Howard University unveiled Floyd Keith as its new football coach yesterday. It was learned that he signed a five-year contract for about $30,000 annually.
It was also learned that the university administration agreed to increase Howard's scholarship limit from 60 to 75, the maximum allowable in the NCAA's Division I-AA.
On a day he reaffirmed Howard's aimmfor big-time status in football, University President James Cheek said the university expects to break ground in less than five years on a $14 million stadium-parking complex to replace the current small campus stadium.
Keith, who assumed the job Wednesday, replaces Doug Porter, who was fired Dec. 15 after criticizing the university administration for failing to fulfill commitments made to him five years ago. Porter coached the Bison to a 30-21-1 record, 4-6 in his last season.
Keith and university administrators were vague about details of the commitments made to the 30-year-old coach, who was an assistant under Bill Mallory for four years at Miami University (Ohio) and the past five at the University of Colorado.
"I asked the coach, 'What do you need?' and there wasn't anything he asked for that we weren't in a position to provide," Cheek said. "Yes, there are some things that he asked for that have not been asked for before, at least not asked of me."
Cheek listed a fourth full-time assistant coach, a Nautilus weight-training program and a mandatory study table four nights a week as requests that would be granted immediately. Cheek said to ask the coach about others.
"We just have an understanding upon what we want and how we want to go about it," Keith said. "That's just about the way I have to leave it."
Athletic Director Leo Miles said some of the commitments made to Keith -- and previously to Porter -- could not be implemented for possibly as long as two more years.
The five-year contract is the longest Howard has given any of its 22 football coaches.
Cheek and other university administrators, who had not previously commented publicly on Porter's charges and his request that they tell him in what direction the football program was headed, said at yesterday's press conference at Cramton Auditorium that there has been no change in administration support for the sport since the day Porter was hired.
"I want to reaffirm the university's commitment to the development of a first rate competitive program in athletics commensurate with the long tradition of academic excellence with which this institution has been identified," Cheek told a room packed with many more university administrators and academic leaders than press.
Afterward, in answering why Howard hired a coach with no head-coaching experience, Cheek said: "We wanted someone from the pro ranks or (with) experience at Division I-A because that is our objective and we are going to achieve it."
In response to another question, Cheek said it might be necessary for the Bison to drop out of the Mid-Astern Athletic Conference and play as a Division I-A independent should the entire MEAC fail to go for Division I-A status in the future.
Howard's planned 20,000-seat stadium would meet one NCAA requirement, that a Division I-A team must play most of its games in a facility that seats at least 17,000.
Cheek said an architect's drawing for the $14 million overhaul of Howard's current stadium complex has been completed and blueprints are being drawn up as part of a univesity master plan.
The stadium plans, Cheek said, call for a 20,000-seat stadium with an artificial playing surface atop three levels of underground parking, which also would serve the adjacent Cramton Auditorium, Howard's theater-concert complex.
Cheek said he could not place a specific target date on ground-breaking, but he graranteed it would occur in less than five years. Cheek also said the estimated cost could rise, depending on inflation and how the complex is financed -- by fund-raising or by loans.
Cheek, in remarks introducing Keith as a man "who became football coach effective yesterday," cited Keith's organizational skills as one of his strengths.
"He knows what he wants to do and he knows how to get there," Cheek said.
Miles said Keith was the unanimous first choice of an 11-member selection committee. He explained why the stocky Ohio native was selected:
"He's highly organized and he's been through a program that's highly disciplined. The No. 1 reason? His presentation to the committee. What happened was that we had almost no questions to ask him after the interview and his presentation."
Keith, it was learned, came to the interview with a 35-page outline of how he would run the team.