Restoring the Roar – Part 2

Lincoln University (PA) will return to the gridiron for the first time in 48 years on August 30, 2008.  Hopefully the return of Lincoln football will also rekindle their great rivalry with Howard University in the near future.  This photo is from the 1948 Lincln-Howard game played at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC

Restoring the Roar Part (PART 2)

by Lloyd Vance, Football Historian

The annual Howard-Lincoln homecoming football game also was an “institution” every November for spectators and was considered the crown jewel of northern African American culture — the 1927 game flyer even said of the Lincoln-Howard classic, “If you are progressive, you’ll be there”.  The “big game” was so gigantic that entire African American communities in the Mid-Atlantic region practically shutdown for one week a year just for the event.  In it’s heyday (20’s, 30’s, and 40’s) the Lincoln-Howard Classic brought people from far and wide (some folks even came from California just for the game) by bus, car, plane, and special event trains called “Flyers” that had distinct heritage routes.  It didn’t matter if you were an alum or subway alumni (term created for non-college attendees that still heartily rooted for a particular school), as everyone wanted yearly bragging rights for the “homecoming” rivalry game in places like black owned businesses, churches, alumni/fraternity/sorority functions, social clubs, watering holes, barbershops, beauty salons, public transportation, and any other setting where African Americans congregated.

The Lincoln-Howard games were routinely played before enormous crowds of 20,000 or more in venerable venues like Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Griffith Stadium in Washington DC, the Atlantic City Convention Hall, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field also in Philadelphia.  The game was just a small part of the social “family reunion” type atmosphere surrounding the event as there were a week’s worth of activities including parades, pageants, dances, fraternity/sorority functions, step shows, dances, concerts, and much more.  The Lincoln-Howard Classics were the place to be seen as everyone brought out their “sharp as a tack” duds including furs, hats, suits, and stylish dresses.  Star watching for celebrities in the crowd was also always part of the fanfare of the game as Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Joe Louis, and many other African American dignitaries could be spotted in the best seats.

Along with the large crowds of well dressed spectators in modern for the times baseball cathedrals, the Lincoln-Howard Classics were also groundbreaking in terms of media coverage.  The games were broadcasted on Washington DC based African American station WOOK-AM and black newspapers (Chicago Defender, New York Amsterdam News, Pittsburgh Courier, Philadelphia Tribune, and others) all covered the event from the pressbox.  No matter if you attended the game in person, listened to it on the radio, or read about the action in the next day’s newspaper, it was greatly understood that the Lincoln-Howard Classic was more than a game.  The overall spirit of the Lincoln-Howard Classic was that yearly it brought a much-needed “kinship” and temporary escape for blacks from their tenuous standing in everyday society.  The brotherhood of the event was never more evident than the annual tradition of representatives from the two schools attending each other’s football banquet to present the Lincoln-Howard Classic trophy and hand out most valuable player awards.  Here’s hoping that the return of the Lincoln Lions football team in 2008 will also help in revitalizing the Lincoln-Howard Classic in the near future.

During my recent visit to the sprawling Lincoln University campus, it was pretty due to graduation the week before, but rest assured the fall of 2008 will bring back the sights, sounds, smiles, and good-tidings that distinctly make up HBCU football.  The environment around Lincoln University should definitely be festive and enthusiastic, as the team has received a strong commitment from the university especially from Lincoln University President Ivory V. Nelson, who knows a thing or two about HBCU football from his college days at Grambling State.  The Lions return to the gridiron is so massive that acclaimed football storytelling entity NFL Films has taken an interest with anticipated fall 2008 piece.  Hopefully the rekindling of the proud football tradition at Lincoln University (PA) will also revitalize a campus and community that has not been part of HBCU football for over four decades.  In talking with Lincoln’s Sports Information Director Rob Knox, the athletic department is expecting 50 plus eager young men on this year’s squad.  The young new Lions along with their “Orange Crush” Roaring Lions Marching Band expect to “Restore the Roar” to this sleeping HBCU football giant.  Current Lincoln University quarterback Andre Palmer recently said of the football team’s revitalization, “It’s a blessing” and he truly is right.

Lincoln legend Frank “Tick” Coleman, who for years tried to persuade alumni, administrators, and faculty to get onboard with bringing back football said of the revival, ” I’m excited about the football team and what it means to our students and alumni”.   Mr. Lincoln University added, “Football is such an important part of the college experience especially at historically black colleges.  I can‘t wait for our first football game”. 


Lloyd Vance served as a featured on-camera speaker and Associate Producer for the upcoming NFL Films documentary on the return of Lincoln University Football.  He is also is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)



Author: lloydvance

Lloyd Vance is a NFL Writer, Analyst, Draft Expert, Researcher, and Historian. He serves as a Editor for "Taking It to the House and he covers the NFL on a daily basis. He is an Accredited Member of NFL Media and Philadelphia Eagles Media. Member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), Pro Football Researchers Association (PFRA), and The Maxwell Football Club

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