July 27, 2004
Cullowhee, N.C. - The Western Carolina Department of Athletics has announced today that former University of North Carolina assistant coach Megan Smith will take the reins as WCU's first softball coach since 1985 when the then slow-pitch Catamount softball program was dropped.
"I feel very honored to be the first fast-pitch softball coach at WCU and am happy to be working at Western Carolina," Smith said. "I'm excited to start a great program and have the chance to win championships at Western. It's great what they are planning with the stadium and it's exciting to come in as a new coach in that environment. I have served as an assistant coach for two years and was a head coach before that, so I am ready to be back in charge."
Most recently at UNC, Smith has served as an assistant coach where she helped head coach Donna Papa with recruiting, fundraising efforts, overseeing the academic progress of the student-athletes, practice planning and game management. There, she worked primarily with the infield and hitters and served as the first base coach. During the 2003-04 season, she helped guide the Tar Heels to a 46-24 overall record, a second place regular-season finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference and an NCAA regional bid. Smith was additionally the Carolina Softball Camps, Inc. director, organizing and implementing the marketing strategy for the program, developing the camp schedule, recruiting instructors and coordinating housing, meals and transportation for the campers.
"Megan did an outstanding job here at North Carolina and we certainly hate to lose her, but she is a very strong and competitive person and will bring that to her team," Papa said. "She is very dynamic in her position and a hard worker both as a player and a coach. Describing Megan, she brings a lot of energy to the team, she's an excellent teacher, a good recruiter, has a good eye for talent, is very disciplined and organized and she really added a lot of life to our program. Megan instituted creative ideas with team bonding. She has a great personality, the girls loved her and she really worked them and demanded their best. Going to Western is a great opportunity for her. I think she's a great choice and there's nobody better suited for the job than she is. I know she will do things the right way."
Prior to her stint at North Carolina, Smith was an assistant coach at UNC Charlotte. While at Charlotte, she worked with the team's infielders, pitchers and served as the hitting coach. She organized all recruiting efforts, including evaluations, contacts, official and unofficial visits as well as assisted head coach Aimee DeVos in all aspects of running the program.
Before taking the position at Charlotte, Smith held the title of head softball coach at Young Harris College in Georgia for two seasons where her teams compiled a 79-41 record. As the head coach, she was responsible for all aspects of the NJCAA Division I program. Without an assistant coach, she planned every practice and strength and conditioning session, organized all team travel, developed and maintained the budget, organized recruiting efforts, planned and supervised weekly study hall sessions, oversaw the team's academic progress and developed fund raising opportunities.
At Young Harris, Smith collected two regional runner-up titles and was one game away from the National Tournament in 2001. During that two year span, nearly every school record was broken, including wins in a season (45), team home runs, individual home runs, team strikeouts, team ERA, season team batting average, team slugging percentage and team fielding percentage. In 2002, her players were nationally ranked for stolen bases, strikeouts and home runs. The squad was also ranked 11th nationally for team batting average (.361). Eight of her players were named to the all-region team.
As a four-year softball player at the University of North Carolina, Smith earned her bachelor of arts degree in Exercise and Sport Science and Recreation Administration. During her career, she primarily played third base and served as a captain during her senior season. While at Carolina, she broke the school record for RBI in a game, became the third ranked player in career assists and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1999. Smith also received many academic honors at UNC, including being named to the All-ACC Honor Roll for three years and to the Dean's List for two semesters. She received her master of science degree in Human Performance and Sport Studies with a concentration in Sport Management from the University of Tennessee in 2000.
"We're very excited to have Megan Smith join the Catamount family," Assistant Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator Debbie Hensley said. "She will bring a lot of enthusiasm and leadership to our young program. In addition, she has coached at two high level programs in our state, competed in the ACC while in college and has head coaching experience in the mountains. We are looking forward to building a championship softball program and continuing the winning Catamount tradition."
Western Carolina sponsored a slow-pitch softball program from 1978-1985. WCU was an AIAW Division II school for four of those years and transitioned to an NCAA Division I school during the 1981-82 school year. Betty Peele commissioned the Catamount softball squad all eight years and compiled a record of 190-103 for a .648 winning percentage during that span. Also during the eight-year span, WCU played in three regional tournaments and three AIAW National Tournaments, finishing fifth in both national tournament appearances. The Cats additionally won two North Carolina State Invitational Championships in 1982 and '84.
In 1985, the NCAA required its Division I members to sponsor eight men's sports and six women's sports. Therefore, effective as of the 1985-96 season, WCU realigned its athletic program and rifle, men's soccer and softball were dropped to make way for women's tennis and track and field.
"I am excited about Western getting a softball program again," Peele said. "I'm sure Megan will do a good job with the program and will be able to continue the winning tradition."