Coach/UTM split difficult to ‘figure’
Posted: Friday, June 5, 2009 2:56 pm
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
Bret Campbell’s numbers from last season netted him Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year honors and the University of Tennessee at Martin its first-ever OVC men’s basketball championship.
A different set of figures, though, has led to his resignation as the Skyhawks’ head coach.
Campbell elected to step down from a post he’s held the past 10 seasons Thursday, reportedly in the wake of a University of Tennessee system audit into the use of funds from team camps.
Reportedly, game officials were paid directly by Campbell from checks of participating teams, a process outside the protocol set by the University of Tennessee system.
Campbell, who declined to comment in detail on the matter, did tell The Messenger Thursday night there “were no NCAA violations in regard to this scenario” and “it was strictly a camp policy and procedure matter” in question.
“There was no situation of fraud,” he said. “The biggest thing was that I didn’t have our camps incorporated. It was nothing else.”
UTM Athletics Director Phil Dane did not return a call seeking comment on the situation Thursday night.
A university release was reportedly being circulated today confirming Campbell’s decision to resign to “spend more time with my family.” There supposedly were to be no details of the audit, nor its findings, mentioned in the university-produced communication.
In that same release, Campbell’s lead assistant and head recruiting coordinator Jason James was named as the Skyhawks’ new head coach.
James has been an aide in the program for seven years and will retain Jay Bowen, an 18-year veteran who joined the UTM staff prior to last season, on the bench. It will be James’ first head coaching job and he will become the first African-American head coach in the program’s history.
The 48-year-old Campbell was the OVC’s second-longest tenured men’s hoops coach, his 10 seasons with the Skyhawks second only to Austin Peay’s Dave Loos. Ironically, Campbell — who was also an assistant at four other schools beforehand — was hired at Martin from Loos’ staff at APSU in March of 1999.
The last two seasons of his decade-long tenure at UTM were his best.
Led by two-time Player of the Year Lester Hudson and under Campbell’s direction, UT Martin advanced to the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in consecutive seasons — this past year after winning the league’s regular season championship and a school-record 22 games.
Campbell, whose teams were over .500 just twice in his previous eight seasons at the Skyhawk helm, became just the second coach in school history to win OVC Coach of the year honors since the school joined the league and Division I ranks in 1992.
His overall record at UTM was 125-167 and he was one of just three league coaches with more than 100 wins in his time in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity I had at UT Martin,” Campbell said. “I’m especially proud that we were able to win the first-ever OVC men’s basketball championship, and I’ll look forward to the day they hang that banner in the rafters of the Elam Center.
“I appreciate all the community support both I and the program received during my time here. The fans have been truly great to me and my family.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 6.5.09