CULLOWHEE -- Randy Eaton, director of athletics at Western Carolina University, has received a four-year contract extension that will keep him at the helm of the Catamount athletics program through at least June 30, 2020.
The executive committee of the WCU Board of Trustees granted the contract extension during a conference call meeting Tuesday, July 21. The University of North Carolina Board of Governors approved the contract's base salary at its meeting Friday, Aug. 7.
Eaton also would be given an additional year to the term of the contract (through July 2, 2021) by meeting two incentives within the same academic year -- if the average Academic Progress Rate for WCU student-athletes exceeds the average APR for the Southern Conference, and if the Department of Athletics fundraising results increase by 10 percent over the previous year.
The contract extension came at the recommendation of WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher.
"Under Randy's leadership, our student-athletes are enjoying great academic success while also being competitive in the Southern Conference," Belcher said. "Our athletics programs have been strengthened with some great coaching hires, and Catamount athletics has made tremendous strides forward in its fundraising efforts."
Since 2010-2011, 12 of WCU's 16 teams have shown an increase in scores on the NCAA's annual Academic Progress Rate report, which tracks the academic progress of each student-athlete on scholarship and examines eligibility, retention and graduation to provide a measure of each team's academic performance.
The men's basketball team earned the National Recognition Award from the NCAA for being in the top 10 percent of APR for all Division I men's teams for three consecutive years, from 2012 through 2014, and in 2013 the men's football team boasted the largest one-year APR increase in the entire Football Championship Subdivision.
One of the first tasks tackled by Eaton was the hiring of Mark Speir as WCU's head football coach just a little more than a week after Eaton began his new job. In his third year as head coach, Speir guided the Catamounts to a second-place finish in the Southern Conference last year, the team's first winning season since 2005. In April, Eaton hired former WCU women's basketball assistant coach Stephanie McCormick to return to WCU as the team's head coach.
Since Eaton's arrival, unrestricted donations to the Catamount Club, WCU's athletic fundraising unit, have more than doubled, going from $433,880 for the 2010-11 fiscal year to $1.13 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
"I am pleased with the progress the athletics program has made under Randy's watch, and I look forward to seeing continued improvement," Belcher said. "The amended contract clearly defines two high priorities for Catamount athletics going forward -- academic success for our student-athletes and the continuing quest for the external funding needed to keep the program self-sufficient and of high quality on and off the fields and courts of competition."
Eaton became WCU's director of athletics Dec. 14, 2011, coming to Cullowhee after serving as senior associate director of athletics at the University of Maryland since June 2008, where he was the No. 2 administrator for the Terrapins athletics program.
Eaton said that he and his wife, Jeannette, are appreciative of the extension, which will enable them to remain a part of the Catamount family and the university community for the foreseeable future.
"I want to thank Chancellor David Belcher and our Board of Trustees for affording me the opportunity to continue the turnaround of the Western Carolina University athletics program. I am both honored and humbled to be able to work at a great institution that, like myself, focuses on the experience and success of each and every student," he said.
"I can't imagine there is a better director of athletics position anywhere, and especially one where I can help make such a positive impact on the lives of the student athletes," Eaton said. "While we face many challenges on a daily basis, I look forward to working with the staff we have in athletics, the senior leadership team that Dr. Belcher has built, and our Catamount Club supporters and fans to help move the entire university forward."