In the second year of his second term in Cullowhee and entering his 18th season on the Catamount football staff, former Catamount player and assistant coach Don Powers was named defensive coordinator. Later, Catamount head coach Kent Briggs elevated Powers, who will coach the secondary, to the position of assistant head coach.
"Coach Powers joining our program will make a huge impact," Briggs said. "His experience, personality and love for Western Carolina brings a lot to the football program as well as the University. He is a Catamount and always will be a Catamount. Every Catamount, present and past, is excited to have Coach Powers back."
While at Western (1974-83), Powers was associated with Western's most prolific teams and coached some of the greatest players in school history. After playing four years (1963-67) as an outside linebacker and earning NAIA All-District honors three times, Powers joined Coach Bob Waters staff in 1968 as a graduate assistant. Then, the following year, became a full time assistant, working the linebackers, a post he held until 1974 when he was named defensive coordinator. In 1982, Powers was named assistant head coach, becoming the first person in WCU history to earn such a title.
His impact at Western was felt immediately upon being named defensive coordinator for the 1974 season, as the unit finished fourth in the nation in scoring defense by allowing just 87 points in 11 games. Five times from 1976-83, Western ranked among the NCAA leaders in pass defense, pacing the nation in the category in 1977 by allowing just 77.5 yards per game. Also, Western led the SoCon in passing defense from 1977-79.
In his final season at Western, Powers helped the Catamounts reach the NCAA I-AA championship game. That team featured four players who would earn All-American honors in their career, including Mark Buffamoyer, Louis Cooper, Tiger Greene and Clyde Simmons. Also, Buffamoyer, Greene, Bernard Jones, Ricky Pate, Richard Dukes and Steve Marshall would be named All-Southern Conference during that magical season. All told, since WCU became a full member of the SoCon for the 1977 season, a total of 27 all-league honors were bestowed upon Catamount defenders over a seven-year period. Prior to the SoCon years, Powers coached WCU greats David Rathburn, Harvey Walker and Alan Stubblefield, who rank first, third and fifth, respectively, on the WCU career interceptions list, as well as two-time, All-American linebacker Steve Yates. Of the 26 All-Americans in WCU's 72-year history, Powers played a key role in bringing six to Western, including Alonzo Carmichael, Cooper, Steve Kornegay, Darrell Lipford, Simmons and Yates, as well as Academic All-America Mike Wade.
In 1974, Powers helped Western to its first NCAA postseason appearance. After losing its first game of the season, the Cats won nine straight to gain a berth into the NCAA Division II playoffs. Although Western fell, 10-7, at Louisiana Tech, it finished the season ranked eighth in the final Associated Press College Division poll and its defense established impressive records. Most significant was allowing just nine touchdowns on the season and only three TDs over the final six.
Powers, who had been in private business since 2000, previously served 12 years at The Citadel, including the last five as the Bulldogs' head coach. The first seven years of his tenure at The Citadel was spent as defensive coordinator. Powers took over a Bulldog team that was 2-9 overall and 0-8 in the Southern Conference before taking the helm and guiding them to an 11-12 league mark over his first three years. In fact, Powers took the Bulldogs from two victories in 1995 to six wins in 1997, marking the top increase in the Southern Conference during that time span. Powers coached All-Americans Carlos Frank and Travis Stephens, while eight players earned first team All-Southern Conference honors.
As defensive coordinator, Powers was a two-time Southern Conference Defensive Assistant Coach of the Year honoree (1990 and `92) as he helped The Citadel win its second SoCon Championship in 1992, and first since 1961. That team went 11-2 overall and 6-1 in the SoCon, while recording wins over Arkansas and Army and reaching the second round on the NCAA I-AA playoffs.
After starting out 1-4 in 1998, Powers rallied his third squad to four wins in the last six weeks to finish at 5-6 overall and 4-4 in the Southern Conference. During the second half charge, the Bulldogs knocked off then nationally-ranked opponents Furman and Hofstra and retained the Silver Shako with a 36-10 win over VMI in the season-finale on regional television. The Citadel dropped two league games by the total of nine points as wins in those two contests would have put the Bulldogs in a tie for second place in the conference standings.
The 1998 squad included seven All-Southern Conference performers including Dary Myricks, who went on to sign a free agent contract with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.
Powers directed the 1997 edition of Citadel Football to a 6-5 overall record, the Bulldogs first winning season since 1994. That squad featured seven all-conference selections and two NFL free agents signees and outscored its final three opponents by a combined score of 40-12.
After eight weeks of the 1997 campaign, the Bulldogs stood at 3-5 with three league games pending. Powers' group used a clutch offense and a stifling defense to post wins in all three contests. Over the three games, the Bulldogs offense had two fourth quarter drives while the defensive unit did not allow a touchdown.
In 1996, Powers guided the Bulldogs to a 4-7 overall record, doubling the team's win total from the previous season. Highlighting the post-season recognition for The Citadel was senior center Shawn Lyons' invitation to participate in the 48th annual Senior Bowl, while senior offensive tackle Derek Beres earned a pair of post-graduate scholarships worth $23000. In addition, four Bulldogs earned All-Southern Conference accolades as The Citadel improved from no league wins in 1995 to three in 1996.
In his first season at the helm, Powers directed the Bulldogs to four victories. Of the 13 Citadel previous head football coaches, only three posted more wins in their inaugural season.
Powers spent his first seven years at The Citadel at the defensive coordinator. During his stint at The Citadel, Powers restored the Bulldog defense, helping The Citadel reach the championship level. In his second year, 1990, The Citadel led the SoCon in scoring defense.
In 1992, The Bulldog defense ranked first in NCAA I-AA in scoring defense, yielding only 13.0 points per contest as The Citadel captured the Southern Conference Championship, finished the regular season ranked ties for first in the nation and advanced to the I-AA playoffs for the third time in five years. The Citadel also ranked sixth in pass efficiency defense (93.6) and 19th in the total defense (312.7) that season. Powers' troops ranked second in the Southern Conference total defense (323.1) and first in pass defense (128.2).
The 1994 squad peaked in the final game of the season when it held the powerful Georgia Southern offense to only five field goals despite the fact that the Eagles had the ball inside the 20-yard line seven times. The Citadel won that game, 17-15.
He was instrumental in the development of former free safety Lester Smith, a two-time consensus All-American who had his No. 15 jersey retired, and former cornerback Torrence Forney, who was also a first team All-American selection in 1992. Smith has gone on to earn all-star accolades with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
Powers, a Lincolnton product, served from 1985-88 at East Carolina under the legendary head coach Art Baker. In 1985 Powers served as the Pirates' defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. From 1986-88, he was Baker's assistant head coach and continued coaching the defensive backfield. Powers went to East Carolina from Western Kentucky where he served as assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach in 1984.
Powers graduated cum laude from Western Carolina in 1968 with a B.S. in Health and Physical Education. The following year (1969), he received his Masters of Education Western in Health and P.E.
Powers is married to the former Jane Strickland. They are parents of two daughters, Cassie Powers Hannah and Carrie Powers, and one granddaughter, Simmons.