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Football Head Coach on Administrative Leave Amidst Verbal Abuse Allegations, 1-8 Start

Football Head Coach Ron Prince was placed on administrative leave on Nov. 6. 
Photo Courtesy of Howard Athletics

By Kira Nicole Grant

Howard University has placed newly hired Head Football Coach Ron Prince on administrative leave following allegations of verbal abuse, intimidation towards players and several complaints made by parents of Howard University football players. 

Bison Athletics Director Kery Davis announced the decision in an issued statement regarding the allegations made against Prince, vowing to uphold Howard University’s mission of student-wellness and success. 

Aaron Kelton, Director of Football Operations, will aid the football team as the interim coach indefinitely until investigations cease.

“Howard University is committed to completing our internal investigation of the allegations involving concerns about the football program. As a result of our continuing investigation, the University has decided to place Head Football Coach Ron Prince on administrative leave effective immediately,” said Davis. “Howard University is committed to ensuring our athletic programs reflect Howard’s core mission and values and to ensuring the well-being and success of all student-athletes.”  

Ron Prince was hired on Dec. 10, 2018, replacing Mike London, who left the University to coach at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, with an 11-10 record in his last two seasons with the Bison— a move that many Bison thought would propel to the football team to being a more formidable program with a winning record. 

Prince has served as an offensive line coach at Alabama A&M University, Cornell University, James Madison University, South Carolina State University and the University of Virginia. Throughout his career, he has held a head coaching position with Kansas State University for two years, followed by several quick stints with the Indianapolis Colts, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Rutgers University Scarlets, the Detroit Lions and the University of Michigan. 

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Under Prince’s coaching term, the Howard University football program has severely struggled, posting a 1-8 overall record, with the club’s only win coming against their conference rival Delaware State University (2-8), 24-9.

In their season opener, the Bison went scoreless, falling 79-0 to the University of Maryland Terrapins displaying their inability to put points on the board and stop the run defensively. The Bison are currently 1-5 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference under Prince. 

Before the shaky start of 2019-2020 football season, both Davis and Howard University President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick had high expectations for the Howard University Football Team. 

“We are excited to have Coach Ron Prince join the Bison Family, and I look forward to having him work with our student-athletes and take the football program to higher heights,” said President Wayne A.I. Frederick in a media statement. “Coach Prince’s experience in the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences and in the NFL are impressive and in line with our vision for what Howard football can be. However, I am most impressed by his accolades molding students into leaders on and off the field. He is concerned with the entire student experience, which is exactly what our students deserve and need.” 

Davis uttered similar sentiments praising Prince’s “football acumen” and accolades, continuing that Prince reflects “the mission of our Athletic Department to promote excellence and service on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.”

However, that mission mentioned by Davis was questioned nine months later after HBCU Gameday reported numerous complaints by several parents of current Howard University alleging verbal abuse, mental abuse and intimidation towards the student-athletes. 

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The surfacing of these complaints in early September was followed by a letter from a parent, who remains anonymous, concerning the well-being of the Howard football players. 

 “Why are coaches not held to the same standard when it comes to blatant disrespect and harassment of student-athletes?” asked the parent. 

“Ron Prince has been threatening, hostile, abusive and disrespectful of the young men and coaching staff at Howard University since his arrival. If a student displayed the same behavior towards another player, student, instructor, or person in the community, he/she would be dealt with accordingly. The harassment, bullying, verbal, and mental abuse needs to STOP! He has demoralized, ridiculed and threatened the players on the team since his arrival,” continues the letter. 

According to the letter, Prince has released over 26 athletes from the program since his new position as head coach, along with sending injured athletes home without treatment and proper medical examination. 

HBCU Gameday reports that Prince told the publication he’s completely unaware of the allegations made against him.

“I don’t have any knowledge of it,” said Prince.

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Despite his statement, he’s no stranger to accusations of misconduct, abrasive complaints.

After the Detroit Lions fired Prince in 2018, the Detroit Free Press’ beat writer Dave Birkett penned an article about the Lions in which he wrote “Prince has a very strong personality — some would say abrasive — that rubbed the veterans on the Lions offensive line the wrong way to the point they were put off by Prince’s methods.”

Just five games into the season, Caylin Newton, one of Howard’s most popular players in recent years, announced his decision to leave the football program, along with linebacker Ignacio Reynoso, defensive back John Smith VI and running back Khalid Dorsey. 

A former Howard University football player who played during Prince’s tenure—who decided to remain anonymous— in an interview with the DCist accused Prince of showing favoritism. 

“When he doesn’t like a player, he’ll purposely not play you. He’s trying to get people to leave so he can open up more scholarships.”

ESPN reports seven players have entered the NCAA transfer pool since August and 17 since Prince’s arrival in December 2018. 

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The player suggests Prince’s brash attitude, which sometimes included expletives being spewed towards athletes, and even his coaching staff led six students to seek other teams to play for— entering the transfer pool. 

“That family aspect of football that you usually get in high school and college, he wanted no part of that really…He wanted to run this like this was the NFL, and that’s not the case.”

Further updates will follow after the conclusion of the investigation.


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