By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Howard Athletic Director Dwight Datcher is thinking big. While some area football fans might be satisfied that Georgetown and Howard finally are playing each other, Datcher wants the a four-game series between the schools that begins today to be merely the beginning.
"If I'm a sponsor, I'm looking at this [game] and I'm saying, 'Okay, this might be a game we might take other places,' " Datcher said. "We're going to have some people here that's going to look at that. So this game has an awful lot to it."
Whether or not this game develops into a fiercely contested rivalry played at bigger venues remains to be seen. For now, today's matchup at Greene Stadium brings together the only two division I-AA teams in the District and marks the first intracity game between two division I teams since Georgetown played George Washington on Nov. 25, 1950, at Griffith Stadium.
"This is my last year, my senior year, and I'm excited that I finally get to play Howard," Georgetown wide receiver Kenny Mitchell said. "I was wondering when are we going to do it."
Though just a little more than three miles separate the schools and each has fielded a football squad for more than a century, this will be the first time they will meet on the field. According to Datcher, who was associate director of athletics at Georgetown before coming to Howard in January 2006, conversations about the schools playing each other in football have been going on for at least 10 years. Now, after more than a decade of discussion, the date is finally set.
Both coaches say the game makes sense to them.
"We're right across" town from one another, Georgetown Coach Kevin Kelly said. "As far as budgets and so forth, a gallon of gas is awfully high. Even though it's a road game, in my opinion it's a home game."
Said Howard Coach Carey Bailey, "You're keeping local dollars in the District, and you have the opportunity to generate a rivalry that can hopefully last for a long time."
Neither team enters this game with much to brag about over the past several years. Howard went 4-7 last year in Bailey's first season. It was the Bison's seventh losing season in the past nine years.
"I think we're more of a real team," Howard running back Karlos Whittaker said. "There were a lot of individuals on those teams [in years past]. Everybody was trying to do their own thing, be a standout player. But we all are on the same page this year."
Georgetown is 3-19 in Kelly's two seasons at the school. Since leaving Division III and moving up to division I-AA in 1993, the Hoyas have enjoyed just six winning seasons and none since 1999.
"Every year when you have a losing season, and we've been through a lot of them, they always say to try to cheer the senior class up: 'You guys were the foundation of a building program,' " Georgetown left tackle George Mosle said. "But this year, the foundation is over. We're trying to be the building."
Despite the close proximity of the schools, there is little familiarity between the teams. When asked, none of the players interviewed for this story said they knew anyone on the opposing team. Now they'll have the chance to get to know one another.
"You're talking about two highly rated academic institutions that's coming together and playing," Datcher said. "The meshing of the two schools is almost a natural. . . . Whether they wanted to do this some time ago, they probably did. But the timing is right, now."