Howard University, which had planned to play its 1985 home football games on a new artificial surface, might have to play nine of its 10 games on the road this year because of administrative problems in getting field construction under way.
Howard's first home game, scheduled for Sept. 14 against Rhode Island, has been switched to a road game. Yet to be decided are the sites of three other scheduled home games: Sept. 28 against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rival South Carolina State; Nov. 2 against Norfolk State; and Nov. 9 against Liberty Baptist.
The only home game the Bison are assured of is the Oct. 19 homecoming with Virginia State at RFK Stadium. Howard traditionally plays homecoming games at RFK, but its rent is too high for the school to play other games there, Athletic Director Leo Miles said.
"There is a real chance all the (other) games will be on the road," Miles said from Howard University Hospital, where he is being treated for a bad back. "We have several options, one of which is to move the games to a different location in the D.C. area, but those are still being looked into. Playing all the games on road is something else we could do, but it is the last option."
Miles declined to specify other possible sites in the area.
Plans to replace the surface of Howard's stadium -- affectionately called "The Dustbowl" and "The Astrodirt Bowl" -- with artificial Omniturf have been discussed for more than a year. Dr. Carl E. Anderson, vice president for student affairs, said construction has been delayed because the company that submitted the lowest bid and received the contract has not met a performance bond (produce evidence of monetary backing).
Anderson would not identify the company, but said, "There was a meeting last week about the matter. It was discussed whether the company which won the bid should be given more time to produce the bond, or whether one of the other companies that submitted bids should be considered for the work. Our director of purchasing, Joseph Parker, has recommended that the work not be given to any company that could not produce a performance bond and we will abide by his recommendation."
Anderson said a decision on the issue probably would be made within the next week. He said he felt the later home games on the schedule should be considered on a game-to-game basis, depending on whether construction was ready to begin.
The decisions have to be made weeks in advance because of travel arrangements, which is why the site of the Rhode Island game Sept. 14 has been switched. Howard officials said it would take two to three months to complete construction once it begins.
Willie Jeffries, Howard's second-year coach, said he has had little to do with the construction delays and decisions to switch game sites.
"We will do the best we can under the circumstances," said Jeffries, whose team was 2-8 last season (0-4 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference). "I especially hate to give a conference team like S.C. State an extra advantage, but we do not seem to have a choice."
Miles remained optimistic that construction would begin and be completed by the end of this year.
"When you go for progress, you sometimes have to sacrifice something," Miles said. "In this case, the home games for this year may be what we will sacrifice, but when it is done, everybody will be pleased with what we end up with."