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WCU Names Chip Smith Director of Athletics

Aug. 23, 2004

Cullowhee, N.C. - Joseph C. "Chip" Smith, director of athletics at Morehead State University, will be the next director of intercollegiate athletics at Western Carolina University.

Western Carolina Chancellor John W. Bardo announced today (Monday, Aug. 23) the selection of Smith to fill a vacancy created by the departure of C. Jeffery Compher, who became executive associate director of athletics at the University of Washington on Aug. 16.

Smith's appointment, effective Sept. 6, follows a national search by an eight-member committee through a process that included on-campus interviews with five candidates selected from a field of more than 50 applicants.

Western will introduce Smith to the public at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 27, in the Hospitality Room of the Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

Formerly director of athletics at Eastern Kentucky University, Smith also has held positions at Virginia Military Institute, University of North Carolina-Charlotte and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

"Chip brings to the university a great deal of experience as a sitting athletics director. He has worked in the Southern Conference and knows many of the key people in the conference. When I checked his references at other universities in the conference, I received nothing but extremely strong reviews," Bardo said.

"Jeff Compher did an excellent job positioning this university for the future. We were searching for an athletics director who will be able to build on what Jeff has done and who shares the university's values regarding student-athletes. We have found that person in Chip, who was able to articulate clearly our goal: to be the best. We want every student-athlete to have the opportunity to graduate. We expect our student-athletes to learn citizenship and to learn to win with a sense of ethics. We call that `winning the right way.' Chip is committed to that approach to university athletics," Bardo said.

Gibbs Knotts, assistant professor of political science and public affairs at Western and faculty athletics representative who served as chairman of the athletics director search committee, called Smith "the best candidate out of a strong field of applicants."

"We had a very deep pool of well-qualified applicants for the position, which I believe is testimony to the job that Jeff Compher did in building Western's athletics program and to the reputation of the program in the profession of athletics administration," Knotts said. "The committee believes that Chip Smith is up to task of continuing to keep the Catamount athletics program moving in the right direction. Chip loves North Carolina, and his roots in this state will be a valuable asset for Western."

A native of Greensboro who was raised in Siler City, Smith earned his bachelor's degree in education at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1978, where he played football for four years under legendary coach Bill Dooley. He earned his master's degree in athletics administration at UNC-CH in 1989.

He began his career in athletics as a high school teacher and coach, first at Hickory High School and then at Garinger High School in Charlotte. He worked as ticket manager for the Durham Bulls baseball club before joining the Educational Foundation Inc. at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1983 as assistant to the executive director of the athletics fund-raising organization also known as the Rams Club.

Smith was a member of the athletics department administration at UNC-Charlotte from 1984 though 1991, first as business and ticket manager, then as assistant athletic director for development. He joined the staff of Southern Conference member VMI in 1991 as assistant athletics director, advancing to associate athletics director. He joined the administration at Eastern Kentucky University in 1999, rising to the position of director of athletics in 2001. He has served as director of athletics at Morehead State since August 2002.

Smith said he is anxious to return to his home state and join a university "on the rise."

"This opportunity to join Western Carolina University at such an important time in its history is an honor. I couldn't be more excited to be a part of the enthusiasm surrounding the university and Catamount athletics," he said. "Dr. Bardo is a dynamic leader who has energized the campus. I look forward to working with him and the entire campus community to continue the strides toward excellence in athletics and throughout the university."