After more than a five-decade absence, Campbell University announced last year that the varsity football program would return in 2008.
Earl Smith, 90, was the last to coach the "Fighting Camels" before the Buies Creek university dropped the football program.
“They're gonna have a fine football team,” Smith said. “They'll have to get up and go, because we set a precedent in 1946, 1947, and 1948, and that's gonna be hard to compete with."
About 1,500 excited fans watched Saturday as 79 players hit the Women’s Soccer Field at Gregory Circle. A new 2,000-seat football stadium is under construction.
“I think a lot of students are going to come out and support the Camels – obviously with the crowd here,” Campbell student Kenny Jones said.
"We view the scrimmage game as another opportunity to improve and to compete against one another," coach Dale Steele said. "We’ve made a lot of progress as individuals and as a team in terms of learning to play the game at a collegiate level. This game is not only a chance for fans to see what we can do, but for the players to gain confidence in what they’re doing."
The new football team has already boosted student enrollment.
“There are others that have come to Campbell, because we're adding football, not just because they're playing football,” Campbell athletics director Stan Williamson said.
"I'm sure that football will bring more excitement to Campbell and more alumni to homecoming each year,” Campbell alumni David Lee said.
The team will compete against similar non-scholarship programs on the Division 1 and non-1 levels.
Campbell's first game against Birmingham Southern is scheduled for Aug. 30, 2008.
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