It’s been nearly 14 years since the Howard University Bison have squared off against their longtime rival, the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers, in a football game of any importance.

Their last meeting in 1997 ended in 52-0 shellacking of Morehouse by Howard, and was the final faceoff before a decade-long hiatus put the near 90-year rivalry on hold. But the rivalry will be resurrected as the two schools are set to meet in a series of events pitting the two famed HBCUs against each other.

A rigorous schedule includes competitions in student debate and other small contests, leading up to a football game Sept. 10 for which thousands are expected to pack Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium. The game, labeled as the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic, features arguably the two top Black colleges from D.C. and Atlanta.

For Howard, it’ll be a chance to slowly work their way back to being a competitive football program. The university is focused on putting a string of lackluster seasons behind them as they move forward with a new athletic director and a new coach: Gary Harrell, a former Bison alum.

“It’s no doubt about it, this is an important game this week,” Harrell said. “We just want to make sure we’re prepared. As a head coach, we fought for a long time to be in a game of this magnitude and to represent Howard University is definitely an honor and a blessing and I look forward to the challenge.”

For Morehouse, it’ll be a chance to beat Howard for the first time since a 1994 victory. The Bison own a 21-10-2 edge in the series, but recent success has veered in different directions for the two programs. Morehouse is coming off an 8-2 campaign last year and the school’s first-ever playoff appearance, while Howard suffered a disastrous 1-10 season and lost their season opener on Sept. 3.

But records aside, this weekend’s game won’t be about last year or seasons prior. It’ll be a chance to renew one of the nation’s oldest rivalries, a series dating back to 1923.

“I think our team will go into it and understand that we can’t get caught up in everything that’s going on around the game,” Harrell said. “It’s our job to stay focused and stay level-headed and approach the game as a game. Right now, we’re not trying to get caught up in all the hype. We understand the tradition and pride that comes behind the game but my guys’ jobs are to go out and play great football.”


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO