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Camp resigns as head football coach

From the Week in Review: Most read stories from April 13 to 18 series
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CLINTON — Lee Camp decided the timing was right to step away even though it came up one year short of the timeframe he had set for himself.

Camp submitted his resignation as high school football coach at Clinton High School on Monday, and it was accepted later in the day at the monthly regular school board meeting.

“I spent 34 years doing this, and I had always had the goal of 35 years in the back of my mind,” Camp said Monday evening. “I got thinking about it; it had to be more about the kids. We have some pretty good groups coming up, and I didn’t want to disrupt that if they get on a roll.”

So, he stepped down after a 2-8 season, his 34th year in the program and the worst of his nine-year tenure as the head coach. Only Dick Olin (1971-82) and Max Lynn (1944-53) served longer in the position. His record was 35-52, and he is tied with Clinton Osburne, the coach from 1910 through 1914, for career victories behind only Olin (52) and Lynn (49).

“Every year takes a lot of energy, and you reach a point where maybe it’s a good time to pursue other things, more this year because I had had that goal, but maybe it would be better for the kids,” Camp said.

He will continue to teach social studies at the high school and plans to stay active with the newly formed TD Club.

“I think that’s a special thing we’’ve got going, but I will wait and see who the coach is and if he wants me involved,” he said. “Or I’ll just be a member.”

Superintendent Deb Olson said the search for a replacement would begin immediately, and the position might be filled before the school hired an athletic director to succeed Gary Lueders, who previously had announced plans to retire at the end of the school year.

“To me, both the football coaching position and the athletic director’s position is a high school position,” she said. “I’m not really technically involved in too much of that decision. (CHS Principal) JR (Kuch) would have decision making on that.

“I know he’s moving forward on the athletic director now. But I would be surprised if we wait until after that’s done before we hire a football coach, just because it will be late in the game at that point in time. We have to piece it together with an opening that we have.”

Clinton Schools has an at-risk teaching position open, which doesn’t require as many certifications “It kind of leaves it open,” Olson said. “It leaves it open so you can look for the best candidate for the job.”

Camp said he didn’t know if there would be any internal candidates, and he said he didn’t feel comfortable discussing the merits of any current members of the staff.

He said his successor would face several challenges.

“One of the challenges is the drop off in numbers,” he said. “The varsity is going to have good numbers next year, the sophomore team respectable. But, as you’re going down it’s dropping. I don’t know if concussions are a fear, but there are a lot of challenges for a lot of programs.”

He also said it would be interesting to see what the effect of combining Lyons and Washington middle schools into one middle school — the new school opened after last football season ended — with one team would be.

Lueders and school board member Jack Wenzel commended Camp for his service.

“He has worked for 34 years to create a positive experience for all our students,” Lueders said in a news release. “He has dedicated countless hours to not only the football program, but to CHS athletics in general. He will be missed.”

Wenzel said: “I’ve known Lee a long time. He’s been in the business a long time. Lee’s done a great job. He’s a great person. I think maybe he felt this was the right time to step down. Whether he would have stayed coaching or not coaching I would have supported him either way. I think he’s just a class-act person. I consider him a friend. Not only a friend, but a friend, coach, teacher, everything. Sometimes you get to a point where maybe enough’s enough.”

Camp’s 34-year career in the program included about 15 years as sophomore head coach, during which time he was passed over several times in the search for a head coach. He was moved up to varsity offensive coordinator in 2005. A year later he became Clinton’s fifth head coach in a nine-year span after Mark Bloom resigned to become an associate principal at the high school.

“I was excited to get it and be a part of a dream I had chased for some time,” Camp said. “It had been a little difficult because there had been so much changeover. There were some little things outside the program as far as organization that I wanted to stay long enough to give it consistency. There was quite a bit of turmoil in the program.”

The River Kings went 4-5 in Camp’s first season at the helm, a year highlighted by running back Tony Bassett breaking the school’s single-game (335 yards), single-season (1,513) and career (2,895) rushing records.

Camp had just one winning season at the helm, but that was one of the greatest years in Clinton High history. The 2009 River Kings won the Mississippi Athletic Conference title and recorded 11 consecutive wins before falling in the Iowa Class 4A quarterfinals to Cedar Rapids Xavier. It is the only time a Clinton football team had a double-digit win total.

Only three other Clinton teams, the 1985 squad of Coach Dale Giesler (9-0) and the 1947 (9-0) and 1944 (8-0) teams coached by Lynn were perfect in the regular season. The 1934 team coached by Lloyd Harper finished 7-0-1.

Camp said the key to success that year was “the atmosphere around the kids and their attitude. So many bought in and relied on each other. It was an entertaining year every night. We got on a roll, and once we started believing, we really got good.”

That season also produced one of the most memorable games in Clinton history. In a 56-7 win at Davenport Central, David Johnson touched the ball 10 times and scored seven touchdowns, although one was called back because of a penalty. Johnson, who is expected to be selected in this year’s NFL draft, finished with 259 yards rushing on seven carries and caught a 19-yard touchdown pass.

“That was unbelievable,” Camp said. “I’ve wondered where it would have ended — not that I should have done — if I kept him in. You don’t know how good that could have been. Nobody would have ever touched that record. He was in world of his own.”

While some of the best memories came from that season, Camp said there were other high points as well.

The first couple of years we had some real competitive games with a lot of people,” he said. “And a couple of years ago (in 2013) we had a (34-30 comeback win at Burlington) Eric Maddasion at quarterback, where we had to go the distance, about 93 yards, with no timeouts and did it to get the win.”

Camp won’t rule out a return to football coaching in some capacity at some time in the future, but also plans to enjoy some spare time in the fall.

“I plan on, for the first time in a lot of years, enjoying an August,” he said. “I’ve never seen the State Fair and might do that.” 

YEAR BY YEAR

Here is a look at Clinton's record each season during Lee Camp's nine-year tenure as head coach. Camp announced his resignation Monday.

2014 2-8

2013 4-6

2012 2-7

2011 3-6

2010 2-7

2009 11-1

2008 4-6

2007 3-6

2006 4-5

Totals 35-52

COACHES THROUGH THE YEARS

All-time Clinton football coaching records

Coach Years W L T Pct.

Lee Camp 9 (2006-14) 35 52 0 .402

Mark Bloom 3 (2003-05) 10 19 0 .345

Eric Royer 2 (2001-02) 4 14 0 .222

Scott Mahmens 2 (1999-00) 6 12 0 .333

Jim Cox 4 (1995-98) 17 20 0 .459

Phil Ambrose 6 (1989-94) 24 31 0 .436

Dale Giesler 6 (1983-88) 30 26 0 .536

Dick Olin 12 (1971-82) 52 59 0 .468

Wayne Phillips 7 (1964-70) 29 33 2 .469

Charles Rhodes 4 (1960-63) 9 26 1 .264

Ed Wallick 2 (1958-59) 4 10 2 .313

John Crimmings 4 (1954-57) 19 14 2 .571

Max Lynn 10 (1944-53) 49 38 2 .562

Mike Dardis 2 (1942-43) 6 11 0 .353

Roger Bowen 2 (1940-41) 6 11 0 .353

Fred Geneva 2 (1938-39) 3 12 2 .235

Lloyd Harper 5 (1933-37) 24 14 3 .622

Claude Reeck 1 (1932) 4 4 0 .500.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Bill Livermore 7 (1920, 1926-31) 32 18 7 .623

Lester Balding 3 (1923-25) 12 6 5 .630

Burton Hogle 2 (1921-22) 8 7 2 .529

Records before 1920 are incomplete

Assistant editor Brenden West contributed to this report.

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