By Mark Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]

Two years into the renaissance of the Howard University football program an unexpected reset is needed. Mike London, the 2017 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, resigned to become the head coach at William and Mary following a 4-6 finish with the Bison this year.

London, who often referred to Howard as “Stanford of the east coast,” returns to his native Tidewater region of Virginia where his coaching career began.  He replaces Jimmye Laycock who retired after 39 years on the sideline.  The former Howard coach was once a member of Laycock’s staff for three years during the 1990’s.

Former Howard University football Mike London with Senior Women’s Administrator Shelley Davis and athletics director Kery Davis at his introductory press conference in February 2017. London resigned to take the same job at William and Mary (Courtesy Photo).

“I am honored and excited to build on the incredible tradition of excellence Jimmye Laycock established,” London said in a statement from   William and Mary’s sports information department.  “He is a part of the foundation of my career and someone I have always respected.”

London’s departure was a shock to many with Howard returning a talented group of players ready to compete for a MEAC championship in 2019. With all-conference quarterback Cailyn Newton and receivers Kyle Anthony and Jequeze Ezzard as headlining an experienced cast, the Bison looked to have laid the foundation for long term contention in the conference.

However, the lure of returning to his hometown and being near his elderly parents apparently made this a difficult opportunity for London to pass on.  The lessons he learned from 1990-1993 under Laycock helped serve him well at Richmond where he won the FCS national championship.

London inherited a program at Howard that was undisciplined on the field and off when he was hired in February 2017.  The Bison had won three games over two years under coach Gary Harrell.  They were also dealing with ramifications from NCAA penalties for not complying with the academic progress rate (APR) which monitors student athletes graduation rates.  The University was also coming to grips with the fallout of an embarrassing financial embezzlement scandal.

Nonetheless, London was able to immediately restore credibility to the Howard program and bring vibrance back to campus before his first game.  Signing Newton – brother of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton – was his first signature recruit. When the Bison defeated UNLV 43-40 Las Vegas it was the biggest upset – based on point spread – in college football history.  That was the signature moment in the London era in Northwest D.C. and visions of the halcyon days of the mid-90s appeared to be on the horizon.

“In addition to the strides we made on the field, Coach London instilled a culture of integrity, family, and accountability on and off the field,” said Howard University Director of Athletics Kery Davis in his statement. “His motto of ‘go to class, show class and treat people with dignity and respect,’ resonated throughout the entire Athletic Department.”

Sources close to the program tell the {AFRO} that London had grown frustrated with some of the unfulfilled promises for physical improvements to the program.  Howard’s Greene Stadium is antiquated, their weight room is Paleolithic and the press box is primitive at best.  Before their game with Morgan State in October, London lamented the struggles, he was facing when trying to navigate through inconsistency of the University’s athletic support infrastructure that was putting his team in a bind.

While the promises of a MEAC or national championship during the London era are gone he made the job at Howard attractive again.  There is no shortage of quality suitors inquiring about the opportunity and Davis’ next job won’t be to hire a coach who can start from scratch, but one who can take the next step from a solid foundation.