Western Carolina parts ways with football coach Mark Speir

Jim Rice
Asheville Citizen Times
Western Carolina head football coach Mark Speir walks off the field after a practice held earlier this year in Cullowhee.

CULLOWHEE — Western Carolina University announced Friday it will not retain football coach Mark Speir. 

“After a thorough evaluation of the program, I feel that it is time we move in a different direction,” director of athletics Alex Gary said in a released statement. “We are grateful for Coach Speir’s nine years of dedicated service and efforts on behalf of the Catamount football program.”

In the release, the school said it would begin a national search for a new football coach immediately.

Speir finished with a 33-68 record in nine seasons at WCU, including 1-8 this season.He is under contract through the 2025 season after the WCU board of trustees unanimously approved a five-year extension in February 2019. The school did not release details regarding financial components of the separation.

Speir was hired at WCU in December 2011 after spending the previous nine seasons as an assistant at FCS power Appalachian State. In 2009, he had been selected FCS assistant coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association.

His hiring was a return to the program. After serving as a student assistant at Clemson, from which he graduated in 1990, Speir began his coaching career at WCU in 1991 as an assistant on Steve Hodgins' staff and spent six seasons at the school. He coached at Presbyterian and Elon before joining Appalachian State's staff.

The Catamounts had experienced only one winning season in the decade prior to Speir's hiring as head coach and in his first two seasons, they won only three games. But in 2014, WCU surged to a seven-win season and followed that with seven wins in 2016 and 2017. 

Speir couldn't sustain the momentum, however. The Catamounts went 7-25 in the past three seasons.