Covering Football

Covering Football
Dave Campbell
Photograph by Wyatt McSpadden

NAME: Dave Campbell | AGE: 84 | HOMETOWN: Waco | QUALIFICATIONS: Founder and editor in chief of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football , which is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary / Member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame / Southwest representative for Heisman Trophy balloting / Former sports editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald

• Back in the early days of Texas Football , Darrell Royal was just starting to roll at the University of Texas. He was very much a proponent of the ground game. I won’t say that what Darrell ran was 3 yards and a cloud of dust—it was better than that. But he thought you had to run the ball first. Now think of the game today. Everything has opened up with the spread offense, and every team thinks it has to throw the ball.

• When Emory Bellard [who coached at Texas A&M in the seventies] took the job as athletic director and head coach at Breckenridge in the mid-fifties, the school board president told him, “I want you to understand that you can have the students play basketball and baseball and run track. That’s up to you. But the main thing is football, and we expect you to win.” That was true at schools then, and it’s still true today.

• The great player for me is Earl Campbell. I saw him play when he was at Tyler John Tyler. He came straight up from the B team as a ferocious linebacker, but we didn’t make too much of him at Texas Football because he hadn’t done anything as a running back—until suddenly he became the best in the state.

• Today young players get more weight training, and coaching staffs have expanded greatly. When we first started, schools would have a coach and maybe one assistant. Now, gee whiz, some of the staffs are as big as those at the colleges.

• When I think about great teams of the past, the 1974 Baylor squad was special, because it hadn’t won a Southwest Conference championship in fifty years. I followed the 1969 University of Texas team closely as it went on to win a national championship. I’ll always have a soft spot for Gene Stallings’s Texas A&M team from 1967, which lost the first four games of the season but went on to beat Bear Bryant and Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. And I count it as a blessing that I was able to go to the Rose Bowl in 2006 and watch Vince Young and UT beat Southern Cal. I think in fifty years people will still be talking about that team the way we still talk about those old teams.

• Integration brought a whole different aspect to football. At first it hurt interest in the game and maybe even attendance. But today high school football has reached a pinnacle, and just think about the positive effect integration had within communities beyond athletics.

• The influence of money has its pluses and minuses. I’ve been just astounded that high school teams have indoor practice facilities or that at the college level you’ve got these plush suites and state-of-the-art weight rooms. I think back to what Baylor hadwhen Grant Teaff first arrived, in 1972, and it’s daylight and dark.

• After all these years, I still get excited at the start of each season.

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