The academic ineligbility of Howard University's starting tailback, Greg Banes, with only a week left before the opening game, almost certainly will force Coach Floyd Keith to start an inexperienced player at the key position in his veer offense for much of the season.
Banes, who led the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in ruching last season as a sophomore, and quarterback Ron Wilson were expected to be Howard's biggest offensive threat this year. But Banes, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior from Atlanta, has yet to receive credit for summer school classes recently finished and has missed both weeks of practice.
"We'll have to go with or without him," said Keith, who put his squad through a full-speed scrimmage yesterday at Howard Stadium. "We've got some people who can play the tailback position. Anyway, after missing so much of preseason practice, Banes might not get to start or play that much right away. You can't be on top of your game having missed that much practice time."
NCAA rules prohibit an ineligible player from practicing with his team.
University officials say Banes' grades are being "computerized" and that they won't know for a week or so whether he will be leigible at all this season. Howard's first game is Sept. 13 at Charleston against West Virgtinia State.
"It doesn't look took good for Banes' chances for returning right now," said a source close to the team.
Banes could not be reached for comment.
Keith said 6-foot, 210-pound freshman Jeff Owens and Ivan Thompson, a junior college transfer from Cleveland, are leading candidates to replace Banes. However, Cornelius Quarles, a senior fullback from Richmond, may be moved to tailback. Also in contention is junior tailback Bufus Outlaw, who gained 252 yards last year and is the candidate most familiar with the tailback's responsibilities in Keith's veer offense. But, at 5-8, 170 pounds, he may be too small to carry the ball 20 to 30 times.
"Right now we've got to ascertain our starting tailback," Keith said. "You can call that the main focus of our attention right now. We need to know in the next couple of days, to prepare for the opener."
Banes was easily Howard's top offensive weapon last year, gaining 668 yards and scoring eight touchdowns while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He was the only back in the conference to gain more than 200 yards in one game, which he did with 214 in Howard's come-from-behind win over North Carolina Central.