He has coached under Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson. He worked for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. He’s collected championships at the college and NFL level.
Dave Campo, 67, has the career credentials and longevity that command respect in the coaching profession. So perhaps it was worth listening on Tuesday, when Campo, now KU’s assistant head coach, lobbied for Kansas interim head coach Clint Bowen to take over the program in a full-time capacity at the end of the season.
“This is a young man’s game,” said Campo, who arrived at KU in 2012 alongside former head coach Charlie Weis. “They made the right decision for the long term, in my opinion.
“Now my opinion is not going to make any difference at the end of this whole thing. But Clint’s ready, and he knows what to do. He understands this community; he understands the culture of the University of Kansas and the people in this community. And hopefully we have enough firepower that he gets the job. That’s what I’m hoping.”
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The firepower, of course, would be victories, which could go a long way toward boosting Bowen’s candidacy for the full-time gig.
For now, Bowen has six more games in his interim audition — seven total weeks to prove to the Kansas brass that he’s the man to guide the program into the future. The first two weeks featured a road loss at West Virginia and a 27-20 loss to Oklahoma State last Saturday in Lawrence. Now comes the next test, a road trip to Texas Tech on Saturday.
Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger has said that Bowen, a former KU player and assistant, will be a candidate for the full-time job. But KU also plans to conduct a national search to find a coach to move the program forward from the Weis era, which ended Sept. 28 after just six victories in two-plus seasons.
For now, though, Bowen has at least one advocate in Campo, the long-time NFL assistant and former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 2000-02.
“I think he’s one of the best young coaches I’ve been around,” Campo said. “I think he’s more ready than I thought he was. He’s done a lot of little innovative things that you need to do to get a program going. And he has the ear of the players.”
In early 2012, Weis hired Campo to come to Kansas to be his defensive coordinator. Campo, who had worked the previous four seasons as the Cowboys’ defensive backs coach, was paid $500,000 annually and was poised to give the Jayhawks’ staff a nice carrot while recruiting the state of Texas. Bowen, who had worked at KU as an assistant under Mark Mangino, also returned to Kansas in 2012. The year before, Bowen was also working in the state of Texas, serving as the defensive coordinator at North Texas. Through a mutual coaching contact, Campo came to know of Bowen’s coaching skills.
“The thing that struck me more than anything else, he’s a very, very competitive, no-nonsense guy,” Campo said. “But he understands players. And to me, those are the best coaches.”
Campo wants to be clear that his support of Bowen has little to do with his own future at Kansas. But at 67, with the bulk of his career behind him, he feels comfortable in speaking freely about the future of the program.
“I’m not talking about me here,” Campo said. “Because it’s a young man’s game, and (Clint has) got that energy.”
Campo also wants to be clear that he’s not happy that “we got fired,” using the pronoun “we” to describe Weis’ dismissal.
“But I feel really good about our group of guys,” he said, speaking of the remaining staff, “and Clint’s doing a really good job.”
So as Kansas continues its search, there’s one vote for Bowen. After coaching alongside Bowen for parts of the last three seasons — and watching him take over as defensive coordinator in 2013 — Campo thinks Bowen is ready to lead Kansas.
“He loves the game of football,” Campo said. “He’ll stay here until 4 or 5 in the morning if he has to, to get the job done. That’s him.”