The status of several Howard football players is in question and four others have quit the team as the Bison prepare to meet Florida A&M today at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

A crowd of more than 40,000, the largest-ever for a Bison football game, is expected for the 1:30 kick off.

A Muhammad Ali boxing exhibition and a performance by the Florida A&M band will highlight the pregame and halftime festivities.

Bison coach Doug Porter hasn't settled on his starting quarterback, but I looks like sophomore Brian Thomas, a parttime starter a year ago, will get the call over Ronald Wilson.

Whether Wilson is a freshman or sophomore is the question bothering Portner. A number of Howard fresh men a year ago, Wilson included, were redshirted, or so Porter thinks.

This was done with the intention of giving them four years of eligibility beginning this season.

he NCAA, however, says that a freshman cannot be redshirted or held out of a year of competition . . .

A spokesman for the NCAA said that a student athlete has five yearsof eligibility from the time he first enrolls in school. If the athlete does not play as a freshman, however, he will have only three years of eligibility left.

A spokesman at Howard said the school was not aware of that and said no comment would be made until porter and atheletic director Leo Miles could study the matter.

To add to his miseries, Porter also had four players quit the team this week, the most talented being offensive linemen Maxie Lee and William Hewlett. Quarterback Darnell Dailey and wide receiver Howard Hayes also quit.

"As your program intensifies, these things will happen," Porter said.

If Howard is going to improve on its 5-5-1 record of a year ago, two men who will be asked to carry much of the load are running backs James Breakfield and receiver Steve Wilson.

Breakfield was the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's leading rusher last year with 1,017 yards. He is Howards first one-season, 1,000-yard rusher and needs only three yards to become the school's career rushing leader.

"I'm not making any predictions but I think we are going to be better this year," Porter said. "This game should go a long way toward telling us what kind of team we have."

Florida A&M beat Howard, 16-14, last year and has 40 lettermen back from a 6-3-2 team, including quarter-back Albert Chester and tailback Mike Thomas.