By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
Two years ago, it would’ve been hard to imagine any prominent FBS coach would be interested in the Howard University head-coaching job. The program was beginning its recovery from three consecutive losing seasons with the dark shadows of dysfunction hovering as Mike London was set to take reigns of the Bison football program.
For the second time in recent history Howard introduced a former major college head coach to lead them as Ron Prince was hired to replace London and continue the transformation that London started. Prince, who most recently was the offensive analyst at the University of Michigan, is no stranger to Howard after being recruited by former coach Willie Jeffries to play there. In fact, 30 years to the day after he was supposed to take an official visit to Howard, he signed his deal to become the University’s latest head coach.
Prince takes over a Howard program that is ready to win now and contend for a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship. That alone marks a significant upgrade from when London arrived in 2017. London immediately revamped the entire program with an aggressive recruiting class that landed two Walter Payton Award finalists – quarterback Cailyn Newton and wide receiver Jequez Ezzard – and with their victory over UNLV to open last year credibility was restored.
“There are few institutions in America who are positioned to help student athletes excel athletically and academically as Howard is,” Prince told the AFRO. “We’re in a great media market. We get to compete in great conference and have a chance to play championships.”
Howard’s athletic department followed the same script when trying to recruit London in landing Prince. Both coaches began as successful FCS (I-AA) assistants then spent time as head coaches in FBS (Division I-A) power five conferences before landing in Northwest, D.C. They were groomed by legendary lower Division I coaches before stepping into the pressure of leading major college programs on their own.
However, London inherited what appeared to be a wasteland of underachievement on the field and dysfunction off it. He changed the culture by installing an atmosphere of discipline, respect, organization and accountability. The Bison immediately became a winning program while remaining committed to the academic integrity of the institution.
As London began having success at Howard the quiet echoes of coaches around the country began taking notice. Coaching at “The Mecca” was intriguing because of its location and the intangibles that come with leading a team who plays in the nation’s capital. London changed the perception of what could be accomplished at Howard while Prince’s link to the Willie Jeffries era – when the Bison first gained national prominence – made him the perfect fit.
“I know Mike extremely well and if he hadn’t taken the job before me, I probably wouldn’t be here right now,” said Prince.
Prince was not a desperation-hire by Howard either. His Michigan offense finished 10-2 in the B1G despite a disappointing performance in their season finale against Ohio State. His collaboration with former Howard quarterback and Wolverine offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton – who reportedly was a finalist for the Maryland head coaching job that ultimately was filled by Mike Locksley – led to the Wolverines having one of the top offenses in the nation.
Prior to his season at Michigan, Prince refined his skills in the NFL. He was the assistant head coach, tight ends coach, and offensive line coach with the Detroit Lions and offensive line coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts. Prince was also a head coach at Kansas State and offensive coordinator at Rutgers.