This is the last in a series of columns on the greatest coach in Louisville history. The Louisville SportsReport’s Jack Coffee is taking a look at each of the Louisville football coaches since Frank Camp.
When Frank Camp was hired from the high school ranks in Western Kentucky in 1946 to resurrect a moribund UofL football program he was asked to develop from scratch a team that would play the game on a “subdued basis,” the charge given to him by the school administration. Regardless of what Camp did, that was the attitude of the school leaders during his entire tenure as coach: subdued.
When Camp arrived on campus there was no schedule, no uniforms, no assistants and very few players. But Camp cobbled together returning G.I.’s as players, got uniforms donated and went 6-2 his first season against teams that had prior to the war mostly won against the Cards. To prove it was no fluke, Camp went 7-0-1 his second season and gave notice that Louisville was a team to be reckoned with on the gridiron. Camp would stick around for 23 seasons at Louisville and build a respected program that served the university and helped lay the groundwork for future football success.
Camp wasn’t the typical college football coach that we know today. He was extremely humble and a man of high character. He never swore and treated his players and assistant coaches with respect but also was a “rigid disciplinarian”. He was known throughout the community and active in numerous organizations.
More importantly, he was an innovator in football. Many great college coaches sought Camp’s advice on his “T” formation which was an unknown to most. Despite the odds and the University’s relative lack of support, Camp built a football team that won games and attracted fans. When the Cards moved to Manuel Stadium in 1949 they would often fill the 10,000 seat stadium with many more “SRO” (standing room only) attending.
In 1958, UofL went to their first bowl game, the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas on New Years Day. They defeated Drake 34-20 despite an early injury to All-American Lenny Lyles. Camp was the first coach in the south to recruit minorities despite a schedule that included Florida State, a school that had never played against minorities at that time.
Frank Camp was the perfect person to lay the foundation for UofL football. Camp was a good coach, low key and patient without an ego to distract him from his mission. He was the right guy for the right time. His won-loss record earns a C, but his “advancing the program” definitely earned an A.