Friday, August 29, 2008


Dale Steele had one of the toughest jobs in college football: Convincing recruits to play for a Campbell College football program that didn’t exist.

There weren’t any highlight reels, no bowl trophies, no jerseys of Camels-turned-NFL-stars hanging in the fieldhouse behind the stadium. Until recently, there wasn’t a stadium.

No wonder that, time after time during his two years on the job, many of those recruits would slam their front doors on him, skeptical of what would become of a Campbell program that hadn’t played a game since the Korean War.

This is the week Steele has been waiting for: After a 58-year hiatus, football is back in Buies Creek, NC.

The Camels are relaunching their program in the nonscholarship Pioneer Football League with the ambitious hopes of someday duplicating Appalachian State’s championship-subdivision success and maybe even jumping another level to compete for bowl berths. But for now, the once-dormant junior-college power will start out at a decided disadvantage with little tradition and no recent history to sell—at least, not yet.

Since the plan to revive football here was hatched in 2004, the hopes have risen considerably at this tiny Baptist university tucked an hour’s drive south of Raleigh in the tobacco fields of central North Carolina – that little place we like to call “Tobacco Road.”

The private school with the modest athletic tradition—perhaps best known for the men’s basketball team’s only NCAA tournament appearance in 1992 when the Camels were routed by Duke—has invested a reported $6 million in its football program.

Go Camels, beat Duke!

(AP Photos/Gerry Broome)

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