Henry Frazier was once a great program builder in college football. He laid the championship foundation for two programs that were doormats in their respective HBCU conferences at the Division I and Division II levels. That Midas touch is being put to the test to help restore the success to one of the storied programs in Washington, D.C. high school athletics.
“I’ve always wanted to be one of those people to affect change,” Frazier, the current athletic director at Dunbar (D.C.) High, told the AFRO. “As a coach my goal was always to educate and make a difference in the lives of student athletes.”
Henry Frazier is the new athletic director at Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy photo)
Frazier is one of Black college football’s program changers. In 1989 he went to Bowie State and led the transformation of that program going 18-3-1 as a starting quarterback taking them to the 1989 NCAA Division II Playoffs.
Ten years later Frazier resurrected a program that didn’t have a winning season since he graduated. Within two years – Frazier the coach – led Bowie State to the CIAA east division title and their first appearance in the conference championship game.
“I came back to Bowie State because it was my college coach who sold me on the vision of making history,” said Frazier.
Frazier left Bowie State and undertook the greatest challenge in college football history. Prairie View A&M in Texas had one of the best traditions in HBCU football but was mired in historic futility. The legacy of hall of fame defensive back Ken Houston and Otis Taylor high stepping into the end zone to clinch Super Bowl III were distant memories.
Prairie View had the stigma of an 80 game losing streak during a 10 year stretch between 1989 – 1999. There were no athletic performance facilities, full time coaches had to teach classes, and most teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) designated them as homecoming guest. That was until 2009 when Frazier led them to their first SWAC championship in 45 years with a 30-24 win over Alabama A&M.
“That’s what attracted me to the job,” Frazier said. “There was no place to go but up”.
Frazier left Prairie View A&M for North Carolina Central and then his career hit a pothole. After an unsubstantiated domestic violence charge he was fired and has been off the sidelines since 2013.
Dunbar has been gentrified like the northwest D.C. community where it stands. The new $120 million campus is state of the art and every room in the building has a view of the football stadium. Their locker and weight rooms are in better condition than either of the school’s where he made his name as a college coach.
“Dunbar has resources and facilities that are second to none,” Frazier said. “I’m in awe every day that I walk into this building”.
Frazier no longer patrols the sidelines instead he monitors the cafeteria while developing an athletic program that has the same type of infrastructure of an intercollegiate program. His three-person staff focuses strictly on athletics without having to teach a full schedule.
“It about giving our student athletes a robust high school experience,” said Dunbar Principal Abdullah Zaki. “From study hall, to strength and conditioning, to helping our coaches develop their skills our synergy has been solid.”
Though still fielding calls from colleges around the country, the lure of getting back in college coaching is not what is once was for Frazier. As an educator, historian, and one who spent time with his grandmother in that neighborhood growing up this could be the final stop on his professional journey.
“I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be.”