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Intuit Chairman, Old Blue Old Boy, Receives Gridiron Honor

Friday Sep 11, 2009 in Off the Field General

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(Campbell at a function for Old Blue. Photo Ed Hagerty)

The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame announced recently that the annual award to college football’s top scholar-athlete would be renamed for Bill Campbell, a founding member and long-time supporter of New York’s Old Blue RFC. The Campbell award is regarded as the academic Heisman, a trophy awarded annually to the nation’s best college player.

From 1959 through 1961, Bill Campbell was a linebacker at Columbia University, where he also started playing rugby. After helping Columbia to its last Ivy League football title in 1961, Campbell became an assistant football coach, first at Columbia, then at Boston College. He became Columbia’s head coach in 1974, only to encounter the rigid academic and acceptance standards of the Ivy League. Campbell resigned from Columbia after a six-year record of 12-41-1 and, at 39, went job-hunting.

His first post-football job was at J. Walter Thompson, the advertising agency, and since then he has been involved at Kodak, Claris, Apple, Go and Google. He is now the Chairman of Intuit, the maker of financial software. During Campbell’s tenure, the company's market value grew from approximately $700 million to nearly $3 billion as Intuit solidified its position as the clear leader in tax, personal finance and small business accounting software. During that time, the company also invented a new class of Web-based finance businesses delivered through Quicken.com, Intuit's Web site.

Campbell admits he had some failures, but the skills that did not win games at Columbia were spectacular in the emerging Internet world. A business major, he found an affinity for engineers, bringing groups of them together to talk shop, sometimes with a football game blaring in the background.

He remains a regular in earthy pubs in New York, Homestead, PA where he grew up, and the Bay Area. Without bragging, Campbell casually said, “Once I got a few bucks in my pocket,” he was able to do some good things, including donating computers at Homestead, naming a field and a gym after his late father and brother, and a weight room at Columbia named for his college football coach Buff Donelli.

As Chairman of Columbia University’s Board of Trustees, Campbell was influential in securing long-term use of playing and locker room facilities for both the Columbia and Old Blue Rugby Clubs at the University’s state of the art Baker Field facility in northern Manhattan.

Despite his busy schedule and prominence in the business world, Campbell remains a friendly, down-to-earth guy. He is the part owner of a bar in Palo Alto, Calif. called the Old Pro, where his raucous weekly get-togethers regularly attract some of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley.

Despite living across the country, Campbell also stays in touch with his Old Blue teammates. He shows up at one or two matches each year and hosts an annual dinner at one of New York’s best steak houses for current and former Old Blue players.

- Ed Hagerty

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