At least three Howard University football players have lost their athletic scholarships or had them reduced, and others have complained of physical abuse by Bison coaches and threats of losing their scholarships.
In addition, a number of Howard players told The Washington Post that first-year Coach Floyd Keith and his staff:
Have forced an injured player to practice against doctor's orders
Allegedly have run a mandatory, supervised offseason weight-training program in violation of NCAA rules.
Allegedly have failed to provide copies of grant-in-aid (scholarship) contracts to the players, also in violation of NCAA rules.
Elliott Boisdore, an offensive lineman who said he sat out Keith's first season as coach in order to devote himself to his studies and who was one of two football players to graduate on time with his class earlier this month, three weeks ago notified David Berst, NCAA director of enforcement, that Howard might be in violation of some NCAA rules.
Berst said that under NCAA policy he was not allowed even to confirm or deny that Boisdore had contacted him.
Boisdore also wrote a 25-page letter to Howard's president, James Cheek, charging that the school's athletic administrators have failed its athletes both academically and athletically.
"Only you," Boisdore wrote in his letter, "can intervene now and fully restore into our athletic department the decency, honesty and integrity that Howard once knew . . .
"Howard claims to have big-time sports. We know this is not true. We have the big time on paper, but when it comes down to actual competitiveness with other Division I schools, Howard is laughed at, regarded as a joke among black colleges."
Cheek's office referred inquiries to the university relations office. A spokesman there said, "He (Cheek) hasn't moved on it yet. He is studying the letter and he will respond."
Both Keith and Athletic Director Leo Miles denied that Howard had taken away any scholarships improperly, citing academic problems of the players involved and a university policy that allows the school to reduce the amount of an athletic grant when a student-athlete is receiving any type of federal aid in addition to his athletic scholarship.
Both Keith and Tom Perry, the assistant coach alleged to have committed most of the physical-abuse violations, denied acting improperly.
Miles and Keith both said the offseason weight-training program was voluntary and did not involve punishment for those who did not attend, therefore staying within NCAA guidelines. But at least 10 current or former Howard players said "dawn patrol" -- a 6 a.m. running program -- was handed out to players who were absent or late for the weight training.
Copies of the scholarships, Miles said, were available to the players. Keith said they were on file in the football office. Several players said they were told by Keith that the copies of their grand-in-aid agreements would be mailed to them. These players said they never received them.
Six Howard football players told The Washington Post of problems regarding athletic scholarships.
The scholarships of linebacker Gregory Burton and offensive tackle Kerry Kee were terminated completely, in their view, in possible violation of NCAA rules; meal money was deleted from Boisdore's grant, also in possible violation of NCAA rules.
Boidore said he later was reimbursed for the meal money, after complaining to university officials.
Miles said Burton was not eligible for a scholarship because the financial-aid office did not have a record of four hours credit that he needed at the end of the 1978-79 school year to be eligible. Miles also said that, under the terms of Howard's "Athletic Grant-Aid Agreement," the university was not obligated to honor its commitment to Burton, anyway, because he was not eligible for his grant-in-aid as of June 15, 1979.
Burton, who had a leg injury and would not have been permitted to play last season, does not dispute that he was not eligible as of June 15. He said one hour of credit was mistakenly taken away from him and subsequently reawarded. The other three hours were made up, he said, during the summer at Kennedy-King College in Chicago. Burton produced documents to support his case and acceptance of the credits by Howard.
According to Burton, both he and his mother, were given a "runaround" by Miles. His mother subsequently wrote a letter to Miles, who refused to comment on its contents when asked this week. Burton said his case was then referred to Carl Anderson, vice president for student affairs in charge of athletics. Burton said he never heard from Anderson on the matter.
Burton also said he should have been notified by Howard as of July 1 if the school did not intend to renew his scholarship. Miles said this was not necessary because of the June 15 deadline in the contract.
In the Kee case, Miles said that since Kee had applied for and accepted a Basic Education Opportunity Grant, a federal entitlement grant, he was not eligible to receive his 1979-80 athletic scholarship (which amounted to $3551). Because of his family's income level, he received only $400 BEOG money.
Goldie Claiborne, the university's director of financial aid said that, in accordance with federal law, the scholarships of all Howard students who receive any federal funds are adjusted according to parental resources on a national formula, whether the student is on a special-talent grant or a deed scholarship.
Kee's family fits into a middle-income level that became eligible for small BEOG grants only the past academic year. But, she said, the family income level prohibits much, if any, further aid. "Only a few who came from middle-income families suffered the consequences of it," she said.
Greg Blair, a Department of Education specialist in BEOG's, said no federal law prohibits a university from giving a full athletic scholarship to an athlete who also qualifies for BEOG money. He said schools do not have to apply the formula to non-federal funds. He said, however, that schools may use this formula as institutional policy.
At most major football schools, BEOG money is substracted from the total scholarship; the NCAA allows an athlete to receive $400 BEOG Money above his scholarship for "miscellaneous expenses."
Both Miles and Claiborne said that Kee was advised of his options. Kee said that this was not the case, that he was not told specifically about the policy until he unsuccessfully tried to reject the BEOG grant and accept his full scholarship.
"How can you base that on need when you're actually working your way through school (as a football player)?" Kee said. "I went there with the impression that if I produced on the football field, my education would be paid for."
Kee said he was rejected for BEOG money as a freshman in the 1977-78 school year. He said this spring the financial-aid office held a workshop for the players to determine the aid for which they were eligible in academic year 1980-81. Keith said he has advised the football players that they should not apply for federal funds. Kee confirmed that Keith had made that announcement to the team during spring.
Kee finished the recent spring practice as a starting offensive tackle, after beginning spring drills on the second string.
He already has signed a grand-in-aid agreement for next season and does not plan to apply for federal aid.
Beeman Veasley, a senior running back last season, said he was able to reject a BEOG grant for 1979-80 after he learned he would owe the university $300 per semester if he accepted the federal funds. Instead, he received a full grant-in-aid.
When the details of the Kee case were given to the NCAA's Berst, he said Howard likely had violated no NCAA rules in the handling of Kee's scholarship.
"I guess it is a reasonable approach or makes sense," Berst said. "The only recourse the student would have is not to apply for the BEOG . . . It's an arguable point. Technically, they can make a case because the words are there (in the grant agreement) to cover what they want to do."
Three other players who were injured and unable to play were threatened that their scholarships would be taken away, the players said.
The threat of taking away a scholarship is not a violation of NCAA rules, Berst said, calling it " a meaningless threat as far as our regulations are concerned."
Defensive halfback Steve McNeely and linebacker James Penchion said they were told by Keith that they would lose their scholarships if they did not serve as "assistant coaches," doing chores that included running errands and breaking down game films. Penchion also worked in the equipment room.
Keith claims the players volunteered for these jobs.
Defensive tackle Tony Prince said he was threatened with a loss of his scholarship after suffering two concussions, until his father intervened.
Prince, Burton, Veasley and middle guard Marc Thomas all said they were abused physically by either Perry or Keith. The offenses, according to the players, included slaps on their helmets, grabbing of their face masks and kicks in their rear ends.
The alleged physical abuse was toned down, the players said, after Miles reportedly attended a football staff meeting and "told them to stop physically disciplining people in this manner," as Thomas put it.
Keith denied such a meeting had taken place. Perry recalled a football staff meeting that Miles attended. "The essence of what he was said was that you can get more with sugar than you can with vinegar. Nothing was mentioned at that time by him about physical abuse whatsoever."
Miles said: "I heard there was language being used on the field that I didn't approve of. If that was true, I told them to curtail it. It was primarily about language or, if any kind of abuse was going on to curtail it."
A well-placed Howard source said Miles specifically mentioned physical abuse and added, "Leo made them finally curtail it a great deal."
Said Irish Dalferes, a rising sophomore nose guard: "I've seen them hit players and throw them around, but I'm used to that already, you could say."
The most severe cases of alleged physical abuse brought out involved Prince and Thomas, according to Howard players.
Prince said he had "several physical confrontations" with Perry, on and off the field. On the field, he said, Perry has slapped him in the head, while the player was wearing is helmet, and grabbed his face mask.
After his first concussion, suffered in a drill at practice, Prince said Perry told him he was faking. After the second, Perry reportedly told Prince he would lose his scholarship if he did not play. Prince said he told Perry it would be a month before all medical tests were finished. At the end of the month, a Howard University Hospital neurosurgeon told Prince he could play football again, but recommended against it.
Perry denied threatening to take away Prince's scholarship.
Thomas, whose father played for Ohio State, quit the team a couple of weeks after his confrontation with Perry. Thomas said there was a team rule that helmets could not be taken off during practice. He took his off, however, he said, because a screw in the helmet had come loose.
According to Thomas, Perry charged him, he defended himself and other players had to restrain Perry.
Perry said he did not remember ever striking Thomas and that his recollection of the incident was different. He said Thomas was talking to another player and not paying attention.
"I remember chewing Marc out," Perry said. "But it was nothing about his helmet coming off. He was in back horsing around with another player. It was all verbal."
Almost every player interviewed said the team considered Perry as an "enforcer" and that he had a bad temper.
"I don't think I have a temper," Perry said. "I get very frustrated coaching when somebody's not paying full attention and concentrating."
Veasley said he was kicked in the rear end by Keith after missing a signal and returning to the huddle. Keith denied kicking Veasley.
Veasley's other problem arose when he returned from his Flint, Mich., home to Howard for the start of summer practice last season. A doctor in his hometown had performed a biopsy on his right arm. Veasley said the physician, Dr. Roy Diggs, told him to not even run until the stitches were removed.
Dr. Diggs verified those were his orders to Veasley.
However, according to Veasley, when he returned to Howard three or four hours late, Keith "snatched" the bandage off his arm and ordered him to run "dawn patrol" the next morning. He said he then was ordered to practice that afternoon and that the stitches broke, requiring care at Howard University Hospital.
Keith's story is different. He said Veasley was three days late, had not notified anyone of his whereabouts and that he could not tell him the name of his doctor, a charge Veasley denies. Keith also said the football team's medical staff gave Veasley clearance to play.
Veasley said no one on the team's medical staff, including trainer Jake Felton, examined him after he returned and that Keith must be referring to the overall physical exam required of every football player that he previously had passed.
Veasley was the team's No. 2 rusher under the fired Doug Porter in the 1977-78 season. He carried only four times last season.
Asked whether they were worried about the players' charges, Miles and Keith responded with the same answer: "Consider the sources."
Asked to assess Keith's first season in which the Bison were 5-6, Miles said:
"I think he's done a good job, coming into a situation where we were undisciplined to a degree. In the establishment of order and discipline, you are always going to get some people to rebel. That's normal procedure. He's established what I expected him to establish -- order and discipline."
The players say they had discipline under Porter, who was fired after compiling a 30-21-1 record in five seasons and publicly complaining during the middle of the final season that the university administration was not supporting his program and had not delivered on promises it made when he become the coach.
"We had discipline under Porter, but it was two different kinds of discipline," said Veasley. "Porter's was talking to you like a man; the other is the iron-fist approach -- 'We're going to show you who the boss is.'
"Under Porter, we were treated like men. Under Coach Keith, we're not treated like men."
Howard, which still hopes to rise from Division I-AA to Division I-A in football, according to Keith and his staff, has been on NCAA probation twice in the past seven years, for violations involving the soccer, football and basketball teams.
In 1978, the school was cited by the NCAA for failing to adhere to the cooperative spirit of the NCAA enforcement program.
Howard officials have blamed their previous problems on administrative foulups, or have failed to even comment.