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OPINION: Who’s the “Real HU” and why it matters

The 2023 Howard University Truth and Service football game against Hampton University. (Jacob Hanesworth/The Hilltop)

In the historic “Battle of the Real HU,” students and alumni of Howard University and Hampton University come together to watch their football teams go against each other. Ahead of their 98th meeting, the schools’ communities were very open about their feelings regarding the rivalry.

The Bison and Pirates are anything but strangers. Every encounter between the two evokes a plethora of emotions making the games enticing to watch and the rivalry entertaining to follow. With the Bison losing to the Pirates in recent years and the Pirates with a winning streak to uphold, the game this year holds a significant amount of value for both teams.

The first match-up between the two universities’ football teams was in 1908. Now over a century later, the tension is higher than ever. In the past decade, the Bison and Pirates have played each other eight times, with six being games won by the Pirates. The Bison have not won since their back-to-back 2013-2014 victories meaning the Pirates have been on a winning streak since 2015. This trend is consistent with the overall series record before the game took place, which was 55-41-1 with Hampton holding the advantage. 

“It’s the argument, the rivalry, the team spirit of both HBCUs rivaling against each other,” said 

Marie Williams, a sophomore accounting major from Houston, Texas, at Hampton. 

The question that stirs emotions between the two teams and has kept this rivalry going for so long is, “Who is the real HU?” The fans of both teams had their own opinion and reasonings on why their school deserved that title. Answers ranged from the record of the football rivalry to the specifics of their universities’ names. 

“Based off of record for football, Hampton has won more than Howard,” said Williams. 

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In contrast, Adamio Boddie, a Howard alumnus of the class of 1986 argued, “There’s only one HU; the other school is HIU.”

Despite the differing opinions on who deserves the real HU title, it is viewed as a high standard that requires the students, alumni, and faculty of both schools to hold themselves to a standard of excellence.

The 2023-2024 Mister and Miss Howard University and the Royal Court at Audi Field. (Jacob Hanesworth/The Hilltop)

Dina Durham Paltoo, a Howard alum of the class of 1992, explained the meaning of the “Real HU” distinction saying, “It means perseverance, it means grit, it means friendships, it means hard work, it means success.”

Herbert Watson, a Howard alumnus of the class of 1988, said, “To be the real HU is to be a leader in a global community in which both universities are.”

This long-lasting rivalry between the Bison and Pirates musters up emotions throughout the audience but also brings everyone together as previous or current students of HBCUs and as people of the Black community.

Williams summarized the rivalry in one word: “Family.” She continued, “Cause you can argue all you want but at the end of the day you’re both HBCUs.”

Even though the Bison and Pirates are vastly different, when asked what it means to be a Bison or Pirate, the responses were quite similar. Two well-established HBCUs, close in proximity but differing in several ways, boasting students of the past and present who resembled the same qualities.

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Victoria Brown, a junior health science major on the pre-med track from Los Angeles, and a Howard student defined the meaning of being a Bison by saying, “We’re illustrious, we’re educated, we’re loving, we’re caring people.”

Similarly, Dayvonne Anderson, a Hampton alumnus of the class of 1991 defined a Pirate as having the following qualities: “Honor, prestige and class.”

The fight between Howard and Hampton University becomes intense, especially in the atmosphere of sports where the adrenaline is high and the tension is even higher. Despite the arguments and differing opinions, it’s all for amusement. From this rivalry, the schools have formed a bond that will continue to grow for another 115 years. 

“We’re all members of the same tribe, just different villages,” said Watson. “It’s all love.”

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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