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Howard University Loses Its Challenge to Division I-AA Playoffs

November 28, 1987

The Division I-AA college football playoffs will go on without Howard University today, although a federal judge said the school's $9-million lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. for racial discrimination has merit.

U.S. District Judge John Garrett Penn, in rejecting Howard's request for a temporary restraining order, refused Friday to postpone the start of the playoffs for a week and also refused to order that the 16-team field be expanded by four schools to include Howard, a predominantly black school in Washington.

"Any delay of these games would be a disruption which would cause severe hardship to the teams, their schools and their supporters," Penn said.

He recognized, however, that "there are substantial and severe questions that are raised in the course of this litigation."

Howard lawyer Francis Smith said that the school would instead seek a preliminary injunction to halt the second round of playoffs, scheduled Dec. 5.

Penn said what was particularly troubling was that Howard ranked behind North Texas State in the final NCAA poll after the teams had been tied for 20th the previous week.

In its final game, North Texas State beat a Division I-AA team with a losing record whereas Howard beat 14th-ranked Delaware State. Yet North Texas State moved ahead of Howard in the rankings, which were used by the NCAA in awarding playoff bids.

Penn said: "It does seem Howard would have ended up with a higher ranking."

Howard President James Cheek said: "There is evidence we have been treated in a very shabby fashion." He promised to put members of the selection committee on the witness stand in a jury trial for civil damages.

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