High costs and budget cuts at the historically black college in Princess Anne caused football to be eliminated after the 1979 season.
But a passionate group of alumni and university staff called Hawks For Football has worked for more than a decade to resurrect the program, and is hopeful that now is the time for a revival, with a new school president and the university’s partnership in a feasibility study.
Results of the study — which will show whether or not the school can support a football program — are expected in two to three weeks. If successful, a commission will be put together to see when the team will begin play. Hawks For Football hopes to field a team within the next four years.
“Football was the number one,” said Boozer, who as a member of the New York Jets was one of five Hawks to play in Super Bowl III. “It was a small community, but they were totally behind the football team.”
Joanne Johnson-Shaw, the spokeswoman for Hawks For Football, said a football program would fill a major void, not only for the university but for the community.
She said thousands of the school’s students leave the campus during fall weekends in order to attend homecoming celebrations and football games at other black colleges. The influx of students from other colleges to attend UMES’s homecoming would provide an economic base for Princess Anne businesses, Johnson-Shaw said.
The program’s historical dominance was started by Coach Vernon “Skip” McCain. Along with the football team, McCain coached the basketball team and was the school’s athletic director. From 1948 to 1963 he compiled a 101-16-5 record and was named coach of the year in 1950 by the Washington Pigskin Club.
The Hawks sent nearly 30 players to the NFL. Prominent alumni include former Redskins Mack Alston and Johnny Sample and NFL Hall of Famer Art Shell of Oakland.
“When you talk about winning, we just had a passion around athletics,” Johnson-Shaw said. “There is a pride and a spirit and a love that comes from that and no other sport brings it.”
Johnson-Shaw graduated from UMES in 1972 and her daughter, Stacey, will be a junior this fall. Her daughter asked Johnson-Shaw why she didn’t tell her the school didn’t have a football team. “What do you think I’ve been trying to do all these years?” she replied.
University President Dr. Juliette B. Bell said it’s important that the school takes its time with a decision like this. She took over for interim president Mortimer Neufville on July 1 and is still gathering information herself.