Cullowhee, N.C. - Former Catamount football player Mike Biggerstaff and longtime athletic administrator Fred Cantler comprise the two-person 2016 class set for induction into the Western Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame. The Hall's 27th induction class will be honored on the weekend of Nov. 4-5 with special on-field recognition during the Catamounts' regular season home football finale against Southern Conference foe, VMI.
A four-year letter winner, Mike Biggerstaff (Football, 1966-69) started his playing career as a walk-on at Western Carolina before earning a football scholarship. He played on both sides of the football through his junior season, playing offensive and defensive guard before finishing his career as a linebacker. Biggerstaff, a team co-captain in both 1968 and 1969, collected All-Carolinas Conference plaudits from 1967 - 1969, and tallied All-NAIA District 26 honors and was an honorable mention NAIA All-America selection as a senior. He was also selected to the 1969 Collegiate All-State team following the 1969 season.
Originally from Marion, N.C., Biggerstaff concluded his playing career as a standout linebacker on Western Carolina's first-ever nationally-ranked football team in 1969. He was named the team's Defensive MVP that season, helping guide the Catamounts to a 9-1 record and a national ranking of eighth in the final NAIA national polls. WCU's defense led the nation in turnovers in '69 with 24 total interceptions and 26 fumble recoveries.
Following his graduation from Western Carolina in 1970, Biggerstaff embarked on a solid prep coaching career. As a head coach, he secured 144 career victories over 19 seasons between three different North Carolina high school programs -- R-S Central in Rutherfordton, N.C.; West Caldwell High in Lenoir, N.C.; and East Burke High in Connelly Springs, N.C. In the fall of 2015, the football field at West Caldwell High in Lenoir was named for its former coach in Biggerstaff who served the school from 1979 until 1987. Under his leadership, the WCHS football team won six Big Six Conference championships and a state semifinal appearance in 1987.
During his coaching career, Biggerstaff was chosen to coach both the North Carolina -- South Carolina Shrine Bowl and the 1985 East-West All-Star Game.
Biggerstaff was out of the coaching profession for 14 years during which time he was a marketing and sales manager, and part owner of Key Risk Management Services, a company started in 1986 by his brother, Bob Biggerstaff. Key Risk Management became the largest provider of Workers Compensation for employers in the state of North Carolina including all state employees, minus the Department of Transportation. Biggerstaff additionally served on the Board of Directors for the Carolinas Electrical Contractors Association (CECA) and served as the president of the CECA Associate Membership. He was also on the Board of Directors for the Associated Building Contractors (ABC) of North and South Carolina.
Through his contributions as a coach at the high school level, Biggerstaff has been twice inducted into hall of fames. In 1999, he was enshrined in the Caldwell County Sports Hall of Fame, and most recently in February of 2015, he was inducted into the East Burke High Hall of Fame, finishing his coaching career as the Cavaliers' second-winningest head football coach all-time. He posted a .621 win percentage from 2002-09 with seven North Carolina 4-A state playoff appearances.
Biggerstaff has remained involved with WCU, serving as a member of the Catamount Club Board of Directors. He and his wife, Sandee, have one son, Joe Don Biggerstaff, who is also a WCU alum. He also has two grandchildren, Madison and Eli.
Few individuals have had more impact on the evolution of the Western Carolina Athletics Department than Fred Cantler (Administration, 1978-2012). Cantler devoted over 33 years of his career in athletics administration at Western Carolina, coming to Cullowhee in 1978 as an athletic trainer -- WCU's first full-time employee in that role. He retired from WCU in 2011 as a senior associate AD.
Cantler was a staple around WCU athletic events for over three decades, serving as athletic trainer for 17 years before moving on in athletic administration. He was ultimately asked twice to serve as the interim Director of Athletics in both 2004 and again in 2011, coming out of retirement to return to the department for just over two months.
In his role of senior associate athletic director for internal relations, Cantler was the primary sport supervisor for football, women's soccer, men's basketball and baseball. In addition, he served as the department's NCAA Compliance Officer, a duty he held from 1995 until his retirement. He also was responsible for game-day management, scheduling and supervising the maintenance of athletics facilities, organizing and scheduling athletics summer camps, serving as a liaison between athletics and other departments on campus, and overseeing the training, weight and equipment rooms.
During his career as a sports administrator, Cantler helped develop the Catamount women's soccer program from scratch in 1999 including hiring its first head coach in Debbie Hensley. Two years later in 2001, the program captured the first of its three Southern Conference tournament championships. Also, the Catamount baseball team won both the regular season and tournament titles in 2003 and won the regular season in 2007, advancing to the NCAA regional tournaments with Cantler as its supervisor.
A 1978 graduate of Western Kentucky University, Cantler also served on the conference's official committee and the basketball tournament committee - serving for many seasons as the floor director at the championship tournament - along with sitting on numerous NCAA committees.
In May of 2012, Cantler was selected as one of 12 recipients of the Southern Conference's Distinguished Service Awards.
Cantler is married to the former Katrina Hipp of Charlotte, who retired as a teacher at Sylva's Smoky Mountain High School. The couple has two children -- Natalie Cantler Canter, who is married to Matt Canter, and Clay Cantler -- and two grandchildren, Emery and Tripp.
Including this year's induction class, Western Carolina's Athletics Hall of Fame has enshrined 117 individuals, five athletic teams, 11 Patron Award winners and two recognized for career achievements since its 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 constitution. Appropriate forms are available online at CatamountSports.com.