Bottom is long way up for Morgan It's always bad news for the winless Bears

October 20, 1990|By Bill Glauber

This is what it's like to play for the worst National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I college football team in America.

You wait for bad things to happen. You hear fans laugh. And you lose. Every game.

To outsiders, it may appear to be one never-ending joke. But to the insiders, it hurts. A lot.

Morgan State University's (Bad News) Bears are dead last -- No. 193 -- in the weekly Division I statistical rankings compiled by USA Today. They are 0-7 entering today's homecoming game at Hughes Stadium. Instead of bringing in a cream-puff, the Bears are serving themselves up to Delaware State (4-2), the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion.

"It takes a man to stick with this," senior linebacker Gary Kennedy said.

Morgan State's 1990 season began with a 63-13 loss at Central State of Ohio. It has gotten worse.

The Bears botched 12 punts -- seven blocks, five bad snaps -- all leading to touchdowns. They needed five games to break out of negative net-rushing yardage. They have been outscored, 304-44, and outgained, 2,384 yards to 690.

"I feel bad that someone would have to even think of a ranking to make us look so bad," Kennedy said. "But I don't believe we're the worst team. Take away the little mistakes, and we could be 6-1, not 0-7."

Things are so bad that it rained on the Bears' football pep rally two weeks ago.

"You know how it feels to lose during something like this," freshman quarterback Orlando Persell said. "You have to take your turn. Eventually, there will be a turnaround and someone else will take these beatings."

The worst part is, this year wasn't supposed to be this awful. After finishing 4-6-1 in 1989, the Bears had reasonable expectations of achieving their first winning season since 1979.

Now, they're just aiming for one win.

"Everyone thinks we're terrible, the worst in the world," Kennedy said. "But we're not."

The Bears are young, with only three senior starters. Injuries sidelined four upperclassman starters, and two other veterans left school. Three freshmen have played quarterback, forcing the team to drop its run-and-shoot offense and implement a two-back alignment after two games.

"Even though we're 0-7, we're still trying to build a program," coach Ed Wyche said. "We feel we have a very fine nucleus here. It's difficult to compete when you have to insert freshmen. But are we making progress? Yes."

Wyche, in his third season at Division I-AA Morgan State, never promised instant success. But even he acknowledged, "I didn't think it would be this difficult."

Like his predecessors, Wyche labors in the shadow of Morgan State's glory years, when predominantly black universities provided one of the few stages for black college athletes. But the racial terrain of American universities has changed dramatically since the Earl Banks-coached Bears dominated black college football in the 1960s. In the 1980s, Morgan State won only 21 games; it had a 27-game losing streak from 1983-86.

"I imagine hearing about those years [in the 1960s] can be a burden to the players," Wyche said. "You have so many people in Baltimore who played on those teams and constantly remind others, 'We did things this way, or that.' I hear it. It goes in one ear and out the other. I'm not trying to beat any record. I'll never say we'll be like 30 years ago. This is the 1990s."

Morgan State's current misfortunes are occurring at a time when the school is undergoing a face-lift, with $91 million in campus construction. The athletic facilities are being upgraded, too. Hurt Gymnasium is being transformed into a state-of-the-art recreation center, and Hughes Stadium is being renovated.

"There is hope here," athletic director Leonard Braxton said. "In the next three years, our facilities will be comparable to any in the country. It's like a snowball coming down a mountain. It will take time. But football is the lifeline of the university. It is what brings us together. We feel that once we can be competitive, we can then regain the glory days."

But for now, the football team is enduring the nightmare season.

"By the time I graduate, I'd like for people to say that Morgan State once struggled in football," freshman defensive lineman Matthew Steeple said. "But then, I want people to say that Morgan State football is back. Teams may take advantage of us this year. But that won't last forever."

*Morgan's season

Sept. 1 Central State, 63-13

Sept. 8 Bethune-Cookman, 21-7

Sept. 15 Bowie State, 34-9

Sept. 22 North Carolina A&T, 49-0

Sept. 29 Morehead State, 47-0

Oct. 6 South Carolina State, 42-0

Oct. 13 Virginia Union, 48-15

Today vs. Delaware State

Oct. 27 at Florida A&M

Nov. 3 at Howard

Nov. 10 at Cheyney State (Pa.)

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