UT coach Campbell speaks from experience on leadershipWritten by Amanda Tindall | | firstname.lastname@example.org
University of Toledo football coach Matt Campbell espouses a specific ingredient of success.
Campbell addressed 35 young business leaders at EPIC Toledo’s Unplugged event on May 21. He spoke about leadership and his experience with the Rockets football team; he was the youngest NCAA Division I coach when he became head coach at UT.
As a leader of 24 staff members and 105 players, Campbell said he used his positive and negative experiences at a variety of schools to produce a positive shift in the university’s football program. These changes, and his focus, he said are built around three main principles — recruit, retain, and develop.
“Whether it’s someone on staff or an assistant coach to a student athlete that we bring into our football program, that recruiting process revolves around this philosophy,” Campbell said. “Recruit great character, recruit people who have an unbelievable passion for what they do, and recruit people who have excellent dedication.”
Within the recruiting process, Campbell said the most important piece of the puzzle is to have people of character in the program.
“If we’re every truly going to get where we want to go, and going to do that the right way, the only way that lasts, relies on the great character of players,” he said. “What kind of people are we bringing around our players to make them from young kids to men in that pivotal window of 18 to 22 or 23?”
When asked how to bridge the gap between a lack of experience and being able to understand people well enough to be successful, Campbell referred to his experience in a the University of Pittsburgh. He said that during his time there, the team was focused on business, instead of making the players’ lives and education.
“Being involved is essential,” he said. “It’s all about communication. Your engagement means setting goals with each individual, talking with them and understanding their goals and ambitions and pushing them to achieve them. You have to be accessible. You have to be involved with everyone who touches your organization somehow, someway.”
Campbell continually referred to the ages of 18 to 22 as a crucial window for growth. He said his players need to focus on their academics. Through his leadership, and the leadership of the university’s football staff, he said the team now has above a 3.0 GPA average for the first time.
One his former student athletes, Matt Rubin, an advisory council member for EPIC Toledo, played football under Campbell for a year and helped out with the team for another year. After he stopped playing football, he joined student government, and was able to play a part in the University of Toledo’s decision to hire Campbell as the head coach.
“He’s an amazing leader,” Rubin said. “He’s so relatable as a young professional, and someone young people can really look up to. He’s always improving and making himself better.”
Many of the attendees commented on what an unusual and exceptional opportunity it was to meet and hear from a great Division I coach.
“Try to find another Division I school where you’ll have an opportunity like this,” Melissa Noe-Freeman, next year’s Chair of EPIC Toledo, said. “This is such a great opportunity to hear from such a great, young leader in the community.”
That is one of the goals of the EPIC Toledo Unplugged lecture series, EPIC Toledo Director Sara Swisher said. Most of EPIC Toledo’s events are focused around the three main things — providing networking, leadership, and professional development opportunities to build the next generation of leadership in the Toledo community.
Christopher Hill, an employee of Huntington Bank, said he appreciates the networking opportunities that EPIC Toledo offers.
“They’re getting a lot more of us involved in the community and in networking,” Hill said. “Being at a bank, it’s important to get involved with other businesses. I think EPIC Toledo is really great at giving us the chance to meet other young professionals. It’s a great thing.”
EPIC Toledo will continue to offer opportunities to meet and connect with leaders in the community and area businesses. The next event is the 7th Annual Leadership Golf Outing at 8 p.m. May 30 at the Toledo Country Club.