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Fall 2004 l Capital University Journal
Campbell serves up support–on and off the court

BILL CAMPBELL Photo by Sherry Mark BILL CAMPBELL IS WORLD CLASS when it comes to supporting Sac State. An alum, he has built the women’s tennis program with committed coaching and profits from one of his companies. He and his partner Ramey Osborne—and their families—have donated more than $1.1 million over the years.

And he is world class in the eyes of young tennis players from around the world who have heard about him and his capital city team.

But when he uses the term world class, he refers to his team which has the most foreign students—eight—of any team at Sac State, the highest grade-point average of any Sac State intercollegiate athletic team, and players ranked 33rd, 44th and 124th in the country. He is proud that this year they played well against some of the country’s finest tennis schools, and have an even tougher schedule next year—including Tulane, Stanford and the University of Washington. Three times in a row he has taken his team to the NCAA national championships, and this year his team moved up the national rankings to a high of 28th before ending the season at 37th.

Hungarians, Russians, Ukrainians, Swedes, Canadians, Egyptians, and Brazilians—they’ve all heard of the strong women’s tennis program at Sac State and made tremendous efforts to join it and their American teammates. The tennis team allows Campbell to combine the passions of his life—tennis and mentoring young athletes. He’s been doing both in a variety of settings nearly all of his life.

“I learned while I was a college student that I could teach tennis for $25 an hour, which was much more than minimum wage at the time. I could have a great time and still earn money, and I loved it,” says Campbell, who began working for a local parks and recreation district while in college, eventually enrolling nearly 400 youngsters in summer tennis lessons. His park program produced four players who received world rankings. One was a NCAA singles champion who attended Stanford, was 19th in the world in the WTA tour and is now an attorney in Sacramento.

While in the MBA program at Sac State, Campbell did research that became the basis for founding his first tennis club, Rio Del Oro. Over time he built a lucrative business enterprise, Spare Time Inc., based on his love for tennis. He and his wife Margie now have nearly a dozen clubs in the region.

He was drawn to help Sac State during a tumultuous time in 1983, when, for financial reasons, the University dropped tennis. “I felt it was important to re-start a program here,” said Campbell. But in his discussions with University officials it was made clear the program would have to be self-supporting.

So Campbell and Osborne purchased the Sacramento Capitals World Tennis Team with the idea that the profits would go to support the University’s tennis program. It was Osborne’s responsibility to run that operation on a daily basis. It was a success and it paid off for the community–drawing top international players–and for the University with more than $1 million dollars going to the tennis program for scholarships, coaching salaries, travel and other necessities.

When a student fee increase, better budget years and a move to Division I helped re-fund the University’s program and provide scholarships for many of the students, Campbell continued supporting the teams. Then in 1998 he was offered the women’s coaching position. He took it, but continues to donate his coach’s salary to support the team. His support is part of his personal philosophy. He says, “I’ve always felt this is ‘our’ community and we need to make living here… make it as great an experience as possible. This may not be the university you graduated from, but it is a part of our community and it is truly our university.”

He says there are three reasons he continues to give so generously to the University. “First, I like the school and enjoy students. I’d played tennis here in my junior year in college and had a great time.”

Second, he also noticed that, “There are so many colleges in Southern California that have good programs, good role models, good mentors, and good opportunities for tennis players. I wanted to see that for Northern California.

“Third, the men’s and women’s team at CSUS have provided our company with many outstanding employees—managers and tennis pros.”

It was his wife Margie, who actually coached the team for two years in the early 1970s, who encouraged him to develop the program at Sac State. His son graduated from Sac State, followed by his daughter this spring, and as a family they look forward to continuing to have a home filled with young Hornets.

“We get a real kick out of seeing them develop as players and individuals; to be successful not just in tennis, but in life. They have taught us a lot over the years. There are a lot of life lessons to be learned from tennis–after all, when you are out there, you are out there on your own.”

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