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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

UNCP kicks-off football with massive pep rally

The “First and Ten: Campaign for Football and Athletic Excellence” kicked-off September 22 to a boisterous crowd of about 1,500.

The pep rally, featuring UNCP’s marching band, cheerleaders and dance team, launched a much-anticipated $4 million fund-raising campaign, the largest in University history.

Kelvin Sampson

Kelvin Sampson

University of Oklahoma basketball coach and native son Kelvin Sampson and NFL great Dwight Clark were introduced as honorary co-chairs of the campaign. They proved able spokesmen for UNCP and football.

Chancellor Allen C. Meadors, who has set the stage for football to return to UNCP after more than 50 years, announced Davidson College as a tentative Sept. 1, 2007 first opponent.

Pacesetter gifts of $500,000 from Lumbee Guaranty Bank in Pembroke and another significant gift from 1968 graduate Mac Campbell and his wife Sylvia were announced.

Kelvin Sampson, a two-sport star and 1978 graduate, said starting a football team is a “gutsy move.”

“I see this as a real positive for the University,” Sampson said. “Everybody has to embrace it. Go Braves!”

Dwight Clark

Dwight Clark

Clark, the former San Francisco 49er wide receiver who will forever be known for making “the catch” that beat the Dallas Cowboys, listed some of the challenges.

“This is going to help recruiting for all sports,” he said. “But you’ve got to have a great facility, the best, and we’ll have to raise funds to do it.”

Sampson said football will lift all boats at the University and the community.

“Football will have an economic impact, a social impact and a perceptual impact,” Sampson said. “When was the last time UNCP was in the newspaper in July? Imagine what homecoming will be like.”

One of the most successful basketball coaches in American Sampson knows a lot about building athletic programs. He said football has great potential for success at the University.

Chancellor Meadors

Chancellor Allen C. Meadors

“UNCP has the potential to become a great football power,” he said. “The most important entity in the whole football scene is the student body. It has to have unconditional support from the students.”

Students have played a key role in setting the stage for the return of football, Chancellor Meadors said.

“Our students didn’t just say yes .. they said heck yes,” Chancellor Meadors said. “Our football team will need the very best we can provide. The good news is the money is here. The bad news is it’s still in your wallets.”

Student Government Association President Marco Gospojevic said students are excited.

“The SGA fought very hard last year for football,” he said. “Let’s play ball.”

Marco Gospojevic (left) with Jesse Oxendine

Marco Gospojevic (left) with Jesse Oxendine

The SGA president caught a ceremonial touchdown pass from Jesse Oxendine, a quarterback during UNCP’s 1947-51 football teams. Twelve football players from the University’s golden age of football returned for the kick-off celebration, including Sampson’s father Ned, who was the first person inducted into the UNCP Athletic Hall of Fame.

Other former football players honored during the kick-off included: James C. Dial, Curt Locklear Sr., Delton Ray Locklear, Talmadge Locklear, Monroe Lowry, Robert Oxendine, Tom Oxendine, Louis Oxendine, Vincent Lowry and James A. Jones.

Talmadge Locklear, a team member from the Prospect community, came to see history in the making.

“We had some good ones,” Locklear said. “I only weighed 125 pounds, but I loved to hit those big boys.”

Chancellor Meadors praised the early Braves.

1947-51 Football Team Members

1947-51 Football Team Members

“Our football teams from this era had a reputation for being hard-hitting and for winning,” he said. “When you meet them today, you know they were winners then, and they are winners now. That is the legacy they pass on to us.”

Chancellor Meadors’ drive to start a football team was praised from all quarters, but he saw it differently.

“When I arrived in Pembroke, the first question I was asked was ‘When are we going to start a football team?’” he said. “They didn’t say if. They said when.”

“When it comes to writing the history of football at UNC Pembroke, I want to get one important point straight right here at the kick-off,” Chancellor Meadors said. “Football was not an idea that I brought here. It was your idea.”

Dance Team

Dance Team

Whether future historians will heed Chancellor Meadors’ version of events is debatable. This Chancellor did start the University’s marching band, which played both the new school fight song and the alma mater.

Dubbed the Spirit of the Carolinas, the band will be ready by fall 2007, said Director Tracy Wiggins.

“We have a five-year head start on football,” Wiggins said. “We’ll come out on game day with a full-sized band, and we’ll be ready.”

Band member Joshua Hunt, who played for South Robeson High School’s band, said the band has lifted up the Music Department.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Hunt said. “The department is growing very rapidly, partly because of the marching band.”

Freshman tuba player Joshua Tew, who played for Midway High School’s band, was proud to be a member of the Spirit of the Carolinas.

“This band has a lot of potential, and it’s made this a good freshman year for me,” Tew said. “I’m proud to be a member.”

Sampson had a few final words of wisdom.

“When I heard about football at Pembroke, my reaction was probably the same as yours. But you can’t stay in a box,” he said. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.”

In the morning, Sampson and Clark taped a segment of “Inside Athletics” and promotional spots at WNCP-TV studios. They met with the press, signed autographs and played golf with prospective donors in the afternoon.

To contribute to the “First and Ten: Campaign for Football,” please contact the Office for Advancement at 910.521.6252 or email advancement@uncp.edu.

For questions about football at UNCP, please contact the Athletic Department at 910.521.6227 or email daniel.kenney@uncp.edu.

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