Howard University will begin a new chapter in its rich football history this September when it kicks off the 2011 season under the guidance of new head coach Gary Harrell. The Bison didn’t win many games in its latest chapter, recording just seven wins to 26 losses in three years under former coach Carey Bailey.

But Howard Athletic Director Louis “Skip” Perkins said he’s confident that Harrell will get HU back to winning form. “Our goal is to re-establish a competitive football program and athletic program overall at Howard University,” Perkins said. “As an alumnus, a championship athlete and a strong coach, we are confident in coach Gary ‘The Flea’ Harrell.”

Harrell, who served as an assistant coach for several schools throughout the last decade, also played for Howard’s football team during the early 1990s. As a staring wide receiver, he helped Howard win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship in ’93. A Howard Hall of Fame inductee, Harrell still holds the school record for catches in a single game with 13, and catches in a single season with 184.

But Harrell probably wouldn’t mind seeing his receiver records broken if it helps his new team win games. One player capable of that feat would be senior receiver Willie Carter, a 6-foot-3-inch, 195-pound ball hawk out of Denmark, S.C. Carter showed play-making capability last season, catching 29 passes for 563 yards and three touchdowns, while averaging 19 yards per catch. Carter was named to the 2011 All-MEAC Preseason team, suggesting this may be a breakout year for him under his new offense-friendly coach.

But to win games immediately, Howard will need a balance of both strong offense and defense. The Bison ranked fifth last season in the conference with 319 total yards allowed per game; redshirt junior linebacker Keith Pough led the entire MEAC with 100 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Still, the Bison gave up a conference-worst 413 points on defense, allowing more than 40 touchdowns in just 11 games. Harrell knows his unit will have to do a lot better both together and individually to return to glory.

“Howard has a strong legacy of achievement,” he said. “Every member of Howard University football accepts the responsibility of representing the program with dignity and pride on and off the field.”

The Bison will start the season Sept. 3 on the road against Eastern Michigan, followed by the first annual Nation’s Football Classic against Morehouse on Sept. 10 at RFK Stadium. Howard will see its first MEAC action of the season on Sept. 17 against Norfolk State at Greene Stadium on HU campus.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor