Know your foe: Howard University Bison
Here’s an updated version of what I wrote two years ago, the last time EMU faced Howard.
Founded in 1867, and named for General Oliver Otis Howard, Howard University is a private historically black university in Washington, D.C. Howard’s enrollment is around 10,500, or just less than half of EMU’s. The 258 acre campus — less than 1/3 the area of EMU — sits in northwestern Washington, and the many historic buildings include two National Historic Landmarks: Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, Frederick Douglas Memorial Hall, and Founders Library (collectively), and General Oliver Otis Howard House (also called Howard Hall). Howard is the only historically black college or university (HBCU) designated a Tier I Research University, and it is the only HBCU with a daily newspaper (“The Hilltop”, founded in 1924 by Zora Neale Hurston). Among the many notable Howard alumni/ae are Thurgood Marshall and Toni Morrison.
The Howard Bison compete in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA, in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Their colors are red and blue. Their logo was designed by an alumnus named John Dupri, but neither he nor the school copyrighted or trademarked it. The Buffalo Bills jumped on it (for comparison, here’s the Bills’ logo and here’s Howard’s logo), and then “graciously” agreed to license it back to Howard. (Bucknell has also used the logo, apparently also licensed from the Buffalo Bills.) The Eagles and Bison have met twice before. EMU won 38-15 in 2007 and 41-9 in 2011. EMU’s only other matchup against an MEAC team was in 1977, when the Eagles defeated North Carolina A&T 21-20.
After a 1-10 (0-8 in the MEAC) season in 2010, during which the Bison were outscored 413-198 (average score of 37.5-18), head coach Carey Bailey was fired. On January 7, 2011, Howard Athletic Director Louis “Skip” Perkins hired of Gary Harrell as the new head coach, saying, “Our goal is to re-establish a competitive football program and athletic program overall at Howard University. As an alumnus, a championship athlete and a strong coach, we are confident in Coach Gary “The Flea” Harrell.” Harrell, a 1994 Howard graduate who played wide receiver and returned punts, started on the undefeated 1993 Bison team and still holds several school records. He has no prior head coaching experience, and yes, “The Flea” really is his nickname!
In 2011, Harrell led the team to an improved 5-6 record, following that with a 7-4 record in 2012, which saw the Bison finish second in the MEAC. However, shortly before the beginning of 2013 spring practice, Harrell announced he would be taking a one-year leave of absence for personal reasons. The school quickly promoted defensive coordinator Rayford Petty to interim head coach. Petty was previously the head coach of the Bison from 2002 through 2006, during which time the team amassed a 25-30 record, managing two 6-5 seasons and three losing seasons.
Despite Howard’s improvement over the past two seasons, this should be about as easy a win as EMU will ever have. Certainly FCS teams do beat FBS teams from time to time — remember last year? — but Howard remains among the bottom third of FCS teams nationally. Jeff Sagarin’s initial rankings, which list EMU as the tenth worst FBS team, nevertheless suggest that this should be a 19-point win for the Eagles.