On the night of April 21, a student approached Howard University Athletic Director Leo Miles and handed him a mimeographed sheet of paper listing 18 demands by the school's athletes.
Miles looked quickly at the list, the second demand of which called for the immediate removal of Leo Miles as athletic director, folded the paper and slipped it inside the right breast pocket of his suit coat.
"I'll read it in the morning," Miles said. "I read everything that comes to me. I can't talk about the demands until I read them."
That same night, many athletes boycotted their sports awards banquet. Alumni were shocked, coaches argued and, in the middle, as always, was Miles. The embattled Leo Miles.
As a head linesman for the National Football League, Leo Miles is highly respected. As a family man and a prominent member of Washington's black community, Miles, 50, is highly respected. But as Howard's athletic director, Miles has many critics.
These are some of the reasons:
In August 1978, the NCAA charged Howard with approximately 30 rules violations in football, basketball, soccer and wrestling.
Some of these included charges that Miles took away or reduced scholarships without due process, that Howard continually had grades changed, that the school gave athletes credit for courses they had not taken, that athletes not enrolled at Howard were allowed to play for the school and that at least one athlete was accepted by the university without an official high school transcript.
As a result, the NCAA placed Howard's football team on probation for one year, from September 1978 to September 1979.
Howard was placed on one year's athletic probation by the NCAA in 1973 for violating roster procedures and had its 1971 national soccer title taken away for using ineligible players. The NCAA said that if Howard had cooperated with the investigation, it most likely would have received a lesser penalty.
In the last two years, dozens of members of the football and soccer teams have complained about having to travel to road games without adequate food or lodging.
Last season, Ivan Thompson, a nonscholarship football player, complained publicly that he went hungry. Although he was a starting running back, he was not allowed to eat at the training table because he was not on scholarship. Thompson was dismissed from the team shortly afterward for not apologizing publicly to the school, Miles and his coach, Floyd Keith.
Last month, Howard President James Cheek broke his long silence on his school's problems and recommended athletic department improvements, including increased availability of medical assistance at events and an upgrading of "glaringly insufficient amounts of food" for athletes during their competitive seasons. Miles' name was not mentioned in the 17-page report.
During the last few years, Miles has come under repeated and harsh criticism for the way he runs the athletic program. And although his defenders say he is not directly at fault for many, or even any, of the above problems, he is still the man in charge of the department.
University sources say it is doubtful there will be any change in Howard's athletic hierarchy. Miles isn't the type to collapse under pressure, Cheek doesn't seem overly concerned about athletics and Carl Anderson, vice president for student affairs and Miles' immediate boss, is content to let Miles hold his position while he, Anderson, makes major decisions from the vice president's office.
"I take responsibility for whatever happens in this athletic department," Miles has said on several occasions.
Most of the people who are willing to talk about Leo Miles, the man and his administration, are former Howard athletes and employes. The current coaches, staff members and even some athletes are afraid any criticism will bring swift reprisal from Miles.
Last month, Miles fired Lincoln Phillips, the highly successful soccer coach, after Phillips publicly suggested certain improvements be made for his and other teams at Howard.
The list of disgruntled coaches fired by Miles is a long one: Marshall Emery (basketball), Doug Porter (football) and John Organ (wrestling), to name a few.
The coaches currently at Howard all say the same things about Miles publicly -- that he is a nice guy, a family man who has been successful doing things his way, that Howard's athletic department has improved during his tenure.
Privately, eyes roll and heads shake. "There's no way I'm going to talk about Leo Miles or the athletic department while Howard still pays my salary, even though I've got a lot to say about both," one university employe said recently. "One word to the newspapers and I'd be standing in the unemployment line."
"I don't know anybody involved with Howard athletics who will say anything -- honestly -- positive about Leo Miles (as athletic director)," John Organ, now Bowie State's athletic director, said recently.
"You would see a huge amount of vigor and renewed interest in Howard's athletic program if the head of that department, Leo Miles, is removed," Organ said.
One man who has nothing but praise for Miles is Ted Chambers, a Howard alumnus who also coached and served as an interim athletic director in the mid-1950s. Chambers is writing a book about the university and, in it, he says that Miles is doing a good job at Howard.
"I'm going to say in my book that Leo is doing as good a job as anybody could do," Chambers said. "Who hasn't done some things wrong in a career? I don't think the job is too big for Leo at all. I'd like to see him stay there for a few more years."
Miles, for the most part, maintains his cool. He has refused to answer his critics or to speak with The Washington Post since the boycott that night in April.
Anderson has repeatedly voiced his confidence in Miles' ability to run the athletic department of the nation's most prestigious black university.
Anderson said he is "tired of people asking me to defend Leo and his administration of the athletic department," and would not talk about his athletic director in detail.
"Leo Miles' record speaks for itself," Anderson said. "The improvements are obvious: the department has grown, the caliber of athletes is better and the caliber of Howard's competition is better. That's the test -- his level of performance, not what people think of him personally."
Russell Williams, who played and coached football with Miles in college and then coached at Howard before Miles arrived, contends that Miles is constantly appealing to the administration for improvements to the athletic department. More often than not, he is refused.
"I know Leo has very definite ideas about how he wants to run Howard's athletic department," Williams said. "But his hands are tied."
But Organ doesn't agree.
"Every three years, there's a problem: coaches, teachers, alumni and students all complaining that Leo Miles is the problem. All these people can't be wrong all the time," Organ said.
In September 1970, Miles, then a 39-year-old assistant principal at Lincoln Junior High School, was named Howard's athletic director by Anderson.
"The job was just too big for Leo from the very beginning," said Ewart Brown, an athlete-activist at Howard in the lat 1960s and early '70s and now a Los Angeles physician. "He was in way over his head. Leon's a nice man, a family man and I have nothing against him. We were told by President Cheek and Anderson that Miles was only a temporary appointment. But, in my opinion, he's been there, botching things up, for 11 years."
Before his appointment at Howard, Miles had become a role model in black Washington: a standout college football player who made it to the pros, a public schoolteacher and coach, a devout Catholic and proud family man.
In 1966, Vice President Hubert Humphrey named Miles the Washington head of "Operation Champ," a national employment and recreation project. The smae year, Humphrey also appointed Miles the national consultant for the Vice President's Summer Youth Sports and Recreational Program.
"I was thoroughly against Leo's becoming Howard's athletic director," said Sal Hall, Miles' high school and college football coach and a man Miles has admired and confided in since childhood. "I didn't want Leo to get caught in the crossfire (campus unrest) at Howard. And Leo didn't have any experience as an athletic director.
"But he said to me, 'Coach, ever since I was a little boy I've admired you. But Coach, I'm a man now. And I'm going to take this job.'"
It is widely thought that Miles' troubles stem from having to operate on a tight budget, trying to squeeze three cents out of every penny. However, Miles, under intense questioning, has refused to say what his budget is.
"I know this much," Organ said. "My entire budget at Bowie isn't much more than my wrestling budget was my last year at Howard (1976). I feel sorry for Howard's athletes. With the amount of resources they have, those students shouldn't be suffering for food."
Interestingly, Leo Miles is a nice man. After hearing two football players criticize Miles for 20 minutes, a visitor asked them, "But what do you think of Miles personally?"
"He's a really nice guy," both replied.
"Leo's made some mistakes," Sal Hall said, "but there's not a vindictive bone in his body. I remember the first Sunday he got to Virginia State. He rushed to find the nearest church in Petersburg and he attended mass that day. And he does so every Sunday. Even on football Sundays."
"It's not his way to publicly criticize," Hall said. "At times, I thought Leo should have spoken out and defended himself. It might be stubborness on his part to show he's a man. But usually, the guy who hollers the loudest doesn't have too much to stand on."
"I first met Leo when he was 15 years old," Hall remembered. "It was 1944 and his brother Roland had played his last game for me at Cardozo High. Roland, who's now in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, told me he had a little brother who'd make me forget all about him.
"Then in September of 1945, on the first day of practice," Hall continued, "this nondescript little boy came up to me and whispered in my ear, 'I'm Roland's little brother.' He became my quarterback for five years -- two years at Cardozo and three years in college."
Miles was offered a football scholarship by Iowa, but decided to go with Hall, who had just accepted an offer from Virginia State. After three years as the starting quarterback, Hall moved Miles to fullback and let two other players share the quarterback spot. State went 9-0 and won the Negro national championship and Miles was a black college all-America.
Miles was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles and lasted a season with the New York Giants before a knee injury ended his pro football career.
Hall always said that Milies' knowledge of the game -- not his 6-foot, 200-pound frame -- was his best asset. But Hall didn't know how right he would be. In 1961, when Miles was coach at Bell High, his team won the city championship. "He drove me right out of coaching," said Hall, who had returned to the high school ranks at Cardozo. "Leo set up defenses nobody in the city could run against. I gave up."
Miles is a football fanatic, his friends say, a man who probably would have been a highly successful coach at any level of the game. But Miles also loves officiating in the National Football League. This fall, he will begin his 13th season as one of the league's top head linesman.
Miles has worked two Super Bowls, VII and X, and two conference championships. He has been awarded playoff status almost every season, which is why Nick Skorich, the assistant supervisor of officials, calls Miles "one of the league's most outstanding officials. He stands about his peers."
Skorich said recently he'd rather not comment on Miles' problems at Howard. "Leo is dedicated, awfully dedicated," he said. "As an official, he has to be firm. He knows his position well and strictly enforces rules."
It works that way off the field, too. In October, when the Howard community was confused about what to do about Ivan Thompson, someone suggested that Miles simply take the youngster out and buy him a meal.
"No," Miles respond to his critics?
"I just don't believe in creating a fuss when quiet diplomacy is a much better method," Miles said.
So Leo Miles does what he's always done. He sits, and he endures.