Howard University's football coach, Doug Porter, who in midseason criticized administrative support of the team, has been fired.
Porter, 4-6 last season and 30-21-1 in his five years at Howard, was summoned to Athletic Director Leo Miles' home late Thursday night, where he was given a letter indicating Miles will not recommend renewal of the coach's contract, which expires Junes 30.
Miles offered no reasons for the dismissal, but yesterday, in a telephone interview from Denver, where he will be head linesman in today's NFL game between the Broncos and Pittsburgh, Miles said:
"It was a long battle. After evaluating everything, for us to do the things we intended to do, I decided a change in leadership probably would be necessary. I looked at many, many, many, things and came to any agonizing decision and made it. It was a tough decision. I like Doug."
Miles would not deny that Porter's public charges of lack of administrative support, published in The Washington Post on Oct 25, were a factor. "There were many factors," he said. "I do not want to single one out."
Miles said there would be no change in the emphasis of the program. Porter charged in October that university officials had decreased his budget every since 1974 and had not fulfilled commitments made to him at that time, while upgrading the schedule and going into the NCAA's Division I-A-A.
In his campus office, which he was ordered to vacate within two weeks, Porter, near tears, said, "It was something that was somewhat anticipated . . . No matter how well you condition yourself for something like this, it's still hard to take. Your don't flip a coin on five years of your life."
Porter said he was told by Miles that his two full-time assistant coaches, defensive coordinator Fred Freeman and offensive coordinator Billy Manning, also were dismissed but will be paid until June 30. Of the other four assistants, two are members of Howard's physical-education staff and two others are part-timers who teach in the D.C. public schools.
Miles said he had "no one, absolutely no one," in mind to replace Porter. I'll have to get busy and get on that," he added. "I want to see if we can find a proven head coach. But that won't necessarily exclude others."
Whoever is named coach will face uphill battle in recruiting, since Porter has recruited only locally since the season ended four weeks ago and he awaited word on his fate.
Some 40 Howard football players visited Porter in his office yesterday when word of the dismissal spread.
"Whoever comes in," said tight end Dino Pierce, "will have a tough job. Nothing has changed. The program will take a big step backwards, not forward."
Junior receiver Greg Scott said, "I couldn't believe it. He had all the right intentions for the program, but no backup from the administration. I guess they thought firing Coach Porter would be the best thing for Howard. We (the players) don't think that at all."
Most of the players said they felt Porter was fired because he spoke out publicly.
"He wasn'r wrong to do that," said lineman Frankie Maynard. "Someone has to speak up and he did it."
"He did a good job and stressed education," said cornerback Wesley Mitchell. "He didn't deserve this kind of treatment."
Manning, the offensive coordinator who played under Porter at Grambling, said, "I expected this to happen. The coaches felt he waited at least a year too long before speaking out. But Doug is patient and he told us to just keep doing the best we could.
"Howard has been playing football for over 100 years and nothing has changed. Maybe we came in with the wrong ideas. You can hire a chef to bake a cake, but without the necessary ingredients, he can't bake a cake. You could hire Bear Bryant, but he wouldn't win here, either."
Porter came to Howard from Grambling University, where he was offensive coordinator.In a 1974 interview, Howard President Hames Cheek said, "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 carriers college football will be carrying Howard."
But Porter was caught up in the middle of a large contingent of university administrators who believed that top-flight academics and top-flight athletics could not co-exist on a campus that is considered the top predominantly black university in the nation.
The school did not renew giving athletic scholarships until 1968 after they had been abolished in 1926.
"What I wanted," said Porter, giving reasons for his October comments, "was somebody to spell out the direction we were going with our program. We were in Division I-A-A and hadn't done anything that would show a tangible effort to go to a higher classification."
Until this year Howard and other members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference had been in Division II.
Porter said he would not believe that his public statements, to which university officials refused to reply, had anything to do with his dismissal.
"I would like not to believe that," he said, "because I would lose all faith in the integrity of men who call themselves educators. It must be my record or how I worked with the kids."
Porter said he had been contacted by some schools about becoming an assistant coach, including predominantly white as well as black institutions. He refused to name them. He signed a four-year contract at Howard in 1975, after turning down a job as offensive coordinator at Washington State.
"I did everything I could within my limited powers to do a good job," he said. "I really can't predict how a new coach will do. All of that is conjecture. The new coach will have some fine young people to work with and youngsters who have tremendous dedication to excel. They came in today and I tod them to believe in themselves and continue to work hard."
"We have to find a person to come in and give us that little oomph and lead us in the direction we hope that will bring us a Division I-A-A championship in football," Miles said. "I feel we can do it under the current setup. We may need some refinement and improvement in some of the areas."
To whoever gets his job, Porter said: "I'm not leaving my succesor the type of pressure I walked into, following a guy with an 8-2 record. At least, he will have a little leeway to be mediocre for a while."
Howard athletics has had its share of problems lately. The football team is on a one-year NCAA probation. The soccer team, a former national champion, is ineligible for the NCAA tournament for two years, because of an administrative foulup. The school also has been investigated by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare on a sex discrimination complaint under Title 9 of an omnibus education law.