Reflective purple domes feature new symmetrical logo with WCU lettering
Now in his fifth season as head coach at Western Carolina, Bill Bleil has earned both the respect and admiration of his peers, student-athletes and the community. His commitment to rebuilding the once proud program has left a favorable impression on all of those within and outside of the WCU community.
No further proof was needed backing up both his and the University?s commitment when he received a contract extension in November of 2000.
"I have thoroughly evaluated our football program and believe that Bill and his staff are doing things the right way and that they will build a winning team," said athletics director Jeff Compher. "He has also done an excellent job of retaining and graduating players and maintaining high academic and personal standards for our players."
On his extension Bleil stated, "I feel confident we are on track to take this program to the next level. The administration's commitment to facilities and scholarships will allow this program to reach its goal of becoming the prominent athletics program in the Southern Conference.?
Recent improvements to the program include a significant financial increase for scholarships from the University, the installation of a one million dollar state-of-the-art playing surface at Whitmire Stadium, a refurbished grass practice field and a new scoreboard with additional facility improvements on the horizon.
If the 2000 season was any indication, the Catamounts are indeed heading in the right direction.
Transfer quarterback David Rivers took advantage of Bleil?s offensive scheme and, in the process, allowed the entire offense to flourish. Rivers, who became the first WCU player to have three games with over 400 yards passing, had a record-setting season in his one fall at Cullowhee, including single-game passing yards, single-season total offense yards and an 11-game single-season passing yards record. (Jeff Gilbert owns the overall mark, playing 15 games in 1983.)
Along the way, wideouts Michael Banks and Lamont Seward became the first teammates in SoCon history to each record 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. For their efforts, Banks was tabbed second team all-conference, while Seward was a unanimous pick for the league?s Freshman of the Year. Also, then freshman tailback Fred Boateng finished third in the league in rushing behind juniors Louis Ivory (Furman) and Adrian Peterson (Georgia Southern), who were named the I-AA?s top offensive players (Walter Payton Award) in each of the last two seasons.
The 2000 Catamount defense also showed promise as All-SoCon performer Justin Fryer led the SoCon with seven interceptions. Seniors Andre Miller and Lorenzo Ferguson closed their respective careers in fine fashion. Miller was a first team All-SoCon pick at defensive tackle and Ferguson earned second team honors as one of the league leaders in tackles.
In four seasons as head coach, Bleil?s tenure has included some very noteworthy achievements, including:
Western Carolina?s 2000 offense ranked among the nation?s top 25 in four categories.
WCU ended a 13-game losing streak to Appalachian State in 1998.
The Catamounts ranked among the nation?s top 10 defensive teams in 1998.
Eric Johnson was named 1998 Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Lamont Seward was named SoCon Freshman of the Year in 2000.
Brad Hoover shattered the single-season rushing mark and ended his career the school?s second all-time leading rusher.
Coached 10 first team All-Southern Conference players.
Four players have been named All-America.
Numerous players named to the Southern Conference All-Academic Honor Roll.
In 1998, led the Cats to their first top three SoCon finish since 1993 and first winning record since 1994.
A 42-year-old Iowa native, Bleil became the 10th Catamount head coach in the program?s 67-year history following Steve Hodgin's departure following the 1996 season. He is in his sixth season at WCU overall, joining Hodgin's staff in February 1996 as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.
On offense, Bleil's philosophy is pass-oriented, but he likes balanced attack with 30 to 40 passes and run plays per game.
Defensively, the Catamounts will be aggressive and Bleil hopes the improvements in spring practice with regard to eliminating the big plays will carry over into the season.
His third season was one filled with injuries at every key position as numerous players were sidelined for multiple games. Young players were required to play more than Bleil anticipated and the Cats were forced to compete in a trial by fire fashion.
Bleil?s second season at the helm of the WCU program saw the Catamounts miss an 8-3 record by a mere 14 points. Seven point losses to Wofford and then top-ranked Georgia Southern were the only thing that stood between the school?s first eight win season in 14 years and Bleil becoming the first coach to win eight games in his second season at Western Carolina.
Looking back on his first season as head coach, Bleil noted that the Catamounts lost four games by a touchdown or less and two others by 10 points and stressed the importance of winning close games. "If we do that we're a 7-4 team instead of a 3-8 team," he said.
Bleil brought 15 years of coaching experience on several collegiate levels to WCU. After an all-star prep career as a tailback and defensive back at Remsen Union High School in Iowa during the mid-1970s., he went on to Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, where he started three seasons as a linebacker and was an NAIA all-district selection twice. He graduated in 1981 with a degree in physical education.
His first coaching experience came the next year at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M., where he served as defensive coordinator for two seasons and earned a graduate degree in physical education. He moved to Dana College in Blair, Neb., for the 1984 season where he served as defensive coordinator. He returned to the state of New Mexico for the next five years as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. He helped that program to a top 20 ranking for four seasons on the NCAA Division II level.
Bleil got his first job on the NCAA Division I level in 1990 as offensive line coach at Northwestern University of the Big Ten Conference and coached a pair of top five round NFL draft picks in his two seasons at the Evanston, Ill., school.
He moved to California in 1992 as offensive line coach at the University of the Pacific in Stockton and was promoted to offensive coordinator in his second season. During his five-season tenure, he helped the Tigers to their first winning record in 17 years and his offense led the NCAA Division I-A Big West Conference in passing in 1994 and was ranked 11th nationally. He came to Western Carolina prior to 1996's spring practice after Pacific dropped football following the 1995 season.
He is an avid golfer whose hobbies also include racquetball and fishing with his sons.
Bleil and his wife, Laurel, a Roland, Iowa, native, have two sons: Kevin (14) and Tim (12).
THE BLEIL FILE
Full Name: William Robert Bleil
Date of Birth: February 23, 1959
Family: Wife, Laurel; Children, Kevin (14) and Tim (12)
Education: Northwestern College (Orange City, Iowa), Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education, 1981
New Mexico Highlands University (Las Vegas, N.M.), Masters of Arts in Physical Education, 1982
New Mexico Highlands University, Defensive Coordinator, 1982-83; Dana College, Defensive Coordinator, 1984; Eastern New Mexico University, Offensive Line Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, 1985-87, Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach, 1988-89; Northwestern University, Offensive Line Coach, 1990-91; University of the Pacific, Offensive Line Coach, 1992, Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach, 1993-95; Western Carolina University, Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach, 1996; Western Carolina University, Head Coach, 1997-present.
Playing Experience: Northwestern College, 1977-80, Three year starter and two-time NAIA all-district.
BLEIL vs. ALL Opponents:
Appalachian State 1-3
The Citadel 3-1
East Tennessee State 2-2
Georgia Southern 0-4
Louisiana State 0-1
Mars Hill 1-0
Tennessee Tech 0-2
Virginia Military Institute 4-0