* Bob Waters 2014
Bob Waters left behind an iconic legacy in his 20 years as head football coach and athletics director at Western Carolina University before losing a heroic battle to Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in 1989 at the age of 50. A native of Sylvania, Ga., who also gained fame in South Carolina and California, he became an adopted son of North Carolina.
Waters came to WCU in 1969 as head coach after an all-star football career at Presbyterian College, a five-year stint as quarterback and defensive back with the San Francisco 49ers and assistant coaching positions at Presbyterian and Stanford. He was the MVP of the 1960 Tangerine Bowl – now known as the Capital One Bowl – and was drafted by the 49ers where he made frequent starts as the “shotgun” (a newly created position in the era) quarterback and engineered wins over Baltimore, Detroit and Los Angeles in 1963.
At WCU, Waters led the Catamounts to 13 winning seasons and a school-record 116 victories (and two NCAA playoff appearances) while playing demanding non-conference schedules. Eight of his teams were nationally ranked, and he owned the eighth-best winning percentage among the NCAA’s I-AA coaches during his tenure. His 1983 squad became the first Southern Conference team to play in the NCAA I-AA title game. Prior to his arrival, WCU had posted only five winning seasons among the previous 20.
Fifty-four Catamounts who played under Waters named first-team All-Southern Conference selection. Thirteen were named to All-America teams, and a dozen went on to play pro football.
His pass-oriented offense perennially ranked in the nation’s top 10 and helped produce the country’s leading pass receiver in 1977, seven Southern Conference pass receiving titlists, the nation’s leading field goal kicker and punter and three Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year recipients.