Former Catamount football player Mike Biggerstaff ’70 and longtime athletics administrator Fred Cantler joined the Western Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame as the 27th induction class during special ceremonies Saturday, Nov. 5.
A four-year letter winner, Biggerstaff started his WCU playing career in 1966 as a walk-on before earning a scholarship. He played both offensive and defensive guard through his junior season, finishing his career as a linebacker. Biggerstaff, a team co-captain in 1968 and 1969, collected All-Carolinas Conference plaudits from 1967 through 1969. He tallied All-NAIA District 26 honors and was an honorable mention NAIA All-America selection as a senior. He also was selected to the 1969 Collegiate All-State team.
Originally from Marion, Biggerstaff concluded his playing career as a standout linebacker on Western Carolina’s first-ever nationally ranked football team in 1969. He was named the team’s defensive most valuable player that season, helping guide the Catamounts to a 9-1 record and a national ranking of eighth in the final NAIA national polls.
Following his graduation, Biggerstaff embarked on a solid prep coaching career. As a head coach, he secured 144 career victories over 19 seasons between three North Carolina high school programs – R-S Central in Rutherfordton, West Caldwell in Lenoir and East Burke in Connelly Springs. During his career, Biggerstaff was chosen to coach both the North Carolina/South Carolina Shrine Bowl and the 1985 East-West All-Star Game.
In recognition of his contributions as a coach at the high school level, Biggerstaff has been twice inducted into halls of fame. In 1999, he was enshrined in the Caldwell County Sports Hall of Fame and, in February 2015, he was inducted into the East Burke High Hall of Fame, finishing his coaching career as the Cavaliers’ second-winningest head football coach all-time.
Joining Biggerstaff in the WCU hall is former athletics administrator Cantler. Few individuals have had more impact on the evolution of the WCU athletics program than Cantler, who devoted more than 33 years of his career to Western Carolina. He came to Cullowhee in 1978 as an athletic trainer – WCU’s first full-time employee in that role – and retired in 2011 as a senior associate athletic director.
A staple around WCU athletic events, he served as athletic trainer for 17 years before moving on in athletic administration. He twice served as interim director of athletics – first in 2004, then coming out of retirement to return to the department in 2011.
In his role as senior associate athletic director for internal relations, Cantler was the primary sport supervisor for football, women’s soccer, men’s basketball and baseball. In addition, he served as NCAA compliance officer, a duty he held from 1995 until his retirement. He also was responsible for game-day management, scheduling and supervising maintenance of athletics facilities, organizing and scheduling athletics summer camps, serving as a liaison with other departments on campus, and overseeing the training, weight and equipment rooms.
Cantler helped develop the women’s soccer program from scratch in 1999, including hiring its first head coach. Two years later, the program captured the first of its three Southern Conference tournament championships. Also, the Catamount baseball team won both the regular season and tournament titles in 2003 and won the regular season in 2007, advancing to the NCAA regional tournaments, with Cantler as its supervisor.
He also served on the conference’s officials committee and the basketball tournament committee – serving for many seasons as the floor director at the championship tournament – along with sitting on numerous NCAA committees. In 2012, he was selected as one of 12 recipients of the Southern Conference’s Distinguished Service Awards.
Including this year’s induction class, Western Carolina’s Athletics Hall of Fame has enshrined 117 individuals, five athletic teams, 11 Patron Award winners and two individuals recognized for career achievements since its establishment in 1990.
Photo Caption: Randy Eaton, director of athletics (far left) and Chancellor David O. Belcher (far right) congratulate (from left) Mike Biggerstaff ’70 and Fred Cantler on their induction.