Critics of North Carolina A&T coach Rod Broadway often question his commitment when the Aggies play against his former teams. The quiet whispers of discontent grew louder after three straight losses to N.C. Central before beating the Eagles to clinch the MEAC title in November.
Had you been listening close enough, you could hear the dogs barking in the stands as A&T struggled offensively against Grambling in The Celebration Bowl inside the palace that is Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Broadway once restored prominence to the program that venerable coach Eddie Robinson built into the standard by which all other HBCU programs are judged, but it was his Aggies that stood in the way this year of back-to-back titles for the Tigers.
There was nothing pretty about A&Ts 21-14 win over Grambling to win their second national championship in three years. There were no Tarik Cohen moments that will stand the test of time in You Tube history. There were no real explosive plays that made the Sportscenter highlight reel either. Instead, it was the resilient effort by a team that kept grinding until they finally were able to seal the victory in the late stages of the fourth quarter.
The Aggies of North Carolina A&T won the 2017 Celebration Bowl and are the HBCU National Champions. Check out the emotion on the field after A&T caps off their incredible 12-0 season.
However, the grind is what personifies the legacy that is Broadway as a head coach. He was groomed as a national championship defensive assistant under Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida. That was after helping the Old Ball Coach get the job while helping lead Duke to an ACC championship. With that as his pedigree, Broadway still had to prove himself as a head coach at a then Division II program once he got his head coaching break.
After 50 years under the shadow of its CIAA basketball program, Broadway made North Carolina Central football relevant again. He won back to back CIAA championships and helped them prepare for the move to Division I with a 33-11 mark over four years. His Eagles also made two deep runs in the Division II playoffs before the program bolted for the MEAC.
Broadway laid the foundation at NCCU and could have forged his legend in Raleigh had fate not intervened. He lost his first wife of 28 years, Dianne, who died in 2004 after a 14-year battle with scleroderma, a rare disease that causes hardening of the skin and internal organs. For someone that is deeply committed to family, the pain was so great he needed a change at a time when Grambling needed a coach.
He led the Tigers to 35 wins in 47 games and won two SWAC championships in four years. Broadway could have stayed in the house Eddie Robinson built and become a living legend there too. However, the longing for home and family brought him back to North Carolina. He left a championship program at Grambling to take the reigns of an A&T program that was coming off a 1-10 season saddled by academic problems.
The early wake up for a noon kickoff between Broadways past and present in the NFLs Shang Ri Las with an HBCU national football championship hanging in the balance wasnt a thing of beauty. After a week of celebrating Black College Football history during the festivities that accompany a bowl game, it took the Aggies and Tigers almost an entire half before they got their postseason legs during this moment in the infancy of the Mercedes-Benz Stadiums existence.
A&T marched down the field on the games opening drive with a physical 15-play drive that consumed most of the first quarter. However, the Tigers defense stiffened in the red zone, setting the tone for missed opportunities that would keep the game close.
Grambling was one of the nations best teams at protecting the football, but picked the wrong time to be in a giving mood. Their plus-19 turnover margin during the regular season was second best in the nation. Grambling fumbled and gave up two huge interceptions leading to all 21 A&T points. Meanwhile the Aggies also missed two field goals that would have made things a lot easier for them as their offense moved with more precision for most of the game.
Devante Kincade, Gramblings quarterback who transferred from Ole Miss and was Mr. All Everything since joining the program, was clearly not himself in his final college start. Kincade was hit often and when he wasnt, he heard footsteps. The accurate, efficient passing that marked his career was replaced by unexpected inconsistency at the wrong time. Broadways defense bent but wouldnt break and its physicality forced two interceptions from the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year, including a back breaker in the end zone.
Steven J. Gaither, Wali Pitt and Tolly Carr break down North Carolina A&T’s 21-14 victory over Grambling in the 2017 Celebration Bowl from Atlanta, Georgia. This post is sponsored by Subject 2 Change Custom Apparel.
Broadway is now 2-0 versus Grambling on a championship stage and has reversed A&Ts fortunes against the bitter rival that is N.C. Central. His Aggies are national champions once again and were undefeated. Next year they should be picked as the preseason favorite in the MEAC.
He has been outspoken about his preference to play in a postseason bowl experience instead of the FCS Playoffs for his players and relishes the platform the Celebration Bowl gives he and the program.
Broadways legacy is now secure with championships at storied programs in three conferences. There have never been any NCAA violations under his watch and his players graduate. Hes walked the same sidelines as torchbearers such as Robinson and Bill Hayes while adding to the legacy of two high profile programs. His players enter college as boys and leave as men.
There isnt much left for Broadway to accomplish as an HBCU head coach. Rumors around Greensboro say he hasnt signed a contract extension and following a perfect season with a national championship, that retirement may call during this offseason. If he does retire, then hes been as good for the game of Black College Football as it has been for him and should be a Hall of Famer sooner rather than later.