Down by six touchdowns to the University of Alabama at halftime, Western Carolina University head coach Mark Speir never gave up on his team.
“When you’re getting into an ugly ball game like that, our players didn’t quit playing; they kept fighting,” he said. “At halftime, we were going to play for 30 more minutes and see where our program is at in [its] infant stage.”
Plans made in the coming months could set the tone for the following decade or two of construction, renovation and development on Western Carolina University’s campus.
Faculty, staff, administrators and students at the school have been working since September to craft the institution’s next campus master plan — a process that is expected to last about 16 months and create a final product that is a general guideline for all aspects of the university’s infrastructure development.
This November could prove to be the do or die month for the planning effort in Cullowhee when Jackson County commissioners decide whether to give the thumbs up or down on the next pivotal step in Cullowhee’s journey to become an official planning district.
Whether a grassroots movement to spark planning in Cullowhee dies or moves forward will rests with the next Jackson County board of commissioners.
A group of Cullowhee residents have called for development guidelines. Without standards, Cullowhee is vulnerable to unattractive development according to proponents. But, they need the county’s blessing to put them in place.
The vision is grand: a snaking, multi-use recreational path along the shores of the Tuckaseegee River — approximately 20 miles stretching from East Laporte to Whittier — lined with trees, dotted with parks, fishing spots, river access, picnic tables and pedestrian bridges.
It was a tranquil Saturday afternoon when the stampede began.
Lines of vehicles, like mechanical horses with flags waving high, hurtle down the highway, resembling some cavalry charging into battle, desperately in search of a cherished parking space near the football stadium at Western Carolina University.
With a steady flow of noisy cars and chatty pedestrians zooming through the Western Carolina University campus, Kyle Coleman straddles a tiny rope, ignoring the commotion and focusing on the task at hand.
Housing developer Scott Austin did a little simple math before deciding to pursue an $8 million dollar project to build two four-story apartment complexes in Cullowhee, right on the front doorstep of Western Carolina University.
He looked at the number of dormitory beds provided by the university for student housing — about 4,000. Then he researched the number of available, quality units in the area around the university and came up with another 1,000.
Western Carolina University will target transfer, graduate and distance learning students to help grow its enrollment without creating greater strain on its residence and dining halls.
This fall, enrollment at WCU reached a record 9,608, a 2.7 percent increase compared to fall 2011. Of those, 7,500 attend classes on campus in Cullowhee. The number of freshman who returned to the university for their sophomore year has also increased.
Western Carolina University leaders hope to benefit from a philosophical switch in state funding for higher education — one that would clamp down on universities gaming the system, whether on purpose or unintentionally, when it comes to funding student growth.
Every year, colleges and universities in North Carolina send the state their predictions for the following year’s enrollment. The state then allocates funding for each school based on the number of students it expects to attend.