University of Central Arkansas head coach Steve Campbell has been hired to lead the South Alabama football program, South Alabama Athletic Director Joel Erdmann announced Thursday.
The move comes after Campell led the Bears to a 10-2, Southland Conference championship season that ended in a 21-15 loss to New Hampshire in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
Campbell, 51, will replace Joey Jones, who resigned after the Jaguars lost 52-0 to Georgia Southern on Nov. 18. Jones was the coach when the football program began in 2008, and he had a 52-50 overall record. South Alabama finished the season 4-8 and missed a bowl game for the fourth time in program history.
"When the search began we identified the experience, qualities and characteristics we were looking for. We searched for a leader who has demonstrated success and possesses a vision for the program with the plan to communicate and achieve that vision," Erdmann said in a released statement. "As the search progressed, it became clear that Coach Campbell had what we were looking for. He became the primary target and accepted the offer. He is a proven college head football coach who has achieved consistent success in various settings with different programs."
Campbell had a 33-15 record in four seasons with UCA at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, and he will now lead a South Alabama program that competes in the Football Bowl Subdivision in the Sun Belt Conference, where Arkansas State University is a member.
The move to Mobile, Ala., also sets Campbell 73 miles away from his hometown of Pensacola, Fla.
"I was born and raised in this area, just down the road outside of Pensacola, and have always felt that if South Alabama started football it would be a gold mine, a place where the sky is the limit and you can definitely compete for championships at the highest level," Campbell said in a statement. "Coach Jones did a terrific job of getting the program started and laying a tremendous foundation. This is an opportunity to get back home and, more than that, to take what Joey has started and raise it to the next level and win some championships."
Campbell was the starting center on Troy's 1987 football team that won the Division II National Championship, and he was a graduate assistant at Auburn from 1988-89 under Hall of Fame Coach Pat Dye. Then, Campbell was an offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at Delta State (Miss.) from 1990-1992, and he was an offensive coordinator at Nicholls State from 1993-1995 before becoming the running backs coach at Southwest Mississippi Community College in 1996.
He was the head coach at Southwest Mississippi for two seasons before he was hired as the head coach at Delta State in 1999, where he accumulated a 27-8 record in three seasons and won the DII National Championship in 2000. From there, Campbell was the offensive coordinator for one season at Middle Tennessee State in 2002, and then he was the offensive line coach at Mississippi State for the 2003 season.
Campbell became the head coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in 2004, where he had an 87-22 record in 10 seasons and won the NCAA National Championship in 2007.
Campbell was named UCA's head coach on Dec. 19, 2013.
Campbell and UCA Athletic Director Brad Teague did not respond in attempts for comment from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.