When Floyd Keith, a former assistant coach at the University of Colorado, replaced the fired Doug Porter as Howard University football coach this season, he was given commitments of additional financial support by the school's administration .
Before he was fired, Porter accused school officials of failing to give him the academic and financial support necessary to succeed at the NCAA Division I-AA level. Keith's first team is 3-3 at midseason and yesterday he discussed with Mark Asher, Washington Post staff writer, his initial eight months on this job .
Q: What's your biggest problem right now?
A: Getting depth and experience. Last week we started nine freshmen and two junior-college transfers. They're the best players available. We didn't come in with that idea. But we're getting performance.
Q: How far has the program progressed? You've had scholastic problems. Do you feel you're on solid footing? How much further do you have to go?
A: We have to keep working. You don't ever stop. When you become content with how things are is the time some son of a gun is going to kick your butt. I'm never satisfied.
We've enlarged our staff (from two full-time assistants to five). I've got two graduate assistantships which I'm going to fill this winter. I'm looking for two qualified young coaches who can come in and develop.
We've got a year-round study hall. Right now we have at our disposal six tutors . . . It's mandatory from the football coach, me. It's amazing. We now have our players come in and ask us if they can be on it. Your players will reflect you. If you think something's important, they will, too.
You know, that's something. When our new staff came in, it was February. The quarter semester had already begun and we were down to two weeks to recruit since the national letter of intent was due the 15th. By the time we really settled in on the academic situation with our kids, I was still hiring coaches.
So, consequently, we had 15 players that had academic problems. It just stems from neglect on their part or . . . you just can't say. All I know is we inherited some real academic problems. But now it's our problem. We have to deal with it.
Q: You mean you have 15 players academically ineligible?
A: There were more than that. We had 33 in summer school. We salvaged half of them. That's how you get a depth problem. You don't have to be a genius to figure that. The tough part was seven of them were linemen.
The key to any good football program is recruiting. You have to recruit the right people . . . You can have all the Xs and Os you want . . . But, if you recruit -- and particularly here -- if you recruit people with good character, above-average ability that care about getting an education . . . they have to care about it; it has to be important. I don't want an athletic bum.
Q: What about the administration? Is it showing any apathy?
A: They've been completely supportive . . . President James Cheek has came down and talked to me. He's talked to the team on three occasions. Every commitment they've made to me, they've done.
Q: What are those commitments?
A: For instance, there was no weight program. They bought a $14,000 Nautilus machine. It's helped our strength tremendously. We have 12 to 15 kids who can bench-press 300 pounds.
Q: How many could do that before?
A: Two, and one of those is gone. He didn't make it academically.
Q: What other commitments did they make?
A: We're up to full capacity of scholarships in Division I-AA, from 60 to 75 full grants. We've got new offices. Most of our players are in one (residence) hall, which develops some unity. We've got the tutors and the study hall.
Q: How much money is involved in the tutors?
A: I don't know. This was always there. All it just takes is a matter of using it. We're still pushing for an academic advisor for the entire athletic department, which I really think is needed.
You're really in a special situation. Your kids are devoting time and they aren't like the everday student. They have to deal with about 2 1/2 hours out of their day devoted in season to football.
Q: Only 2 1/2?
A: Oh, well, there's more than that. But you've got to watch that you don't take them completely away from academics. It's part of your job if you recruit a young man to come to a school that you don't lose sight. Today, it's easy to send the parents home and promise them we're going to look after Johnny, we're going to make sure he graduates.
Now, when Johnny gets here, what are you going to do? And that's your best recruiting tool -- the players that are already on your campus.They know. They've been through it, so they know if you talk a lot of bull or if you're true, back up what you say.
Q: Previous coaches did a lot of recruiting in far-away places, like Florida and California. You seem to be putting more emphasis on recruiting in the Washington area. Is that a fair assumption?
A: As far as the District is concerned, Howard's the only show in town, football that's in the District . . . We've got a lot of people to draw. We're the District's own team, Division I.
Each year it's going to increase. All of our coaches have been out to see the games.We went out in the spring and visited every school in the District and in Maryland and Virginia. We hit them all . . . The statistics prove that the area with your highest percentage of recruits is within a 300-mile radius. There are 27 cities within a 300-mile radius of Washington.
Q: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment so far?
A: Not my accomplishments, our kids. We've had some adversity and done decently . . . I've been proud of them. There are a couple of games we'd like to play over again. But you can't cry over that.
Q: Have you experienced cultural shock coming from a big-time program at Colorado?
A: A cultural shock? What do you mean cultural? I don't worry about that . . . I'm not at Colorado. When they can pay a guy a quarter of a million dollars to coach, you know there's a difference. That's why there's Division I and Division I-AA. You have to know that when you work it.
There's a lot of things you can do if you just sit down and think about how you operate. And it's so easy to sit back and complain, and all it takes is about an hour of organization and an hour of thinking and you can do something if you're willing to work at it.
I really appreciate this situation, because our players appreciate things. The day we brought that Nautilus machine in there, the kids . . . (began) coming in touching the machine. They never had anything like that before and they appreciate things. You earn what you get. You can't expect to come in and have things laid out for you. You don't get something for nothing.