The Bruns: What is your vision for the Varsity Reds athletic program?
Campbell: The Varsity Reds have established quite a reputation and quite a legacy, specifically with hockey. Gardiner MacDougall has taken that program and made it one of, perennially, the top hockey programs in the country. I don’t think I’m coming in to help build by any means; if anything, I’m coming in to take what has been done and really see what I can do to enhance the reputation that is already there, to push some of the stories that may hang on the periphery at times. Obviously hockey gets a lot of attention, not that it won’t under my watch, [but] there are a couple hundred student athletes here so there’s probably three or four stories attached to each one of them. Along with communicating the daily goings-on, once I get my feet under me I want to explore some of those interesting stories and find ways to project them, especially on social media.
The Bruns: You’ve been in Fredericton for [13 years] as a journalist, were you a V-Reds fan before getting this job?
Campbell: Yeah, a big V-Reds fan. I’m not UNB alum, so it’s kind of different that way but there are a ton of UNB alum in my family – my sister-in-law played volleyball here. I’ve had three or four of my in-laws that are all attached to UNB. They would spend days and nights in the [Lady Beaverbrook Gym] and now they spend days and nights in the Currie Centre. We would come regularly to UNB hockey games specifically, but now my kids are getting older and they’re involved in different sports. I’m going to be seeing some of these sports for the very first time at the UNB level, but by no means am I a stranger to the facilities here or the teams.
The Bruns: What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen as a V-Reds fan?
Campbell: I hate always going back to hockey [so] I’ll give you two. Being in the Aitken Centre when they won the National Championship a couple years ago. Winning a National championship, or any championship, is incredible, but to do it here with everyone who has supported you … you do it on the road, there’s a few supporters there, but you do it here and it’s the guy that buys the ticket every Friday and Saturday night that’s there to see it. That’s the reason the program exists. The other is, I have a 13-year-old daughter who plays basketball, and she has been involved in the Junior Varsity Reds program. To see her at the Currie Centre with the UNB jersey on and knowing that she’s watching Jeff [Speedy’s] team and Baker’s team, to see that potential in my family, to potentially be playing for UNB one day? That’s pretty cool.
The Bruns: We’re going to be hosting the Women’s Basketball National CIS tournament this year, is that exciting or intimidating?
Campbell: Week one it’s intimidating, for sure. There are a couple of weeks before I have to start focusing on that [but] obviously I have my eye on it and I’m asking a ton of questions. [It is also] hugely exciting, bringing that talent and that event here. I think this is a basketball-rich city, so I think that it’s going to get eaten up here in a big way.
The Bruns: At the same time, the men’s basketball team could be at UBC and the men’s hockey team could be in Halifax for their respective CIS tournaments.
Campbell: It’s going to be a huge juggling act, I’m not sure there will be a whole lot of sleep that weekend. I’ll do some sleeping over Christmas and that will have to do me!
The Bruns: How are you planning on promoting the V-Reds to students on campus?
Campbell: That’s the captive audience right? It’s the number one audience, that’s why all those programs exist, to give student-athletes [the opportunity] to be athletes and students at the same time and then, in part, it’s what helps generate spirit here. [I have] a couple of ideas; obviously social media is big because someone in their late forties, like me … I have that mobile device in my hand now, but I didn’t always. You guys are growing up with it, so I think a greater social media presence is a part of that. The other end of it, because I haven’t spent a lot of time on campus here, I’m going to have to figure out the best way to get to students outside of social media—that’s a work in progress.
The Bruns: Where did your passion for sports and sports communication come from?
Campbell: I wanted to play hockey, but it became clear that my talent wasn’t going to take me anywhere. I kind of kicked around a few ideas and then in my early twenties found that if I was telling stories of athletes then I could be closer to what I had hoped to do earlier. I started in the news business, that’s where I gained my experience early on, and pushed my way into being a sports reporter with CBC Sports. It allowed me to cover a whole bunch of sports at whole bunch of different levels: CIS, NHL, NBA, major, pro, minor—everything. First and foremost, I’m a sports fan, and it’s allowed me to make a living and spend my days in sports. After 13 years in news, I’m really happy and excited to be back [in sports].
The Bruns: Why should students and other Fredericton residents, attend Varsity Reds games?
Campbell: It’s a quality product. It’s exciting! These young men and women are exercising their brain during the day but then they’re committed to their craft, their passion, and that alone is worthy of attention. The abilities—the excitement that it generates—I wonder why, [while] sitting in the Currie Center sometimes, there aren’t more people here. Maybe we can find an answer to that. Maybe some of the work I’ll do, with the help of everybody else that’s in the athletic department, we can hopefully put a few more butts in seats.