By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 6, 2011; 11:50 PM
Howard is expected to name Gary Harrell its new head football coach, individuals with knowledge of the school's search said. Harrell, the associate head coach and offensive coordinator at Bowie State, would replace Carey Bailey, who was let go last month.
The individuals asked not to be identified because they aren't authorized to speak on the school's behalf.
By bringing in the 38-year-old Harrell, Howard is reaching back into its past. Harrell, who was known as "The Flea," was a member of the Bison's most successful team, the 1993 squad that went undefeated, won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title, reached the division I-AA playoffs and was unofficially crowned the black college football national champion.
The former first-team all-MEAC selection ranks in the top five in program history for receiving and punt returns. Harrell holds school records for career receptions, punt returns and punt return yardage. He also holds the single-game record for receptions and is tied for receiving touchdowns in a game. In 2005, he was inducted into the university's Hall of Fame.
Two former Howard quarterbacks who played with Harrell enthusiastically endorsed him for the job.
"He's going to be a link to the past, to what many call the glory days," said Jay Walker, now a Maryland state delegate representing Prince George's County.
Added Pep Hamilton, now wide receivers coach at Stanford: "He's the man to lead our program back to the top of the MEAC. He was part of the successful years at Howard. You've got to be a Howard man to understand Howard men."
After a brief professional career that included a stint with the New York Giants, Harrell got his start in coaching at Howard. From 2002 to 2004, he coached wide receivers. He also coached at Texas Southern under former Howard coach Steve Wilson and at Morgan State. The past two seasons, he has been at Bowie State. He hasn't been a head coach until now.
Harrell inherits a program that has fallen significantly since he played for the Bison. Despite sending several players in recent years to the NFL - including Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea and St. Louis Rams cornerback Ron Bartell - Howard hasn't had a winning season since 2004, when it went 6-5, and it has had only two winning seasons in the past 12 years.
Howard went 8-36 under Bailey, including 2-30 in MEAC games. The Bison's season-ending 59-35 defeat at home to Delaware State on Nov. 20 was their 27th consecutive MEAC loss and completed their third consecutive winless league season. The only game Howard (1-10, 0-8) won this past season was against Division II Lincoln University.
The Bison had the second-worst offense in the league, averaging 18 points per game. Despite the presence of linebacker Keith Pough, a first-team all-MEAC selection, they also had the worst defense in the league, allowing 37.5 points per game.
Asked what changes he expected Harrell to make at Howard, Walker said, "I'll be real disappointed if they don't throw the ball more."