, Betty Nell Ferguson. Also surviving are four children, Allen Neil (Tiffany), Laura Lembeck, Joel Bobby (Lesha), and Steven Lee (Jennifer); 10 grandchildren, Jake, Lindsey, Leah, Alex, Natalie, Katie, Holly, John Lee, Kathryn and Morgan; six great-grandchildren and his loving caregiver of three years, Michael Labena Faltamo.