The Howard University Men’s Soccer team is currently the only men’s squad that plays in the MEAC conference. Through its ups and downs, the team’s legacy remains stellar after it became the first team from a HBCU to win a NCAA division I championship.
In 1971, the Bisons won their first title after defeating the Saint Louis University Billikens in Miami in December. The Bison team was led by Trinidadian Lincoln “Tiger” Phillips, a former professional goalie who played against Black soccer legend, Pelè. Comprised of players from Africa, the Caribbean, and the African-American community, the team became a symbol of pride for Howard students.
After someone anonymously tipped off the NCAA that four of Howard’s players played in amateur leagues, the league vacated the title. The Saint Louis coach reportedly refused to accept the title after talk that the NCAA’s investigation was motivated by racism. Soccer fans and sports writers alike struggled to fathom how a ragtag group of college players could ever sit atop the collegiate soccer ranks.
Despite some internal strife, the team regrouped under Coach Phillips and just three years later, they bested the all-white Billikens team in a frigid outdoors match. Players suffered frostbite and other ailments. The undefeated Bison squad won the game 2-1 in a quadruple overtime contest.
Many from the winning Howard squads have gone on to top careers in a variety of fields. Coach Phillips is the founder and CEO of AMEX International, a Washington-based consulting firm. Mori Diane, one of Phillips’ former players, is a co-founder and executive at AMEX as well. Another former player, Winston Yallery-Arthur, is a partner and co-founder of his own Washington law firm.
The Bisons championship teams were the subject of a short film which aired on ESPN’s The Undefeated portal and was executive produced by Spike Lee’s Lil Joints documentary shorts series.
Although the MEAC is the primary conference for the team, they are affiliate members of the Sun Belt Conference.