Know your foe: Howard University Bison
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, and their logo is a blatant rip-off of the Buffalo Bills (compare them yourself; here’s the Bills’ logo and here’s Howard’s logo). The Eagles and Bison have met once before. EMU won 38-15 in 2007. 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, 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!
I think EMU scheduled this game as a backstop against any possible losing streak, and wow, did they pick well. This should be about as easy a win as EMU will ever have. Certainly FCS teams do beat FBS teams from time to time — several MAC schools fell just last year — but Howard is among the worst FCS teams in the country. Jeff Sagarin’s initial rankings, which list EMU as the worst FBS team, nevertheless suggest that this should be a 27-point win for the Eagles.