Who has the best barbecue? Campbell, Gardner-Webb football series will now help decide on annual basis

By Richard Walker

Who has the best barbecue in North Carolina?

Action from the 2019 49-47 triple-overtime Campbell win over Gardner-Webb

It’s a debate that’s been discussed for years by folks who like eating Western-style or Eastern-style or both versions of the barbecue that is so popular in the state.

On Friday, longtime rivals Gardner-Webb and Campbell added a twist to the discussion by announcing they will compete annually for the North Carolina East/West BBQ Trophy beginning with this season’s Oct. 9 game at 6 p.m. in Boiling Springs.

The winner of the Big South Conference matchup will hoist and host a trophy topped with a decorative hog and adorned with a placard to engrave each year’s winning team and score.

To present the trophy will be a longtime barbecue expert – Bob Garner. The author of three books on one of the state’s favorite foods, Garner has appeared on the Food Network, ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the Travel Channel’s “Road Trip” in addition to specials he produces for PBS North Carolina.

As for the game, the losing team will provide a barbecue feast from its region – Eastern-style for Campbell and Western- or Lexington-style for Gardner-Webb – to the winning team.

“A good, spirited cross-state rivalry in football can add tons of energy to the college game,” Gardner-Webb President Dr. William Downs said in a school news release. “I grew up in ACC country, so I know full well how fans look forward to Rivalry Week each year. I also love good BBQ, and North Carolina is home to some seriously heated competition between western-style and eastern-style. I’m grateful to Campbell’s President, Dr. Creed, for agreeing to combine two things we all love—sports and eating—into this annual pigskin battle. And just to get the rivalry off on the right foot, I apologize in advance to Camel Nation for GWU’s victory on October 9.”

Gardner-Webb and Campbell first met in football when each was a junior college on Nov. 16, 1929. The Fighting Camels took a 21-6 win that day in Buies Creek. The programs have played 12 times total, with Campbell holding a 5-4-3 edge in the series.

After Campbell dropped the sport, the teams did not meet from 1950 until 2018 when Gardner-Webb came away with a 35-7 win in Buies Creek. Campbell won the last meeting, 49-47, in triple-overtime in Boiling Springs.

The schools are separated by 218 miles driving distance.

“A healthy, good-natured athletics rivalry between schools like Campbell and Gardner-Webb is not only fun for our fans, it also treats the spirit of our institutions in good and positive ways,” Campbell President Dr. J. Bradley Creed said in a school news release. “Campbell is grateful to compete with such a talented group of programs in the Big South Conference and our rivalry with Gardner-Webb on the gridiron is clearly going to reach a new level of intensity this fall. There’s much more on the line than just a victory on the football field; North Carolina BBQ is up for grabs! The stakes are high! I am grateful to President Downs at Gardner-Webb for his willingness to be a good sport and friend to me and the Campbell family. When the Camels come to Boiling Springs, fear the hump!”