Timeline of Lincoln University (PA) Football

By Lloyd Vance, Football Historian

  • 1854 – Lincoln University (PA) is founded as Ashmun Institute by Rev. John Miller Dickey, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, Sarah Emlen Cresson (a Quaker) and named after Jehudi Ashmum, a religious leader and social reformer


  • 1865 – The Civil War ends with General Lee surrendering to General Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865


  • 1866 – Ashmun Institute is renamed “Lincoln University” after the death of President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865


  • 1869 – On November 6, 1869, Northeastern predominantly white universities   Rutgers and Princeton play the first organized football game ever on


  • 1892 – On November 23, 1892 (Thanksgiving), the first organized football game between two predominantly African American teams is played by southern schools Biddle (Later Johnson C. Smith) and Livingstone on a rainy afternoon.  Biddle wins the game by a score of 4-0, however the game was largely unnoticed except for the sparse crowd in attendance. 


  • 1894 – In November, Mid-Atlantic schools Lincoln University (PA) and friendly rival school Howard University of Washington DC become the first two African American schools to play organized football in the North with the Lincoln Lions winning by a score of 6-5 over the Howard Bison. 


  • 1909 – Howard beats Lincoln 5-0 marking their first win over the Lions.  Lincoln had won in 1894, 1895, 1904, 1905, 1906, and 1907.  the 1908 game was a scoreless 0-0 tie.


  • 1912 – Hampton Institute administrator Ernest Jones Marshall introduces Lincoln, Hampton, Howard, Shaw, and Virginia Union as charter members of the groundbreaking CIAA Conference (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, formerly the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association – first and oldest HBCU conference).


  • 1919 – Before a frenzied Thanksgiving Day crowd Lincoln and Howard play to a score tie in front of 18,000 fans in the National League Park in Philadelphia.


  • 1924 – Led by back Alfred “Jazz” Byrd Lincoln wins its third and final CIAA championship (1918, 1919, and 1924).  The 1924 team was is named by Paul W.L. Jones of the Colored Industrial School of Cincinnati as the National Negro Football Champs in the East.


  • 1926 – October of 1926, Lincoln University almost stops Tuskegee’s claim to the mythical black college football national championship by narrowly losing 20-16 at Franklin Field before 35,000 fans including football legend Red Grange.


  • 1926 – On November 26th 1926, Howard celebrates the opening of their new on-campus stadium by playing Lincoln in their annual rivalry game.  It was reported that there were 28,000 in attendance , but some accounts have hundreds more watching from a close proximity.  Howard wins the game 32-0.  The large crowd sets the stage for future games at larger venues like Shibe Park, Atlantic City Convention Center (indoor), and Griffith Stadium.  The win also marks the last of Howard’s National Black College football championships (1920, 1925, and 1926).


  • 1937 – A tradition is started where the Lincoln football family ends the season by coming together for an annual Testimonial Banquet given by the Alumni Association at McCauley Refectory.  The banquet serves as a way to reflect on the season past including presenting honors, but most importantly the event provides an opportunity for a farewell to the team’s senior leaders.  Each senior had the opportunity to stand and address their brothers on the gridiron for the last time about “What Lincoln football meant to them”.


  • 1946 – In December, Led by quarterback Robert “Duck” Cooper Lincoln defeats the Florida A&M Rattlers 20-14 in the 14th Annual Orange Blossom Classic in Tampa, Florida.  The 1946 squad is considered a contender for the mythical black college football championship that is eventually won by powerful Morgan State, which had defeated the Lions 35-0 in the first game of the season.


  • 1957 – After noticing a drop in overall enrollment and some student apathy toward the football team, Lincoln University administrators start talks of dropping the football team.


  • 1959 – The Lincoln University Board of Trustees approves a recommendation to drop football after the 1960 season.


  • 1960 – In November 1960, Lincoln plays its last game for 40 years as it loses 34-13 to rival Howard.  As of 1960 when Lincoln last played the rivalry was almost knotted at Howard 24, Lincoln 23, and 6 ties.  Lincoln’s overall record  stands at 163 wins, 166 losses, and 7 ties at the time of the team disbanding


  • 1981 – Lincoln former quarterback and Legend Frank “Tick” Coleman starts efforts to raise money to bring back the football team.


  • 1982 – Fueled by a HBCU Classic game played at Franklin Field in Philadelphia between Howard and Cheyney State, Tick Coleman tries again to invigorate talks of returning to the gridiron.  However the only football games played on campus are in the competitive intramural touch football leagues.


  • 2006 – After receiving positive feedback from a university led feasibility study, on April 11th Lincoln’s Board of Trustees votes to revive the football program and establishes Marching and Pep Bands.  Lincoln University also successfully petitions for membership in the CIAA, of which they were a founding member in 1912.


  • 2007 – On August 9th 2007, Lincoln University names Olabaniji Abanishe (pronounced ah-bon-EE-shay) as its head football coach.  Abanishe brings nine years of coaching experience to Lincoln, including four years at his alma mater Langston University in Oklahoma.


  • 2008 – On Saturday April 5, 2008 the Blue-and-Orange spring football game is played for the first time since 1960 at Avon Grove High School.


  • 2008 – On August 30th, Lincoln University’s football team will return to the field for the first time in 48 years as they host George Mason at Avon Grove High School.



Lloyd’s Leftovers

College Football Hall of Fame adds Special HBCU Exhibit – Anyone wanting to learn more about the distinctive HBCU brand of football should try and visit the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana.  “Blood, Sweat, and Tears: A History of Black College Football” will be on exhibit at the CHOF from Feb. 1, 2008 through August 31, 2008.


Hey Philly Where is Your HBCU Classic Game?? – Though there has not been an HBCU Classic played in Philadelphia in some time – I still remember my Father and an African American men’s group that he belonged to taking a large of us kids including my brother and myself to the 1982 HBCU Classic played at Franklin Field won by Howard 41-14 over Cheyney.  Maybe with the revival of Lincoln’s football team there can be something done to bring a HBCU Classic back to town, possibly at the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field.


HBCU Classic Helping to further a Legacy – There are now approximately 48 known classics including: Grambling State vs. Southern (Bayou Classic), Florida A&M vs. Bethune Cookman (Florida Classic), North Carolina Central vs. North Carolina A&T (Aggie-Eagle Classic), Norfolk State vs. Virginia State (Labor Day Classic), Jackson State vs. Tennessee State (Southern Heritage Classic), Benedict vs. South Carolina State (Palmetto Capital Classic), Alabama State vs. Alabama A&M (Magic City Classic), Fort Valley State vs. Albany State (Fountain City Classic) and others.  Two of the bigger classics are the Circle City Classic (Held in Indianapolis, Indiana every October) and the Chicago Football Classic (Held at Soldier Field bringing in a reported $900,000 a year in ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, and other fees).


HBCU Football has it’s own video game – In the genre of Madden football, Nerjyzed Entertainment created the video game Black College Football Xperience (BCFx).  The game features three HBCU conferences (SWAC, SIAC, and CIAA), along with several schools within the MEAC and independent HBCU’s. Also fans should get a kick out of the more than 40 teams, bands, mascots, interactive halftime shows, realistic stadiums, play-by-play commentary, and ten authentic Classics.


The NFL has a rich history of HBCU football players – Though only four HBCU players were drafted in the 2008 NFL Draft led by Arizona Cardinals first round selection defensive back Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie from Tennessee State, there are strong ties between HBCU teams and the NFL.  Notable HBCU players in NFL History include: HOF and Former All-time NFL Leading Rusher Walter Payton (Jackson State), HOF Chiefs DE Buck Buchanan (Grambling State), HOF Green Bay Packers DL Willie Davis (Grambling State), Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams (Grambling State), HOF Los Angeles Rams FB-LB Paul “Tank” Younger (Grambling State), HOF Los Angeles Rams DE and Sack innovator David “Deacon” Jones (South Carolina State and Mississippi Valley State), HOF Pittsburgh Steelers DB Mel Blount (Southern), HOF Pittsburgh Steelers WR John Stallworth (Alabama A&M), NFL Record-Setting WR Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), HOF Oakland Raiders OL Art Shell (Maryland – Eastern Shore), New York Giants DE Michael Strahan (Texas Southern), Tennessee Titans QB Steve McNair (Alcorn State), Dallas Cowboys WR and Olympic Gold Medalist Bob Hayes (Florida A&M), Denver Broncos Record-Setting TE Shannon Sharpe (Savannah State), Cincinnati Bengals Safety Ken Riley (Florida A&M), San Francisco 49ers WR John Taylor (Delaware State), current Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl CB Antoine Bethea (Howard), and many others.


HBCU’s looking to other places for players – With more African American players getting opportunities at mainstream schools, HBCU football teams are looking for players from everywhere including recruiting white players.  At a recent Philadelphia Eagles mini-camp, I had the pleasure of talking to tall red-headed quarterback Casey Hansen from Norfolk State.  Hansen led the MEAC in passing in 2006 with 2,166 yards and followed in the footsteps of Jim Gregory, Grambling State University’s first white football player.  Gregory’s story had been made into a 1981 television movie called Grambling’s White Tiger starring Bruce Jenner.


Notable mainstream HBCU Alumni includes –  Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (Lincoln – PA), Poet Langston Hughes (Lincoln – PA), 60 Minutes Report the late Ed Bradley (Cheyney), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (Morehouse), Booker T. Washington (Hampton Institute), NFL Reporter Pam Oliver (Florida A&M), Spike Lee (Morehouse), Shawn “P-Diddy” Combs (Howard), Oprah Winfrey (Tennessee State), Earl “The Pearl” Monroe (Winston Salem), funny actress Wanda Sykes (Hampton), Astronaut Ronald McNair (North Carolina A&T), ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith (Winston Salem) and many others.


One Mainstream 1-AA National Football Championship for HBCU teams – Though HBCI teams have competed in football since 1892, there has only been one team that has won the mainstream National Football Championship in 1-A (now Bowl Championship Division) or 1-AA (now Football Championship Division).  That team was the 1978 Florida A&M Rattlers coached by Rudy Hubbard.  The Rattlers beat Massachusetts by a score of 35-28 in Wichita Falls, Texas before a crowd of 13,604 spectators.  Also Central State (OH) won NAIA Football Championships in 1990 and 1992.


Grambling leads the way in National Black College Football Championships – The Tigers led by legendary coach the late Eddie Robinson have 13 titles (1955, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1877, 1980, 1983, 1992, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005).  The next teams are Florida A&M and Tennessee State (11), Southern (9), Morgan State (7), and Tuskegee (7).



Lloyd Vance 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

One thought on “Timeline of Lincoln University (PA) Football”

  1. RE: Hey Philly Where is Your HBCU Classic Game??

    Cheyney University & Lincoln will have their first HBCU Classic Game @ Northeast High School in Philly on August 29, 2009 @ 4PM. It’s the first of many HBCU Classic Games in Philly. The battle of the 1st HBCU…some say it was Cheyney…some say Lincoln…overall it will be great day in philly…

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