In giving University of Central Arkansas fans an early Christmas present, University of Central Arkansas Director of Athletics Brad Teague had a gift for new football coach Steve Campbell — the No. 4 UCA jersey worn last year by quarterback Wynrick Smothers.
"He’s won three national championships; we hope he gets a fourth here," said Teague in introducing the coach who compiled an 88-22 record at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in 10 years. Campbell, 47 and a 25-year veteran of coaching, played on a national championship team at Troy State, coached Delta State to the NCAA Division II title in 2000 and MGCCC to the national junior college title in 2007.
With head coaching stops at Delta State and Southwest Mississippi Community college and serving as an assistant at Auburn, Middle Tennessee State, Auburn and Nicholls State, he has never had a losing season as a player or a coach.
"He is the best of the best," said Teague, who concluded the search for a replacement for 14-year coach Clint Conque in less than a week. "He turns down jobs annually. He stayed at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for 10 years because he didn’t want to move his family."
"And he coaches the best talent in the country," added Teague, who noted that 15 players from MGCCC signed with Division I schools Wednesday. "Most of all, he’s a good person. He cares about his student-athletes. He cares about his assistant coaches and he cares about the campus more than himself."
He becomes only the fourth head coach at UCA in the last 24 years.
Teague also noted that Williams has won the award for the best academic performance by a junior college team in Mississippi three of the last four years.
Six of his former players are on NFL rosters. "And all six have college degrees," Campbell added. "The NFL just lasts for so long."
Teague said the UCA Board of Trustee approved Friday a salary package of $185,000 per year plus incentives for academic and athletic performance. The four-year contract carries a graduated buyout of $100,000 after one year to $50,000 after the fourth year. The buyout is $200,000 for going to another member of the Southland Conference.
"Whenever I talked with other coaches over the years, sometimes and it was always positive what a great place UCA was to coach and what a great community Conway is," Campbell said. "Those conversations all stayed in my head. I knew about the tradition and ther tradition of championships, They haven’t had many coaches over the years. It seemed a place where coaches come, they don’t want to leave. When I heard the job was open, I was excited to apply.
"You know, UCA is used to winning championships. A lot of places have never won a national championship. UCA has won national championships. That’s important. I want to go somewhere you have a chance to compete not only for conference championships, but for national championships. You can do that at UCA."
Although he welcomed the opportunity to continue UCA’s tradition and he’s established a tradition of winning everywhere he has coached, he also played a part in closing another tradition.
As a center, he snapped the last ball before Southeastern Louisiana, another Southland Conference member, discontinued the program in 1985 before rejoining the conference in 1997,
"I had two good years at Southeastern," he said. "I made the last snap before they put the program to sleep, seemingly for forever. I remember that, but I’m not sure it’s something I should be bragging about."
He coached 28 junior college All-Americans at MGCCC. More than 30 players from the 14 Mississippi junior college schools have played for UCA in the last decade.
"I’ve developed connections through the years that I think should help," Williams said. "I’ve been influenced by a lot of different coaches. At Mississippi Gulf Coast, people from BCS programs all over the country recruited my players and I developed those relationships. But also at a junior college, you have to recruit high schools heavily. There might be 14 junior colleges in Mississippi recruiting one player. I’ve been on both ends of the recruiting experience and I think it will help me here."
Campbell covered a variety of topics during Friday’s news conference at Wingo Hall.
The current UCA team (7-5 last season): It’s always better to come to a place where the program is intact and there is a good team in place and they are used to winning championships," he said. "There seem to be a lot of great leaders returning and it’s exciting when your best players are also some of your best leaders."
His philosophy: "At Mississippi Gulf Coast, we were a no-huddle, spread team that was up-tempo at a high tempo; it’s something I believe in. But we won a national championship at Delta State with a double-slot, triple-option team. I believe you do what you need to do according to your personnel. On defense, it’s basic. You keep the other guys off the field and out of the end zone. It’s stop the run and being able to run the football. It’s making a team one-dimensional."
His staff: He said that should be clearer in the next few days as his staff at MCGCC awaits the new coach and evaluates their postions. Then, he showed reporters his cell phone that had 101 unaswered texts.
"These are from coaches all over the country who want to coach at UCA," he said. "I’ve gotten 13 texts since the news conference began. And these are coaches who have coached at USC and Miami and places all over the country who want to come to UCA. I think we can put together a staff with extensive college experience."
The type of players he wants at UCA: "Playmakers," he said. "Guys who scored touchdowns and make the big play but who are also accountable and disciplined and unselfish."