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Western fires Briggs after App debacle
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    For the last few years, the folks in Cullowhee, N.C., have been holding out hope Western Carolina’s football program would finally turn the corner and be competitive in the Southern Conference.
    Unfortunately for the last-place Catamounts, that upswing never happened, and another down season this fall cost coach Kent Briggs his job as the school announced his firing Monday, two days after WCU’s 79-35 loss to Appalachian State.
    Briggs will coach his final game for the Catamounts Saturday against Furman, and athletic director Chip Smith said the coach will be reassigned to a to-be-determined position within the university.
    Western Carolina officials requested reporters not to ask Briggs about his firing during Tuesday morning’s weekly SoCon teleconference, but league coaches spoke up about their thoughts on the situation.
    “I know we are in a volatile profession, but why people don’t wait until the season is over and handle things in a really classy manor, I do not know,” said Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore, who considers Briggs one of his best friends. “They expect a coach, his staff and his players to do all the right things all during the year. Then somebody jumps the deal, and they go in there and ask a coach to resign, and if he doesn’t do it, they fire him. It’s not fair to him, his family, his staff, and — more so than anything else — it’s not fair to his players.
    “I hurt for Kent. I really do because he’s a classy guy. I hurt because it was our ballgame and the score got out of hand.”
    Briggs compiled a 22-42 record (12-31 SoCon) in six seasons with the Catamounts, who were optimistic about their direction following a 5-4 (4-3) campaign in 2005. But instead of continuing to climb, WCU sunk quickly, going 2-9 last season and 1-9 this year. Western hasn’t won a league game since 2005.
    Wofford coach Mike Ayers said he doesn’t believe making a coaching change is always the best solution.
    “You work through problems, and you find a way to get it done,” he said. “He’s an excellent coach. Their guys were a heck of a football team. They did not get the wins this year, but you can tell they’re a good football team because their kids play hard. They get after it. I’ve got a lot of respect for the job that he’s done and the way their kids play. I really think he’s the right guy, but that’s not my call.”
    Without mentioning his firing, Briggs said he anticipates a very emotional day Saturday when the Catamounts host the Paladins for Senior Day.
    “I love this program, and I love the Catamounts,” he said. “Whatever happens, I appreciate the kind of support that our players have given us and how hard our staff has worked. Catamount football is a family, and it will be a family deal on Saturday. I look forward to this program moving in the right direction and great things happening to it over the next several years, which will happen.”

Wofford resting up
    With the SoCon’s automatic playoff berth in hand, Wofford will use this weekend to rest up before beginning postseason play. The Terriers will learn their fate Sunday when the NCAA announces the 16-team playoff field and first-round matchups during the FCS Selection Show at 3:30 pm on ESPNU. Wofford locked up its first league title since 2003 by beating Chattanooga last weekend in its final regular-season game. Furman beat Georgia Southern and The Citadel topped Elon, leaving the Terriers alone at the top.
    “I’m just thankful, and I think we’ve been blessed to be able to hang in there,” Ayers said. “It’s been a tremendous challenge this year, more so than any other time we’ve been in the league. My hats off to all the coaches in this league. I think all those guys have done a great job this year.”
Around the league
    In other regular-season finales this week: Georgia Southern heads to Colorado State, Appalachian State visits Chattanooga, The Citadel travels to VMI and Elon hosts Stony Brook.