When you think of college football rivalries, a few noteworthy ones come to mind: Oklahoma vs.Texas, Michigan vs. Ohio State, Alabama vs. Auburn. While Howard University and Morehouse College may not be conventional football powerhouses, their rivalry has a rich history and is worth mentioning.
Howard and Morehouse are two of the nation’s most distinguished historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). Both institutions were founded in 1867, boast a rich academia, and are known for their notable alumni—such as Amiri Baraka and Phylicia Rashad for Howard, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Spike Lee for Morehouse—more than for their football programs. Nonetheless, this year’s matchup at the 4th Annual AT&T’s Nation’s Football Classic will showcase the rivalry and camaraderie between the schools.
The history between the Howard Bison and Morehouse Maroon Tigers dates back to 1923, when Howard defeated Morehouse 10-0. Since then, the series withstood five interruptions, the most recent in 1997. After 14 years, the two teams once again resurrected the rivalry in 2011 at the inaugural AT&T Nation’s Football Classic, in a weekend-long celebration of the tradition, pride, and energy of Black college football.
“My freshman year, one of the first big games was when Howard went down to Morehouse and we played them in Atlanta. I didn’t make the trip, but half the school was empty because everybody went to Atlanta,” said 1992 grad and Howard University Alumni Association President Chris Washington. “Having Morehouse come up to D.C. for the Classic has been fun for everybody.”
Although Howard (Division I) has mostly dominated against Morehouse (Division II) with an overall record of 24-10-2, there have been legendary moments in series history that are still talked about today. Former Howard tight end David Sierra recalled the 1992 shutout – known as “The Monsoon Game” – like it was yesterday. Howard was favored to win but Morehouse scored an early touchdown shortly before heavy winds and rain came down over Atlanta. Morehouse defeated Howard, 7-0, for the first time in seven meetings.
“It was a low point, but it was also a wake-up call,” said Sierra, who helped the Bison beat Morehouse, 34-9, the next season. “Our whole attitude was different, we didn’t take any teams for granted. We dominated the teams we were supposed to dominate. It definitely felt good that we could go back and win after coming off of that loss, which to us was somewhat embarrassing.”
While the game is the main event, the rivalry between the two schools extends off the football field. The student debate, called “The Game Before the Game,” showcases the academic competition in Cramton Auditorium on Howard’s campus Friday, Sept. 12. Spelman College will join Howard and Morehouse in philanthropy the following Sunday for #HashtagLunchbagDC, a movement to assemble and distribute lunches for those in need.
“Off the field, the big thing between Morehouse and Howard has always been ‘Who is the powerhouse, as far as education, a Morehouse man or a Howard man?’” said former Howard running back Harvey Reed, who holds the school record for rushing and touchdowns. “As far as football goes, we just play the game.”
This year marks the last time Howard and Morehouse will meet at the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic, but the rivalry is far from over. A meeting between the two schools for the 2015 season in Atlanta is already in the works. “The Howard-Morehouse games, no matter where they were, were some of the most well-attended games on our schedule,” said Yusef Davis, Morehouse sports information director. “There were more people at the Morehouse-Howard game than at the Morehouse homecoming game, because it’s a huge rivalry as two of the preeminent HBCUs in the country. It’s just a big, fun kind of rivalry that a lot of people have some interest in.”
Morehouse will play Howard at RFK Stadium on Sept. 13 in Washington, D.C.