Zenobia Gladden of Baltimore confessed that she was surprised when her son, Anthony, chose to attend Bowie State College. "I didn't know too much about Bowie," she said.
She admittedly is no sophisticated football fan but watched her son play at Northwestern High School in Baltimore, although yesterday she was hard pressed to name which position he played. However, she did promise to attend all Bowie home games this season.
Which will not be too difficult. One way Bowie State will experience the pangs of a growing football program is by having to face eight of 10 opponents on the road. The Division III Bulldogs are new members of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and also are about to apply for Division II status. Both factors are responsible for the school losing traditional in-state rivals.
"As an independent up to this year, we didn't have the big reputation," said the coach and athletic director, John Organ. "We were upgrading our schedule and teams were telling us that we had to come to them.
"But now that we are part of a well known conference, things will get easier. We'll be better known."
En route to Bowie State, arrived at after making a couple of tricky turns off Maryland Rte. 107, it seems as if even nature has conspired to keep the school hidden. Roadside foliage nearly covers signs with directions to the quiet, tree-bordered campus.
"Bowie State is not real well known," Organ said. "It seems as if neither Washington nor Baltimore wants to adopt us."
Yesterday, the fourth year coach was busy orienting his 70-odd prospects, making sure the freshmen had rooms, introducing players to one another and to the five assistant coaches, who all work part time.
The move to Division II will not strain the Bulldog football budget.
"we're spending less this year than last," Organ said. "You can give out athletic aid in Division II, but we don't have enough money."
With no athletic aid available. Organ knows he cannot go after many All-Metropolitan selections. Bulldog players are usually the ones a few pounds too light or a couple of steps too slow. The players must compete with other students for partial aid based on financial need and for a few campus jobs to help with expenses.
With all that against the school, Bowie has still managed to field respectable teams. The 1975 squad finished 9-1 and last year's unit was 5-4 against mostly Division II opponents.
"In time, more athletes from within the state will be willing to enroll here," Organ said. Regulations for the state-financed institution allow a maximum 15 percent out-of-state enrollment.
Bulldog footballers are there out of love for the game, rather than fame and glory. Their spirited first day workouts proved they meant business. Upperclassmen leading the calisthenics kept a watchful eye on anyone not yelling cadence at the top of his lungs.
"We're even smaller than last year," said Alex Hampshire, an assistant coach. He considered some players who might have been on the Bulldog practice field: "A lot of locals go away to the Nebraskas and OKLAHOMAS. They'll be back home before the fall is half over."
Mrs. Gladden and Anthony's grandparents, Columbus and Emma Williams, watched the players work out for awhile.
"From what I've seen, I like it here," said Mrs. Williams. "I feel real good about him being here."