Howard University's commitment to a first-class football team has lessened every year since he became coach in 1974, Doug Porter said yesterday.
In response to questions concerning Howard's current NCAA probation, the upgrading of its football schedule and the team's 2-4 record, Porter said: "I personally think a 500 record, considering the people we play against and the tools we have to work with, represents and outstanding coaching job.
Not many people will probably share the opinion, but having been exposed (as offensive coordinator at Grambling) to a very outstanding football program at a black school and knowing what it takes to cause one to function, I think I'm in a position to make that judgement," said Porter, 49, whose contract expires after this season.
Porter was 500 the past two years and 8-3-0 and 8-2-1 in his first two seasons. In a 90-minutes interview, he said his budget has been decreased every year and that commitments made by university administrators five years ago have yet to be fulfilled.
For instance, Porter said, he still does not have a secretary to handle recruiting correspondence and such mundane tasks as typing the daily practice schedule.
"Trying to recruit without a secretary is like fighting a bull and being tied to a stake," Porter said.
"I have had to accept all these things because they are decisions the university has made, which I had to go along with. But the thing that disturbs me is that I don't think anyone has ever made any effort to articulate this to anyone outside the university and they have left people laboring under the impression that Howard is really doing everything that it needed to do in order to have a good program.
"It hurts me to be criticized for not doing well against South Carolina State and at the same time I know we are not anywhere near approaching the level of their program, starting from the athletic dormitory right on down the line."
When Porter became coach, Howard was playing teams it could be competitive with today. But, working under the impression the university wanted to upgrade its program, Porter said he scheduled better teams.
"In 1974 we were launching what we thought were going to be the first steps in the development of what would be a very, very good college division program. We were going to attempt to develop a program that would be competitive with the leading black college football programs," Porter said. "There were some people at the university who envisioned going further than this and there was some talk about scheduling major universities."
In a 1974 interview, James Cheek, university president, told The Washington Post: "We have some selling points now that allow us to compete. We want to be No. 1 in the university division. We want to attract top athletes. I don't care if they are black or white . . . One day ABC or whoever carries college football will be carring Howard."
"These were ideas that I felt were not realistic." Porter said. "But, in 1974, I thought we had a program which, with some implementation, some building, would have kept us competitive with the major people on our schedule. It's sad to say that since 1974 our program each year has de-escalated, rather than escalated and it has been a continous type of thing."
Porter said Athletic Director Leo Miles informs him of budget cuts and that he assumes that Miles' hands in financing are tied by the university administration.
"I would like to be judged on the basis of the things that we have had to work with which we have to compete." Porter said. "It looks like whenever a program is not successful, the thing to do is say. 'Well, we're going to blame the coach.' I don't mind accepting the weight as long as I think the weight is being fairly distributed."
As it now stands, Howard will be fortunate to produce a .500 team because of the caliber of the competition.
There are schools on our schedule who should beat us because of the level program," Porter said. "That would be South Carolina State, Florida A&M. North Carolina A&T, Delaware State, Southern University.
"Then I would say the other people would be tit for tat. Some years they would be better than we are: other years we would be a little better than they are."
Howard's athletic budget has been reported at $1 million with about $750,000 subsidized by the university. Porter said Miles has never told him what his budget is, only approved or vetoed his requests. According to Porter, this is the state of the football program:
Recruiting, the lifeline of any program, has been cut back. Howard no longer recruits in Texas or Claifornia.
Howard's publicity has been greatly reduced. Porter said this year's football guide is mimeoraphed and stapled together, "a disgrace to give to any pro scout." In Porter's first year, Howard had a slick media guide and numerous radio and television commercials.
After three years, the weight room is still incomplete.
Tutoring, which Porter considers essential at a university with Howard's academic standards and needed on a universitywide basis, now consists of a study hall and volunteer tutoring. And 14 or 22 recruits who would now be seniors have flunked out. Porter says this high attrition is the most major problem. Last year, he said, both starting offensive tackles flunked out, leaving the Bison with two freshmen starters.
The promise of an athletic dorm is still that, a promise, and players are scattered in housing throughtout the campus. They used to be put up in a local motel for the homecoming game but, for economic reasons, that practice was discontinued this year.
The team still shares the practice field with the soccer team and the band. "There are many afternoons we don't finish doing all the things we set out to do," Porter said, "but we really don't have a choice, except to come back at 11 o'clock and I don't think that would be fair to our young boys because they need time to study.
Only one game is now played in RFK Stadium. When Porter became coach, Howard had moved all its games out of its small campus stadium.
Transportation to events is sometimes shaky. In 1975, the bus carrying the team to S.C. State, a 14-hour ride broke down on the highway and the players spent part of the Friday night before the game trying to nap in their seats.
Howard's football grants in aid do not include summer school, as do those of opponents. Therefore, Porter said, a player needing "two or three hours to be eligible" may not be able to take those classes because he cannot afford it.
What this all means, said Porter, is that "the mental frame work the kids work in is extremely important. Their friends come home and talk about what goes on at their institutions and it's very difficult to tell a kid he's in a first-class program and he's expected to perform in a first-class manner when he's surrounded by things he realizes are not first class."
Porter compared Howard's athletic program to that at Grambling:
"The institution understood the role of its athletic program and took the steps and created the atmosphere conducive to the development of a great athletic program. But I feel the potential to do this still exists at Howard University and, to me, I guess the most frustrating thing is not being able to see the fruit bloom . . .
"We've got the tip of an iceburg, but when you look below that we don't have the foundation."
In fact, when he recruits now, Porter said, he depends on personal contacts with high school coaches rather than trying to sell the football team to the athlete.
"Our strong selling point still has to be educational advantages," Porter said. "A lot of people don't really go along with that."
But that was what sold Porter on Howard in the first place. Five years ago, he had his choice of becoming the head coach at Florida A&M or here.
Today, A&M gets featured in national magazines about its resurgence and Howard is mediocre.
"I thought Howard had the greater potential," Porter said. "Howard never had very much of an athletic heritage. I felt that whatever I would be able to accomplish here would be more or less my handiwork. I felt Howard would give me a chance to make a contribution, that I could see myself being a mover in the whole thing.
"I do not want to leave here. But I don't feel I have been given the ability to do what I really set out to do."