You could probably win a friendly wager on
the fact that Campbell leads its football series with East Carolina,
especially since the Camels haven't competed on the gridiron since Harry
Truman was in the White House.
Campbell used to be a formidable opponent for East Carolina when the
program in Greenville was in its formative years.
Records show that East Carolina's first
football win ever came against Campbell, 6-0 in Greenville, on Nov. 11,
1933. The Camels won the next three games in 1937, 1938 and 1939.
Campbell won three straight state
junior college championships from 1946 to 1948. The Camels also were the
Eastern U.S. juco champions in 1947, but as much of their two-year
opposition progressed to four-year status, the school dropped football.
Documents available to Campbell
officials indicate that the Camels first fielded a varsity football team
in 1925 and did so until 1950, except for 1940-45 during World War II.
The sport was gone but not forgotten
during 57 years of dormancy.
It's not likely that the two
universities will ever meet again in football but after a lengthy
hiatus, strong ECU and Conference USA connections are helping the Camels
revive the sport in Buies Creek, a community in Harnett County with a
population of 2,215, according to the 2000 census.
Thumbnail of rendering of Campbell's
planned new football stadium. View
larger images and more information on
official athletics Web site.
Enrollment at Campbell is about 7,000
on its main campus.
Campbell president Dr. Jerry Wallace is
an East Carolina alumnus and former roommate of former ECU gridder and
athletic director Bill Cain. Both are from Rockingham.
The Camels will be coached by Dale
Steele, a Pirate assistant during some ECU glory years from 1989 to
1995. Campbell athletic director Stan Williamson was an assistant AD at
Houston during the Cougars' early years in C-USA.
As the private, Southern
Baptist-affiliated institution has progressed from junior college to
four-year college to university status and the Division I level in
athletics, football has remained a topic of conversation.
"Without football, there has been a
void at Campbell," Dr. Wallace said. "Alumni over the years have always
talked about bringing the program back."
The Camels have been busy in other
areas of athletic development. The new John W. Pope Convocation Center
is under construction that will replace diminutive Carter Gym and
provide a much-needed 3,000-seat home for basketball.
Williamson said Campbell has discussed
reinstating football for a number of years and when plans for the
convocation center moved forward, focus on the next major project
narrowed to football's return.
"Dr. Wallace was looking for ways to
create energy and excitement on campus and provide more social
opportunities," Williamson said.
After a feasibility study, Campbell
moved forward with an announcement of the return of football last April.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held a week ago for the football stadium,
which will be located across highway 421 from the main campus.
The Camels will compete as a
non-scholarship Division I-AA program like Davidson, Jacksonville and
Morehead State. Although Campbell players won't receive football
scholarships, they will be eligible for assistance based on financial
need and other factors.
Steele was selected to direct the
program from a field of 80-some applicants because of his experience as
a long time assistant in the college ranks and because of his ties to
North Carolina. After leaving ECU, he was head football coach at
Northern Nash High School in the Rocky Mount area.
"Greenville was a great place," Steele
said. "Our family enjoyed the experience. We had a daughter, Kelsey, who
was born at Pitt County Memorial Hospital. It was an exciting time to be
there. I still hear from a lot of the players we had at East Carolina."
Steele was on the ECU staff for the
Peach Bowl triumph over N.C. State that capped the 1991 season and for
the 1995 Liberty Bowl win over Stanford. He was assistant head coach and
recruiting coordinator during his stint with the Pirates.
He has been making good use of his
recruiting skills in attracting players for the Campbell program. He has
17 players on campus and 78 more committed to begin practice next
He has one assistant on campus who will
serve as defensive coordinator. Although the Camels will not have a
spring practice until next year, Steele is involved in many of the same
processes as programs which are currently active.
"We've been recruiting, monitoring
academic progress and making sure that players are following their
offseason workouts," Steele said.
Plans call for Steele to bring more
assistants aboard on June 1. About $200,000 has been allocated initially
Campbell will play its first game on
Aug. 30, 2008, at home against Birmingham Southern. Williamson said a
minimum of 1,200 seats would be in place in the seating that will rise
above the artificial playing surface. Synthetic turf will allow the
Camels to practice and play at their football stadium.
The track and field facilities
currently at that location will be moved, according to Wallace.
Williamson said he expects at least $5 million to be invested in
facilities at the football stadium by the first game. Eventual plans
call for a $10 to $12 million stadium with 10,000 seats, restrooms,
concessions, a president's box and media accommodations. There will also
be football offices, meeting rooms and training facilities.
How fast the entire facility package
progresses will be determined by fund-raising efforts, but generally the
community has been enthusiastic about the return of football.
The Camels will begin practice next
August and most of the players will be freshmen. That will present an
unusual dynamic with large numbers competing for positions.
"It's not a situation where guys will
look around and figure they will be able to play as juniors and seniors
leave the program," Steele said.
Many freshmen join a program and are
relegated to a scout team, running a different opponent's schemes from
week to week the first year. Although Campbell has a year to prepare for
Birmingham Southern, Steele said the Camels will mainly focus on
developing within and executing their own systems.
"When you're playing games, you get in
a routine from week to week," Steele said.
With everyone getting a redshirt year
in 2007 and no games scheduled, Steele is trying to figure ways to
prevent the routine from becoming a rut. He has sought the counsel of
Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett, who got the Chanticleers program
off the ground in 2003 and has since won three consecutive Big South
"He's done such a great job of bringing
those athletes along," Steele said. "We're going to have to change from
week to week because we don't have games next season. We're going to
have to be inventive and progressive the entire fall."
The Camels will break the potential
monotony of workouts with scrimmages. The popping of pads should further
whet the appetite of those on campus and in the community for the return
"Football is a means of generating
interest in our university," Williamson said. "We've already seen a
slight increase in enrollment."