Two new high-profile head coaches joined the UCA staff for the Bears this season.
Steve Campbell took the reins of the football program, and Russ Pennell will head up the men’s basketball program. Both have proven track records as players and coaches, and they look to return the Bears to national prominence in their respective sports.
Campbell has won national championships as both a player and coach, while Pennell, a former UCA Bear who played two years under Hall of Fame coach Don Dyer, led Arizona to the Sweet 16 in 2009 as interim head coach.
Campbell began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Auburn University in 1988-89. Campbell came to UCA from a highly successful 10-year stint at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Campbell is a Pensacola, Fla. native who played at Southeastern Louisiana and Troy, winning an NCAA Division II national championship as the starting center at Troy in 1987.
Pennell, from Pittsburg, Kan., played two seasons at UCA under Hall of Fame Coach Don Dyer. Pennell played for the Bears from 1982-84 and played in 58 games. He still holds the career assist record with 341 in just two seasons. Pennell is also No. 2 in season assists with 220 during the 1983-84 season. His single-season average of 7.6 assists per game in 1983-84 is still the top average in school history. He has an impressive coaching resume that includes working with a list of coaches such as Hall of Famers Eddie Sutton and Lute Olson. He has also worked with Rob Evans at Ole Miss. Pennell was head coach at Grand Canyon University from 2009-2013, a school currently transitioning to NCAA Division I. Pennell coached the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA in 2013 and guided the team to the Western Conference finals.
While the two hires are an impressive addition to the UCA family, the success of student-athletes in the classroom and the community has been equally impressive.
The UCA football program earned the award for the top Academic Progress Rate (APR) score in the Southland Conference for the fourth consecutive year by the Football Championship Subdivision Athletic Directors Association (FCS ADA). The APR Award recognizes one institution at each of the 13 FCS conferences that has the highest APR score.
UCA’s football program had a four-year average of 949 and a yearly score of 916 for the 2012-13 school year. It was the fourth straight year that UCA topped the SLC.
UCA routinely has the most student-athletes named to the Southland Conference academic honor roll and has earned numerous SLC Student-Athlete of the Year awards in various sports.
Student-athletes are active in the community as well, participating in numerous philanthropic ventures in Conway and the surrounding area. Some of those include Samaritan’s Feet, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Wounded Warrior Project, Read to Succeed, Make-A-Wish and many more.