Coach McCain’s dedication to understanding the deeper qualities and disciplines of the game laid the foundation for what many have called the “Golden Years of Hawk Athletics.” In addition to being head football coach, Coach McCain was also the head basketball coach and athletic director, thus, giving him almost total control over the UMES athletic budget and pool of athletic talent. Further, during this period of time UMES’s president was John T. Williams. President Williams was an avid football fan and provided the type of supportive leadership necessary to build a winning program.
As a result, during the period from 1946 to 1970, over twenty (20) UMES student-athletes went on to pursue professional careers in the National Football League (NFL). In addition, several others went on to successful careers in the Continental and Canadian Football Leagues. The most notable of these athletes is Art Shell, eight (8) time Pro-Bowl player, NFL Hall of Fame Player, and the first African American head coach of the modern era of professional football with the Los Angeles Raiders (now the Oakland Raiders).
Further, UMES holds the distinction of having more players play in a Super Bowl Championship game than any other single institution. In the 1968 game between the New York Jets and the Baltimore Colts (now the Indianapolis Colts), UMES was represented by four (4) of its former student-athletes: Earl Christy (1961-1964), Johnny Sample (1954-1957), Emerson Boozer (1962-1965), and Charles Stukes (1963-1967).
From 1971 to 1979, the retirement and subsequent death of President Williams combined with: escalating costs, poor management, lack of consistent leadership, and a shared vision between the administration and alumni laid the ground work for the demise of this once storied program. Not only was this a period of great trial and tribulation for the football program, but for the University as a whole. This was a time when the very existence of UMES was being debated by many state politicians, school administrators, faculty, staff and representatives of the local community, many of whom did not hold a favorable view of UMES.
The lack of leadership coupled with aggressive recruiting of “quality” African American athletes by “majority” institutions was too much to overcome. In conjunction with this problem and a lack of perceived importance of athletics in general and football in particular, a number of poor decisions were made by personnel entrusted to run the program’s day-to-day operations. But even doing this period the trials, the program was not without its successes.
From 1971 to 1979, 12 Hawks received All Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference honors and several others went on to successful careers in the NFL. On 01/08/80, after a year of in-depth review and discussion, Dr. William P. Hytche, Chancellor of UMES, officially announced the suspension of intercollegiate football at UMES. The reasons cited for discontinuing the program were the spiraling inflation and the cost of compliance with Title IX of the Education Act. A summary of the performance of key administrators is provided on the page to follow.