Howard University football Coach Floyd Keith, who endured four years of controversy and strained relations with players, alumni and members of the administration, resigned late yesterday.
It is believed Keith resigned to accept an assistant coaching position at Indiana University. Keith, who signed a five-year contract before the 1979 season, compiled a 23-17-2 record in his four years at Howard.
Keith wouldn't confirm whether he had accepted the job at Indiana.
However, Hoosiers Athletic Director Ralph Floyd said, "I know Coach Sam Wyche was interested in hiring him. I got a message from Wyche today but I don't know for sure if Keith's hiring is what it was."
Wyche, a former quarterback for the Redskins who recently replaced Lee Corso as Indiana's coach, was traveling and unavailable for comment.
Keith said there was no pressure on him to resign and the decision was strictly a "Floyd and Priscilla Keith decision.
"I've had opportunities to move every year I've been at Howard but I didn't go because I loved the kids and the university," Keith said.
"I have no ax to grind with anyone. My one regret is that I couldn't produce a championship at Howard. I feel I accomplished several goals in my four years and I hope the program continues to improve. My decision to leave was made in the interests of my family. It's no big deal."
Keith said he plans to meet with Athletic Director Leo Miles to work out a few final details and will reccommend that Joe Taylor, the defensive coordinator, be hired as coach.
Miles said he wasn't surprised at Keith's sudden resignation because the coach had been interviewed for several positions. Miami of Ohio and Temple were two of the schools interested in Keith.
"There was no pressure from me or any members of the university on Keith to resign as far as I know," said Miles last night.
"The university fully intended to honor Keith's final year on the contract. I knew he had made inquiries about other coaching positions and in his letter, he indicated he wanted to get a job in the Midwest, closer to his home."
Keith replaced the popular Doug Porter, who was fired after the 1978 season. A native of St. Mary's, Ohio, Keith was known as a disciplinarian who believed in a strong, academic program.
That hard-line approach got him in trouble in the fall of 1980 when the players threatened to boycott the homecoming game after allegations of physical and mental abuse. That same season, Keith dismissed two players, Ivan Thompson and Rick Triplett, after Thompson accused the coach of reneging on a promised scholarship.
Some players threatened to boycott the awards banquet.
Keith produced the nation's Division I-AA pass receiving career leader, Tracy Singleton, and the school's all-time passing leader, Ron Wilson.
Keith's approach to academics led to a higher grade-point average by the majority of the players. In Keith's four seasons, only a handful of players were declared academically ineligible.
"It wasn't hard telling my wife or my coaches," Keith said. "Telling the players was the toughest thing I've ever had to do. I appreciated the opportunity to work at Howard and I feel the experience was positive."
The decision caught the players by surprise.
"It was sudden but I'm finished so I don't know how it will affect the underclassmen," said John Bilberry, all-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference guard. "I played for him four years and the program didn't improve that much.
"That wasn't because of the coach so much as it was because of the program. The new coach will face the same situation."