For a football program that has rolled craps for more than a decade, Howard University has pushed all its chips to the middle of the table hiring a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national championship winning coach to rebuild its program. Mike London, who led the Richmond to the 2008 title, will try to restore credibility and give direction to a program that has become a perennial doormat in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
(L-R)Howard University President, Wayne A. I. Frederick, Deputy Director of Athletics Shelley Davis, Howard football coach Mike London and Athletics Director Kerry Davis at the announcement of London of as Howard’s new football coach. (Courtesy photo)
“This is a new day in terms of the mindset and the approach we’re going to have as a team,” said London said at a news conference announcing his appointment as head football coach on Jan. 9. “Being the Stanford of the East, Howard has the opportunities do that. There are not too many places that can do it but Howard can and will.”
London, 56, is a former Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year at Virginia before spending last season at Maryland as an assistant. He is a tremendous defensive coach who has groomed NFL players such as Chris Long while the position coach in Charlottesville and has developed nationally ranked units as a defensive coordinator.
“I had a very short list ,” said Howard athletics director Kery Davis at the news conference. “There was one guy that I really, really wanted but I didn’t know if I could get him. There were other people who I thought could do the job so I started with the I guy I really, really wanted and that was Mike London.”
Sources say that London’s contract tops $300,000 with other incentives which reflects a commitment by the university to the football program that speaks to a greater support of the overall athletics department. It finally appears that Howard recognizes the impact of athletics and academics peacefully coexisting to enhance their overall image after years of being a black eye.
“For 150 years we have excelled in the classroom and we intend to excel on the playing field as well,” said Howard President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick. “College athletics is not a hobby. It requires that our student athletes make sure they not only excel on the field but academically as well. The coaches that we hire must reflect those principles to make sure the student athletes are in an environment they can excel in and that we are recruiting the kind of athletes that can honor the tradition of Howard as well. This is an investment in in the entire athletic program.”
There is no better marketing for any college or university than a competitive, compliant championship program. It has been proven on all levels that when a team wins titles in one of the major three sports – football, men’s, or women’s basketball – there is a spike in enrollment. Howard’s MEAC rival – North Carolina A&T – experienced that in 2016 following their nationally televised win over Alcorn State in the Celebration Bowl.
However, the academic infrastructure inside Howard’s athletic department must get better. Though he is familiar recruiting at places with strict academic standards there always was adequate support. Howard is coming off NCAA sanctions because of its Academic Progress Rate (APR) penalties which led to the hiring of Paul Bowden from George Mason to lead those reforms.
London could be the genesis to the renaissance of Howard athletics especially since Dr. Frederick seems openly committed to creating synergy between the program and academics while investing in its facilities. His hiring signals a change in the approach to sports on the hilltop. Only time will tell if results meet expectations.