SHEPHERDSTOWN – In the 28 years as the head football coach for the Shepherd Rams, Monte Cater credits having a good staff and dedicated students to his success and wins.
“I got blessed with some great coaches, three of which played for me,” Cater said. “Very little is mentioned about your assistant coaches…I am most pleased and blessed with a great staff.”
Cater’s career began teaching high school history, physical education and driver’s education. After several years, Cater accepted a head coaching position at Lakeland College in Plymouth, Wis.
The student population at Lakeland was approximately 600 compared to a student population near 5000 at Shepherd, according to Cater.
Cater acknowledges that coaching at Shepherd does have its challenges, money , specifically tuition and the associated fees with higher education.
“Certainly money- the cost of out-of-state tuition is much higher and can be really difficult,” Cater said. “We have been able to get some great assistant coaches. Those are the guys doing the position coaching and the great majority of recruiting that is a big part of our success.”
It’s been difficult recruiting with the limited budget at Shepherd, he said. One way around it is managing to get some recruits categorized as in-state students instead of out-of-state, he said.
Cater said that hey have 21-22 new players signed for the upcoming season.
“We usually have a class of about 30-34 players,” Cater said. “Take into consideration this is the largest group going through spring practice in our off season program…close to 90 players.”
The fall 2014 football team was relatively young, he noted with 10 players in the senior class.
“We lose good people every year. The guys that graduated a year ago won three championships in four years,” Cater said. “2013 was an undefeated season.”
The full-time Rams football coaches also teach, which is different than other Division II schools, according to Cater.
“We are here for our (players/students) to get a good education and continue to play football,” Cater said. By remaining in the classroom, coaches are better able to keep tabs on their players’ classroom performance as well as that on the field.
Howard Ward, a former Rams nose guard from 2002-2007, had nothing but good things to say about Cater and his staff.
“Coach Cater along with the coaching staff did a great job and instilling priorities in our lives. Obviously, academics were a high priority, along with the family,” Ward said.
Cater and his staff took the team of young men who were trying to find their identities…and did a great job at guiding me through my collegiate career, according to Ward.
“(Shepherd) is a great location with great fan support. No body has the crowds like we do on Saturdays in the fall…our stadium is full or usually to close to being full,” Cater said.
Cater always wanted to be a football coach.
“Not many people get to go ahead and have their dream come true. Things have gone well. I have been blessed. Our family have really enjoyed our time out here,” Cater said.
Cater said fan support at Shepherd has made his job easier as the stadium is usually full on fall Saturdays.
“Big wins go back a ways…Carson Newman University in 1992. If we would have won the next game we could have played for a national championship,” Cater said.
Cater was named West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s coach-of-the-year in 1991 and 1992.
He has 240 career victories according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association website. The NCAA also reports 114 losses and two ties.
The Shepherd Rams have won more games under the direction of Cater then any other coach.
Spring practice is slated to start March 12.
“We only have so many days once you start. You have to be done well before finals,” Cater said.
Cater was raised in Shelbyville, Illinois and was a 1971 graduate of Millikin University in Decatur, Ill. Cater and wife, Bonnie, raised their family in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. The couple have a daughter, Taylor, 23, who graduated from Duke in 2013 and will be attending medical school in the fall and a son, Logan, 19, who is a sophomore engineering student at West Virginia University.
“Coming to Shepherd was a totally different challenge. Coming from a high school to a small private school (college) and to a much larger university was a big, big difference,” Cater said.