The sporting rivalry between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. has grown with each passing season, whether in summer basketball or preseason NFL football between the Redskins and Ravens. The local rivalry is especially alive and well in college football, and when it comes to the Howard Bison and Morgan State Bears, the two biggest HBCUs in the Metro area, sometimes the rivalry is intense enough to move to a bigger venue.
The Bison and the Bears headed to the New York City area Sept. 25 to refresh their dislike for each other in the Urban League Classic, a game Morgan State won 14-9. Butting heads at New Jersey’s MetroLife Stadium gave players an opportunity to shine in the Big Apple, one of the biggest stages in sports.
MetroLife Stadium seats approximately 82,000 people, nearly quintupling the total enrollment of Howard (11,000) and Morgan State (6,000) put together. Although the stadium wasn’t sold out for the game, the number of fans stationed outside for tailgating and the thousands inside were sights to behold for both schools.
“Any time in preparation you want to try to minimize the opportunity of guys walking in and looking up at the lights and getting stage fright,” Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley said. “Yesterday [Sept. 23] it was raining a little bit and we got caught in traffic but we still had an opportunity to get out and get guys the chance to run around. I saw a lot of guys with their cameras and taking pictures so you have to make time for those types of things. Just making sure we didn’t come out and get stage fright in this type of media Mecca and with the size crowd that we had today.”
For Howard, the game marked the third contest they’ve played in front of a larger crowd. Howard opened their season on the road against Eastern Michigan at Rynearson Stadium, which seats 30,000. They then returned to D.C. to square off against Morehouse at the city’s RFK Stadium, which seats up to 56,454, for the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic.
While none of the venues were sold out for the visiting Bison, the sheer size of them and the media masses on hand were enough to bring wide eyes to the young team.
“It brings exposure to these guys,” Howard coach Gary Harrell said of playing at large venues. “It brings exposure to the university and Washington, D.C.”
Putting any semblance of stage fright to the side, Howard and Morgan put on a show for the many in attendance, a typical meeting between these two schools.
“That’s a Howard/Morgan game,” Hill-Eley said. “For the last six or seven years, it normally comes down to the last play and somebody has a chance to win it one way or the other. For those who have missed the games, you missed the excitement of it because every year it’s that type of game.”
The rivalry continues to build between Morgan and Howard and with avenues such as the Urban League Classic putting their showcase on a national stage, the evolution of HBCU football continues with each passing year.