When Campbell Memorial head football coach Jeff Bayuk accepted the job in 2007, some might have been wondering if he knew what he was getting himself into.
After all, the Red Devils have struggled to a 6-34 record in the past four years and haven’t had a winning season since going 6-4 in 2003 and 2002.
Meanwhile, during Bayuk’s stint at Hubbard, the Eagles had won several league championships and contended for playoff berths nearly every season.
But Bayuk’s been around the block a few times. He knows the risks and rewards of accepting the responsibility of resurrecting a football program.
And with a strong group of returnees on both sides of the ball and a solid off-season in the weight room, this might be the year that Bayuk and the Red Devils turn the corner.
Q. What’s it been like going from an established program like Hubbard to one that has been struggling like Campbell?
A. It’s not as different to me as some people may think. It’s very similar to when I was at Canfield and Hubbard. Before I got to Hubbard, they were 4-36 in the four years prior. But people kind of forget the times when Hubbard struggled. We had some growing pains and went through some 3-7 seasons. But the coaches and players worked hard and we got to where we wanted to be. We know here at Campbell there is no quick-fix and we’re not putting a time limit on things. We just are trying to do the things we know are right and if we do that, good things will happen. If we treat the kids right and we’re given the time, then we’ll build continuity and have some success.
Q. What are your thoughts on the new All-American Conference?
A. I think it’s great. I’m really familiar with a lot of the schools in the league from coaching at Hubbard. I think it’s nice that most of the schools in each tier are about the same size. This year, we play almost two full tiers in the league, since we play everyone in our tier (Blue Tier) and everyone except Hubbard in the White Tier. It’s nice to have that flexibility in your schedule.
Q. Do you have the opportunity to follow any of the other teams in the Valley or are you pretty consumed with your program?
A. The teams I watch depend on what people are there. Like Dan [Reardon] is over at Ursuline and he’s a former player of mine, so I try to see how he’s doing. I follow Howland because I played for Coach [Dick] Angle. I watch Liberty because Jeff Whittaker is a good friend of mine. And I feel good when Canfield does well because I have relationships over there, too. It’s nice to keep in contact with people that have been important to you all these years.
Q. What teams do you root for on Saturdays and Sundays?
A. I really love college football in general, but I grew up in Pennsylvania, so I’ve always been a Penn State fan. I also like to watch Michigan. On Sundays, I’ve always been a Steelers fan since I was a young kid, but that’s going to change this year. A former player of mine, Anthony Smith, is a safety for Green Bay, so I’m a Packers’ fan now.
Q. Are you a fan of the 7:00 start time?
A. No, I’m not. In the games where we have to go to say Champion or LaBrae, it makes it very difficult for the parents who get off work at 5:00 or 6:00 to gather up the family and get to the game on time. I think if you ask the kids, as long as they’re playing, they don’t care about the time. But I think the 7:30 start gives the parents more time to get there.
Q. Does your team have shirts or anything with your team motto or slogan for the 2009 season?
A. No, we don’t. Actually, I collect all our opponents’ posters and program covers and stuff like that to use them as a motivational tool. Some of that stuff is entertaining and some is presumptious. We don’t want to give anyone any extra motivation. We might have something private in that we want to get better and be competitive, but we aren’t broadcasting anything like that.
XInterview conducted by Vindicator correspondent Eric Hamilton.