Leo Miles is the athletic director at Howard University.He said it was an agonizing thing he did the other day. He fired the football coach, Doug Porter. Some people think Miles should have fired himself. Some people think Howard University ought to be embarrassed by the agonizing thing Miles did. Only those people don't it agonizing. They call it stupid.
Miles fired Porter for not winning big. "There were many factors," Miles said. He means the coach didn't win big enough. That's waht athletic directors always mean when they fire a football coach. The interesting thing here is that Miles, and Howard, made it impossible for Porter to win big. Then they fired him. Wasting talent-and Porter's talent is unquestioned-is stupid.
"We have to find a person," Miles said the other day, talking about finding a new coach, "to come in and give us that little ommph and lead us in the direction we hope that will bring us a Division I-AA championship in football. I feel we can do it under the current setup. We may need some refinement and improvement in some of the areas."
Excuse me while I laugh myself silly.
This man is a comedian.
For one thing, the championship of Division I-AA is no big deal. Of 643 football-playing universities, only 38 belong to Division I-AA. That division is one step below the Alabamas and Ohio States, one step above the James Madisons and Western Kentuckys.
Another funny thing about Miles' ambition to win the whole ball of Division I-AA wax is that only four years ago the president of Howard University was yammering away about winning the world. "We want to be No. 1 in the university division," said President James Cheek."One day ABC or whoever carries college football will be carrying Howard."
Who are these guys? Rich Little and Bill Cosby? Book them on the Carson show. Here's Leo Miles looking for an oomph coach and James Cheek pining away for a visit by Howard Cosell. It all sounds nice, but that's all Howard University football is: sound. Sound and no fury. Nothing ever happens.
I have read 20 years worth of clippings on Howard football. I am stunned by the constant repetition of promises and boasts unfulfilled. In 1970, football Coach Illman Sease cried out in frustration. There was big talk of going big time, but he was getting no help from the university administration.
"You'd think we are turning out Rhodes Scholars the way the administration policy is set," he said, lamenting the loss of academically unqualified athletes to pits of ignorance named Princeton and Harvared. "Everyone has gone wild with the idea of Howard escalating its program, but if the general attitude toward athletics that prevailed 20 years ago remains, all we're going to succeed in doing is getting humiliated instead of beaten."
Well, that was 1970. And Cheek made his I-want-to-be-No. 1 speech in 1974. So by 1978, in Doug Porter's fifth season since he left Grambling "to create a Howard," you would think Howard would really be cooking.
Some college teams practive on the same field where they play games. They do it because they have no choic. No one wants to spend money to provide the extra space necessary. Any team that practices on its game field can rightfully think that no onecares whether it plays or not.
Howard practices on its game field.
Except when the soccer team wants the field.
Or the band.
The extent of the Howard administration commitment to football can be judged by its order that the football team clear the field at 6 p.m. each night. That's when soccer practice starts. The band takes over at 8.
Porter had no secretary to handle the mountain of correspondence necessary to a first-class recruiting program. He had only two full-time assistant coaches (filling in with four moonlighters). The football budget, Porter has said, decreased every year while the schedule was upgraded.
As Sease, a good coach, learned when he was fired, a coach needs no enemies when he has administrative friends like that. "Just on facilities, we could look at a school like James Madison,"said a Howard man, "and see that we don't even compare. Or look at Towson State. For that matter, we don't even compare to Northern Virginia high schools."
Two years ago, the Howard homecoming programe carried a cartoon cover, half of which portrayed Howard as it hoped to be in 1986: RFK Stadium filled, scoreboard reading, "Howard 45, Maryland O," with Howard Cosell begging a Howard player for an interview.
The other half of the cartoon cover showed a diapidated, grassless Howard Stadium that was virtually empty. The scoreboard read, "Podunk U 45, Howard O." And the coach, Doug Porter, was depicted crying, head in hands.
Which would be Howard's future? That was the question asked on the homecoming program two years ago. Sadly, it seems we have an answer today. Rather than make a solid commitment to a good coach. Howard has chosen to fire him and keep talking big.
It's a habit with Howard