For more than a quarter of century, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) was recognized as a football powerhouse among Historical Black Colleges and Universities. Therefore, the decision to discontinue football in 1980 was a particularly painful one for the University and its Alumni. In order to gain a complete understanding of the real significance of UMES Football it is necessary to first examine its roots.
From its inception, football at UMES is about more than just college athletes. It was a part of a social movement among African-Americans that began to take hold with the advent of the Second World War. Since time in memorial, the primary function of any educational institution is to educate its constituency. It does this by sharing existing knowledge and generating new insights through research. However, in our society colleges and universities also serve functions that are ancillary to their basic mission, and these are enormously important to those who share them.
Some examples of these ancillary functions are public service activities, developing and sustaining an interest in the fine arts, and intercollegiate football programs. In a practical sense, these programs are often the most visible and thereby serve as effective public relations vehicle for the institution. One could search at length for a theoretical justification for this linkage, but the exercise would be meaningless.
The fact is that UMES football was firmly established, as part of the fabric of African-American history and culture, and it is our hope that it will continue to be in the future. The reason for this is clear. UMES football played a groundbreaking role in several areas important to both college athletics and the movement for social justice in America. The following is a brief listing of UMES firsts:
In 1948, UMES and Albright College played the first intercollegiate football game between an HBCU and majority-white institution.
In 1958, Johnny Sample (1954-1958) was the first player from a Historically Black College to play in the prestigious College All-Star Game.
In 1969, UMES had four of its former players in the famous 1969 Super Bowl (III), which pitted the mighty Baltimore Colts against the upstart New York Jets. The most players ever from one school to play in a single Super Bowl.
From 1989 to 1992, Art Shell became the first modern-day black head coach of a NFL team. To date, Coach Shell has a compiled an overall head coaching record of 54 wins and 38 losses (58.7 % winning), while guiding his teams to three playoff appearances.