Howard alum Gary Harrell was named Jan. 6 as the new football coach to get the school’s football program back on track. Under the direction of former football coach Cary Bailey, the Howard Bison football team was fading fast. Hired in 2007, the four-year coach had guided the Bison to an 8-36 record during his tenure, prompting the University to make a change.

With a string of losing seasons circling the program, Harrell has his work cut out for him. Howard hasn’t celebrated a winning season since 2004 when the club finished 6-5, which has prompted local high school athletes to chose other universities with more prominent football programs in recent years. But those are challenges that Harrell expects to meet as he tries to get the program back on track.

“Being a first time head coach is going to be rough, but I’m the type of person who loves competition, I love a challenge,” Harrell said. “I want to get right back to where we were before and I know we can. We won before so I know we can win right now.”

Howard hired Louis “Skip” Perkins in October as its new Director of Athletics to shake up the school’s entire athletic department, Perkins wasted no time in hiring a new basketball coach in an attempt to revive the program. Now, he turns to the football team.

As a former wide receiver, Harrell has the inside scoop on the program that his players will surely relate to.

“I love everything about Howard University,” Harrell said at his introductory press conference on Jan. 19. “There’s no doubt in mind that I’m going to come in with more loyalty and commitment.”

Harrell was an integral piece to the last great Howard team, which in 1993 was named the black football college champion following an undefeated season. More recently, Harrell starred as the Bowie State Bulldogs offensive coordinator, helping to direct the school to a 6-4 finish last season.

Although Harrell comes with a valuable football pedigree, the new head coach focused his introductory speech on assuring alumni and school associates that his players would be competing as winners but leaving as early graduates.

“I came to Howard University in 1990, graduated in 1994, that’s my most prized award,” Harrell said. “To be able to come in here in 1990 and graduate in four years from the school of business was very instrumental to me. We are the best in the country and we have to carry ourselves in that manner on the academic side as well as the athletic side.”

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO