But one man was soon hired to fix that.
David “Dixie” Howell took the job as the first football coach at Campbell and posted a 2-7 record during that inaugural season.
While Howell, who passed away Nov. 6 near his home in Honea Path, S.C. at the age of 85, only led the Panthers for four seasons, they are years his former players haven’t forgotten.
“Coach Howell not only taught football skills; he taught life lessons, how to be part of a team, play by the rules, respect, dedication to a challenge, and how to deal with adversity,” said Fred Herren, a member of the 1954 class, who went on to become a football coach himself. “All are skills that so many players have used to guide their lives. He had a lasting impact on who they became. He truly was a part of their transition from boys to men.”
Jim Ansley, another member of the Class of ’54 and the first captain of the Panthers, shares the sentiment.
“Coach instilled in all of us the desire to do our best at whatever we attempted,” said Ansley.
According to a website begun by football players are the original Campbell High School, daboys.org, many of the players recall learning ever aspect of the game from Howell.
The site quotes Arnold Hamby, a member of the Class of ’54 saying: “When coach Howell first came to Campbell High School, he called all the boys who wanted to play football together. The only thing we knew about football was from backyard play. There were two positions, the one who had the ball and all the others trying to tackle him.”
By 1953 the team had improved and finished 7-2-1. Howell ended his career at the school 15-17-1.
Howell and the players from those years at Campbell remained close. A delegation traveled to South Carolina to visit him him and his wife Loretta in 2011. Many former players continue to meet for monthly lunches to reminisce.
Charles Gustafson, who wrote a blog about Howell, said that while he didn’t play under the coach, his life was still impacted by him.
“I came after coach Howell,” said Gustafson. “But he is did a lot for the old Campbell. He gave us a football team.”
Howell was born in Florence, Ala. but moved to Washington, D.C. as a child and learned to play football at Eastern High in D.C. Following graduation, he accepted a scholarship to the University of Alabama, where he played under coach Frank Thomas for one year before joining the Navy.
After World War II ended in 1946, Howell accepted a scholarship to George Washington University where he finished his college career and earned a degree.
He began his coaching career at Carrollton High School in 1950 before beginning the Campbell program.
After his time at Campbell, Howell moved to the college ranks serving as an assistant football coach at Furman and the University of Virginia before leaving athletics. He also served as the head baseball coach at Furman from 1958-1960.