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1975 Morgan "Bears"

The Morgan State University Lacrosse Bears was the only lacrosse team established to play NCAA-level lacrosse at a historically black institution.[1] The team, from Baltimore, Maryland, defeated schools like Harvard and Notre Dame and upset a #1 ranked team in 1975. The team's exploits are recounted in the book Ten Bears, and the story is in production for a major motion picture.



Morgan State University was founded and chartered in 1867 as the Centenary Biblical Institute. It was built on its present site, in northeast Baltimore, in 1890 and was known as Morgan College from 1890 to 1938. It became a public college in 1939, as Morgan State College.[2] In the 1950s and 1960s, enrollment swelled as African Americans of the baby boom generation sought post high school degrees but were limited by segregation to black colleges and universities like Morgan, Howard, Grambling or Morehouse. (In 1975, the college was renamed Morgan State University by the state legislature to reflect its expanded mission and scope.) By the 1960s, Morgan and Grambling had reached the pinnacle of college football, African-American athletes were still unable to attend most white schools, thus concentrating their numbers and talents at a handful of black schools. Several dozen notable NFL players and Hall of Famers hailed from these schools.
The late 1960s were turbulent years with regard to race relations in the United States. Riots had broken out in major cities across the country, with at least three in Maryland, Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated and formerly all white universities and colleges were opening their doors to African-Americans for the first time. But the major lacrosse powers like Johns Hopkins, Navy and Maryland still fielded mostly white teams.[3]

Ironically, by 1975 Morgan became noted for its lacrosse team because black high school lacrosse players from Maryland and New York still had trouble getting into the major white lacrosse colleges and universities.[4] Morgan was the first (and until the turn of the 21st century) the only historically black university to field a lacrosse team.[5]
The team was formed in 1970 when a former Baltimore highschool lacrosse player and Morgan grad student, Howard "Chip" Silverman, realized that many of black Baltimore's high school lacrosse players were at Morgan, but were not playing lacrosse. Silverman had never coached before, but, he put up flyers around campus, and 30 athletes showed up for a meeting. Two-thirds were football players. Some would later star in the NFL, such as Stan Cherry.[6] Silverman started the lacrosse club and two years later petitioned the NCAA for full membership as a college team. At that time, the NCAA had its best 40 teams in Division I and another 80 teams in Division II.[7] It was Division II that Morgan would soon dominate.


From 1970 to 1975, the Bears were ranked in the top 25, four out of five years. They made the championship tournament twice, and in 1975, were involved in the greatest upset in intercollegiate sports history, when Morgan defeated Washington and Lee University, the number one lacrosse team in NCAA Division II.[4] Washington & Lee had not lost a regular season or home game in three years. After the 1975 season, Silverman retired as the Bears lacrosse coach, and Morgan never again had a winning season.[8]
By 1981 Title IX funding priorities required university athletic funds be equally distributed among women's programs and the school dropped lacrosse in 1981.[3]
Several members of the team now coach lacrosse in local high schools. Stan Cherry, after playing for the Baltimore Colts and New York Jets became a correctional officer, he died in 1993. Tony Fulton and Curt Anderson were elected to the Maryland House of Delegates, Fulton died in 2005.[9] Three time all-American Joe Fowlkes is a security consultant and George Kelley is in his 30 year law enforcement veteran.[10] Dr. Miles Harrison and Coach Silverman collaborated on the book, Ten Bears,[11] which is being made into a movie. Silverman died in March 2008. Dr. Harrison's son, Kyle Harrison, was the #1 draft pick of Major League Lacrosse in 2005, after leading Johns Hopkins to a national championship the same year. Two documentaries have been shot on the team, one, produced by Jeremy Schaap, aired on ESPN in 2006 and the second, produced by Luke David, airs on PBS in early April, 2008.[12]

21st-century comeback

Morgan lacrosse-2008

More than 20 years after the original team was shut down, Morgan has started all over again. In 2005 a lacrosse club team was formed on campus and is awaiting acceptance into the NCAA.[13] Meanwhile, the team plays in the National College Lacrosse League.[3] The team is coached by Gene White who played on that last Morgan State team in 1981.


  1. ^ "HS Then & Now: Clinic Is All About Sticks, Not Stones". PressBox Online. Retrieved 2008-03-18.  
  2. ^ "Morgan State University". Morgan State University. Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  3. ^ a b c "A Means to Their End". Lacrosse Magazine. Retrieved 2008-03-16.  
  4. ^ a b "The First and Only Black College Lacrosse Team". Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  5. ^ Harrison, (2001) p.5
  6. ^ Carroll, Bob (1999). Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League.  
  7. ^ Harrison, (2001), p.50
  8. ^ "Q&A with Ten Bears Author Dr. Miles Harrison". LAX Power. Retrieved 2008-03-18.  
  9. ^ "Tony E. Fulton". Maryland State Archives. Retrieved 2008-03-25.  
  10. ^ Harrison, (2001), p.240
  11. ^ "Ten Bears". Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  12. ^ "'THE MORGAN LACROSSE STORY'". TEAM Sound & Vision. Retrieved 2008-03-16.  
  13. ^ Daraji, Malachi (2005-07-01). "Lacrosse Returns to Morgan State University". The Spokesman. Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  14. ^ a b c "Morgan State". National College Lacrosse League. Retrieved 2008-03-16.  


  • Harrison, Miles Jr.; Chip Silverman (2001). Ten Bears. USA: Positive Publications. pp. 19. ISBN 0-967992-21-4.  


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