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Published: Tuesday, 12/13/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

32-year-old Ohio native becomes Rockets' 26th coach

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Matt Campbell, left, is named head football coach of the University of Toledo Rockets by athletic director Mike O'Brien. Matt Campbell, left, is named head football coach of the University of Toledo Rockets by athletic director Mike O'Brien.
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Passing on a chance to become an offensive coordinator in the Big Ten, Matt Campbell instead chose to fulfill a lifelong dream Monday night when he was named the 26th head football coach at the University of Toledo.

Despite a job offer from former UT coach Tim Beckman, who resigned Friday to accept the same position at the University of Illinois, Campbell stayed true to his Ohio roots and stuck with the Rockets after serving as their offensive coordinator for the last three seasons.

"Honestly, there's no place I'd rather be than right here at the University of Toledo," said Campbell, a native of Massillon, Ohio, and a 2002 graduate of Mount Union. "My goal and dream has always been to be a head football coach, and I think coach Beckman knew that. I think he understood that."

Campbell agreed to a five-year contract with UT that will pay him an annual base salary of $235,000, plus marketing compensation of $125,000 and other incentives. Final details of the contract are still being worked out.

On Friday, UT athletic director Mike O'Brien named Campbell as the interim coach for the Rockets' matchup with Air Force in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28 in Washington. O'Brien also said then that a national search would be conducted to find Beckman's replacement and would commence Monday.

But, according to O'Brien, it didn't take long for him to realize he "had the very best candidate right here." O'Brien added that he had Campbell in mind for the head coaching job at Toledo since Beckman's resignation but wanted to meet with UT president Lloyd Jacobs and other campus leadership before making a final decision.

"For his three years here, Tim talked about the outstanding [coaching] staff that we had here at UT," O'Brien said. "With this hire tonight, it's obvious that this was a special group of coaches that understands how to build a program."

Current and former players alike praised the hire as a decision that keeps the program moving forward.

"He's a great choice," senior cornerback Desmond Marrow said. "I think it's a key thing for the guys coming back and if there were any of the younger guys thinking about transferring or things like that. Keeping things the same keeps things going in the right direction."

Matt Campbell's wife Erica Campbell and daughters Katie, 3, and Izzy, 2, listen as he is named head football coach of the University of Toledo Rockets. Matt Campbell's wife Erica Campbell and daughters Katie, 3, and Izzy, 2, listen as he is named head football coach of the University of Toledo Rockets.
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Arizona Cardinals receiver Stephen Williams, who played under Beckman and Campbell during his senior season at UT in 2009, said a new coach could have upset the progress made by the Rockets in the last three years.

"With how our program was being run, you don't want someone coming in and destroying the momentum that the Toledo football program is building," Williams said. "[Campbell] has been around. He knows where everything is going. He's a lot like coach Beckman, but he knows the direction he wants to take this program in, especially offensively."

At just 32 years old, Campbell is the youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A). Newly hired Memphis coach Justin Fuente is the second youngest at 35 years old.

Campbell addressed his age by saying "age is just a number" and said he was ready to be a head coach based on his track record as a leader and the coaches he's studied under.

One of those coaches, Mount Union's Larry Kehres, doesn't buy into the argument that Campbell is too young to lead a football team.

Campbell was Kehres' offensive coordinator from 2005-06 and helped the Purple Raiders win two national titles after being a part of three straight national championships as a player there from 2000-02.

"When you're ready, you're ready," Kehres said. "Just like I don't think I'm too old to be a head coach, I don't think he's too young. I'm not sure it's all about age."

Another one of Campbell's mentors, Wyoming offensive coordinator and former Bowling Green State University coach Gregg Brandon, who came to Campbell's defense agreed that he is ready.

Campbell served two stints with the Falcons, first as a graduate assistant from 2003-04 and then as offensive line coach from 2007-08.

"I think Mike [O'Brien] made a great move," Brandon said. "He has everything that you need. He's a great recruiter, a very personable guy, and his work ethic is top shelf. I always thought he would make an outstanding head coaching candidate."

Contact Zach Silka at: zsilka@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ZachSilka.



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