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The real HU vs. the first HU

What a Hampton alum thinks of this fierce rivalry

Let’s get one thing clear before moving on: Howard was “HU” before Hampton. You can’t deny facts.

Howard University was founded in 1867. Hampton Institute was founded in 1868 and later — OK, much later — became Hampton University in 1984. So, yes, Howard’s the first HU by a considerable margin.

But the real one? I’m glad you asked.


In the battle of Howard vs. the deplorables, I’m taking Howard


Hampton vs. Howard — Hampton always comes first because of grammatical purposes, but mainly because the headliner always goes first … duh. Its football origins date to 1908. The Real HU (again, Hampton) leads the The First HU (again, Howard) by a count of 49-42-1 and to be honest, by the end of the weekend, after the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic, there should be a nice round 50 in the win column.

We win on the field. We win well beyond the classroom. We have the better student center. And if we’re judging the better campus, as a great philosopher once waxed poetic about, “Let’s just not even.”

Howard students will point to this year’s rankings of the best historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) by U.S. News & World Report. Spelman captured the top spot, quite the deserving nod because Spelman is an incredible institution and one of black America’s most prized academic possessions. But Howard paid someone off, apparently landing at No. 2 while Hampton rounded out the top three.

They’ll use this as part of their argument, which I understand. But also, my people, don’t be alarmed. Remember the 2000 election? When we went to sleep, we believed Al Gore was America’s new president only to find out George W. Bush won when we woke up the next morning. What does this have to do with Hampton/Howard?

I haven’t quite figured that out. But don’t let Howard pull the sheep’s wool over your eyes, America. You can’t trust all these rankings anyway. Unless, of course, Hampton is rated higher, in which case that study is completely accurate, signed and approved by the Obama administration and should be treated as fact.

Oh, yes, and speaking of “fact.” In the black community, we like to fancy ourselves in something we call the “trump card.” Nah, not that Trump. I’m pretty sure Hampton and Howard agree on their feelings on that topic. But more so “the big joker” or the “domino, m—-!” The comeback so concrete that all you do is say it and walk away like you just pulled a Kyrie Irving and drained the game-winning 3-pointer in Game 7 of the Finals. Basically, this:

Both have been name-dropped in songs over the years, most notably with The Notorious B.I.G.’s Kick In The Door (Howard) and Drake’s Used To (Hampton). Both have had President Barack Obama deliver the commencement address at graduation. Although Hampton, by the rules of the universe, experienced this first in 2010. Yet, one of us is not like the other. Remember A Different World? Of course you remember A Different World. How could you, in good faith, whether you’re black or someone who just appreciates and respects quality TV programming, not remember A Different World? Hillman, the fictional college in the series, is modeled after Hampton University.

Game. Set. Match. My work here is done.

But no, in all seriousness, I’m not as caught up in this HU/HU rivalry as the previous 500 words would lead you to believe. I love my school, so I’m naturally going to rep for it because it’s largely responsible for the person I am today. And if it weren’t for a fellow Hampton alum, I would not be at The Undefeated typing these exact words. That, plus, they have my money.

We’re all HBCUs at the end of the day, so bragging is more good-natured family joking than it is territorial. For me, at least. Howard has been the subject of some incredible storytelling I’ve been beyond blessed to cover here at The Undefeated, from its soccer team to enriching and fulfilling conversations with current students about current issues.

We all have to support each other in the long run, because we read headlines quite often about how this university is failing because of a lack of funding, or that college is in danger of shutting down. What makes boasting and bragging about your HBCU so fun is that there are many to choose from. There’s no one authentic path to live “the black experience,” just like there shouldn’t be one HBCU responsible for helping to provide that.

That being said, if you’re a high school junior or senior, and you’re going through the internal debate: Hampton or Howard, make the right decision. Choose Hampton. You don’t want to kick yourself years later saying you should’ve gone to The Real HU.

Justin Tinsley is a culture and sports writer for The Undefeated. He firmly believes “Cash Money Records takin’ ova for da ’99 and da 2000” is the single-most impactful statement of his generation.