THE COLOR PURPLE

The Catamounts take to the field this fall with a new twist on a traditional look

By DANIEL HOOKER ’01

With football season under way at Western Carolina this fall, the Catamounts once again are wearing purple helmets on the gridiron as first-year Head Coach Mark Speir MAEd ’95 revives a long-standing tradition in Cullowhee.

The 2012 version of the Catamount football helmet features a deep purple color with reflective gold metallic flake and a matching deep purple facemask and chin straps. The current WCU athletics logo adorns both sides of the helmet. WCU’s new look was debuted at the Catamount Football Classic golf tournament in early June.

Since 1969, when legendary former head coach Bob Waters first stepped foot on the WCU campus, Catamount football teams have worn purple helmets for 38 of the ensuing 43 years. The first exception was the 1989 season under Dale Strahm with the “yellow LSU” look (the helmet had a yellow shell with “WCU” arched over a Catamount head in purple). The second exception began in 2008, when the football program converted to metallic gold helmets with the current logo and three “Cat scratches” down the center for the four seasons under former coach
Dennis Wagner.

The year 2008 also marked the end of a familiar moniker on the football helmets. Prior to the 1971 season, Waters and his staff decided that the helmets needed a new look, and the script “The Cats” hit the headgear. The words remained on Catamount helmets for most of the next three decades, and on his hiring in 2002, former Waters’ quarterback and assistant coach Kent Briggs ’79 MAEd ’81 brought “The Cats” back for an encore.