Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina University and Catamount Athletics was saddened on Saturday morning to learn of the passing of former football player, coach and athletics administrator, Al "Mutt" DeGraffenreid, at the age of 60.
DeGraffenreid is survived by his wife, Pam, who has been a staff member at WCU for over 20 years. The couple has two children, Cetera, who played collegiate women's basketball at the University of North Carolina, and Al who is enrolled at WCU.
"It is a sad day for everyone in Catamount Nation," said WCU Director of Athletics Randy Eaton. "Coach Mutt exemplified what it means to be a Catamount, and we extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the DeGraffenreid family."
DeGraffenreid and the battle for his life this fall has been an inspiration for the WCU football team. After WCU's road victory earlier this season, Catamount head coach Mark Speir brought DeGraffenreid's son, Al, into the locker room to celebrate with the team. While there during post-game, Al handed a cell phone to Speir - and Coach Mutt - who was never far from Catamount Football - was on the other line to offer his congratulations to the Purple & Gold.
The following was written about DeGraffenreid upon his induction into the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013:
No one individual had the same impact on or been a bigger part of the Western Carolina football program over the past 40 years than Al "Mutt" DeGraffenreid. A three-year letter winner from 1974-76 and a two-year starter in the defensive secondary, the undersized DeGraffenreid, who converted from wide receiver to defensive back, epitomized the fighting spirit WCU legendary coach Bob Waters embodied. DeGraffenreid was a member of the 1974 WCU defensive unit that finished the season ranked fourth nationally, and helped the Catamounts finish the 1976 season ranked second in pass defense. He was also on the '74 squad that made WCU's first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Credited with the first-ever tackle made on the artificial playing surface at Whitmire Stadium in 1974 on a kickoff against Murray State, DeGraffenreid, who played at Reynolds High in Asheville, went on to earn the football team's Intrepid Award as a senior in '76.
Following his playing career, DeGraffenreid latched onto the WCU coaching staff in 1977 as a graduate assistant and embarked on an incredible coaching career that spanned the better part of 20 years. In 1980, "Coach Mutt" became a full-time assistant and spent the next 16 seasons under three different head coaches including the late Waters, Dale Strahm (1989) and Steve Hodgin (1990-96). DeGraffenreid spent time as the wide receivers and defensive backs coach, as well as the offensive coordinator.
DeGraffenreid additionally holds the distinction of being WCU's first-ever women's track & field head coach.
Many former WCU student-athletes - football and others alike - can trace their path and reasons for bringing their talents to Cullowhee back to Coach Mutt. He mentored 10, first team All-Southern Conference student-athletes during his time on the football staff including former NFL wide receiver - and three-time Super Bowl Champion, David Patten, as well as all-time great receivers Kerry Hayes, Craig Aiken, Eric Rasheed and Otis Washington.
Following his career at WCU, DeGraffenreid served as a coach and administrator locally at both Smoky Mountain and Cherokee High Schools, retiring in 2006. He was one of the first-ever African-American head high school football coaches in Western North Carolina upon his hire at Cherokee High in 1999.
Funeral Arrangements for Coach Mutt:
Monday, November 17, 2014
- Visitation 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
- Celebration of Life - 12:30 pm
Trinity Baptist Church
216 Shelburne Road
Asheville, NC 28806
Hart Funeral Home
60 Phifer Street
Asheville, NC 28801
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Pam DeGraffenreid/Coach Alphonso DeGraffenreid Medical Fund at Suntrust Bank in Sylva.