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Know your foe: Howard University Bison

August 11, 2011

Founders Library at Howard University

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.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark H. permalink
    August 11, 2011 2:21 pm

    Lots of good information, thanks for the post! Any idea how much EMU is paying Howard to come play this game?

    • August 11, 2011 2:30 pm

      I believe EMU is paying Howard $350,000 for the game, and paying Alabama State $380,000 for the second game of the season (probably more because it was scheduled more recently, and they have farther to travel).

      On the revenue side, last fall it was reported that EMU will be paid $465,000 to play at Michigan, and $550,000 for Penn State. The previous EMU athletic director scheduled the games, and last October the Board of Regents asked Derrick Gragg to try to renegotiate them. I haven’t heard if he was successful, though I do know that he was able to renegotiate the 2012 game at Michigan State up from $400,000 to $650,000.

  2. Mark H. permalink
    August 11, 2011 8:39 pm

    Thanks for the details, cmadler! You’re always very informative, and that’s appreciated.

  3. Kenneth Barna permalink
    August 12, 2011 10:37 am

    Dear EMU Fans,
    I generally do not mind scheduling games of this kind, however, and I understand that scheduling can be difficult, I would much rather see Eastern play Louisiana Tech, (as originally scheduled) than Alabama State. I do not disparage the Hornets in any way, it could be a difficult win. I just think scheduling two FCS schools is not a good thing for your resume, and I know one could argue, we have to get some wins to increase interest in the program.
    One of my pet peeves with Eastern, is when I asked why the schedule change from Louisiana Tech to Alabama State, I was met with silence. I mean, are we talking atomic secrets? What’s wrong with saying Louisiana Tech wanted too much money, or they just wanted to go in a different direction with their scheduling, or Eastern wanted to go in a different direction? For fans that are interested in Eastern, and what goes on, they should be more compliant. Why turn off those that are truly interested? That’s also why I appreciate this site, thanks.

    • August 12, 2011 11:27 am

      I don’t like FCS games in general, nor do I like the non-Division I basketball games EMU schedules. My personal feeling is that they should be treated like NCAA vacated games: wins don’t count but losses do count. Alabama State is the worst of this kind of game, because they’re good enough in FCS to have a shot at beating an FBS team. For that matter, if EMU had to schedule a second FCS team, they should have made sure it was one of the worst FCS teams.

      As to the question of why EMU is playing Alabama State rather than Louisiana Tech, I don’t have a firm answer, but I think I heard something about Louisiana Tech cancelling (which probably means they paid EMU to get out of the game). The Bulldogs’ non-conference games this fall are against Southern Mississippi, Central Arkansas, Houston, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss. My guess — and that’s all it is — is that either Mississippi State or Ole Miss had an opening to fill and was able to pay Louisiana Tech enough to make buying out the EMU game worthwhile (plus the travel cost would be less).

  4. August 16, 2011 7:31 pm

    Just a quick note, Howard had the logo, longer than the Bills. Please do research before you start ripping into a school for stealing.

    • August 16, 2011 7:55 pm

      Thanks for the comment. Digging deeper, it looks like a Howard alumnus named John Dupri designed the logo for his alma mater (I haven’t found the year), but neither he nor the school copyrighted or trademarked it. The Buffalo Bills jumped on it, and then “graciously” agreed to license it back to Howard at no charge. Bucknell has apparently also used the logo, licensed from the Bills.


  1. Game 1 preview: Howard Bison « Eagle Totem

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