By Carey Phillips
Western Carolina has relieved Athletic Director Randy Eaton, who served in the position since December 2011, of his duties.
Chancellor Kelli Brown made the announcement in a press release Tuesday morning. Eaton’s dismissal as AD is effective immediately, although his contract runs through June.
Before coming to WCU, Eaton served as senior associate director of athletics at the University of Maryland and held positions in athletics administration at a number of schools across the nation including the University of Houston, Texas A&M and East Tennessee State.
“Western Carolina University’s athletics program has made numerous positive steps forward during Randy Eaton’s time on campus, and we are grateful for the leadership he brought as director of athletics,” Brown said. “Chief among those positive developments are improvements in overall support for our student-athletes and increases in student-athlete GPAs, in addition to advances in athletics fundraising. WCU’s athletics program is better today than it was when Randy Eaton arrived, and we thank him for that.”
Eaton drew criticism from some in February when he awarded a five-year contract extension to football coach Mark Speir. The Cats ended the 2018 season with eight straight losses, and Speir’s career record at the time was 29-51. The team went 3-9 this past season.
The move drew criticism from some because Eaton made it while WCU was being led by an interim chancellor rather than letting a new chancellor be involved in deciding if a long-term extension was warranted. Brown was named chancellor in April.
Eaton was at the center of a bizarre situation this year regarding WCU’s women’s basketball coach. Heather Kearney was named coach in May, but the WCU Board of Trustees refused to approve her contract in June. Kiley Hill was subsequently named coach.
On a positive note, Eaton hired Mark Prosser as men’s basketball coach in May 2018. In his second season, Prosser has Western off to a 7-2 start.
Until a permanent athletic director is named, the athletic department staff will report to Mike Byers, the school’s vice chancellor of administration and finance.
Plans for the launch of a national search for a new athletic director will be announced soon, Brown said.