When the Morgan State football team took the field at Hughes Stadium in Baltimore for Saturday’s home and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener against Norfolk State, the Bears did not run to the sideline closest to their fans, their marching band and their cheerleaders.
Instead, the team stood on the visitors’ sideline – in front of the Spartans’ fans, marching band and cheerleaders.
After the 27-21 loss, Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley explained his decision to have the team stand on the opposing sideline.
“We have about 14 freshmen that are playing. And when we’re on the home side, you’re accessible to the crowd and everybody that’s coming over and talking to the kids,” he said. “It’s so much distraction going on that we figured that you move them over and we could have the focus of those kids. Not looking back and seeing their parents in the stands, not having former players walk up and down the sideline because there’s just so many different types of things that go on in the game.
"So, we just figured that we would move them to the other side and at least we don’t have to coach kids out of the stands. You’ve got enough trying to play the game on the field. You shouldn’t have to try to manage the sideline.”
Hill-Eley’s assessment on the unusual tactic?
“We just moved and it worked,” he said. “Guys were focused when we ran personnel in, and that was the whole purpose. When you look at the opposite sideline as the season moves on, traditionally that was the home side. So you can either look at it as tradition or management. We’ve got too many freshmen that are playing that if we don’t have sideline decorum in keeping those guys focused, it causes a big problem.”
The outcome of Saturday’s game was certainly not the result Hill-Eley intended, but he confirmed that the team will stand on the visitors’ sideline for the three remaining contests at home.
“Yeah, we’ll be over there,” he said. “They’re going to be freshmen the whole season. This one game is not going to make them change their class. So I think it’s in our best interest to be on that sideline.”