Rod Broadway will return to his alma mater UNC Chapel Hill on the sideline Saturday for the first time since former Tar Heels coach John Bunting released him in 2002.
Broadway was a defensive line coach at UNC under Bunting for two seasons. His “firing” led to his first head coaching job at then-Division II North Carolina Central, his first job at an Historically Black College or University despite his extensive resume, where he led the Eagles to back-to-back CIAA championships and a black college national championship.
But it wasn’t all glory.
The love of his life, Dianne Broadway, died after battling scleroderma for 14 years. Scleroderma is a rheumatic disease of the tissue that attacks women aged 30 to 50. Broadway also lost his mother and his personal secretary – all within a year’s time.
He left for Division I / FCS Grambling State in 2007, a university made legendary by the great Eddie Robinson, and turned the Tigers into conference champions within two years.
But when the opportunity came to return to his home state, Broadway jumped at the chance. He took over a N.C. A&T football program that had a 27-game losing streak and so many scholarship reductions from NCAA violations that he couldn’t hold spring practice for fear of injury to the few players he had.
Fast-forward five years.
Broadway has since remarried to LaTonia Broadway, and the Aggies are picked to finish No. 1 by the MEAC coaches after tying for the league title last season with four other teams.
“It’s a compliment to our program to be picked first, although it means nothing at this time,” Broadway said. “Five years ago, we were the laughingstock in black college football.”
The Aggies and Tar Heels will tangle at 6 p.m. in Chapel Hill.
Yes, it’s a money game for N.C. A&T. Yes, no one but Aggie Nation gives the team a chance. But that’s what they said about Appalachian State and Michigan.
Here in Durham, NCCU and Duke will square off Saturday in the third annual Bull City Classic. The Blue Devils have easily won the first two meetings, but second-year coach Jerry Mack wasn’t in on the losses.
Nevertheless, he knows the odds.
“It’s going to be a tough, tough matchup,” said Mack, who as a player attended Duke coach Dave Cutcliffe’s football camps. “But we don’t go into any game thinking we’re going to lose.”
The Eagles and Blue Devils play at – wait for it – 6 p.m.! The same time as the UNC-A&T game.
Now I know the prevailing thinking: Duke fans don’t go to Carolina games and vice versa, and they’re nonconference “easy wins,” but, hey, some of us are HBCU fans and would have loved nothing better than to hit up the Bull City Classic and then head over to Chapel Hill for a doubleheader, or vice versa.
I know I would.
Did this occur to anybody?
NCCU and N.C. A&T have two of the largest fan bases in all of HBCU sports – and they travel. They don’t see these games as mismatches, but instead as an opportunity to root for their team, to see the bands perform and for some fellowship.
(And they’re loyal. Did anyone else notice how Alcorn State fans filled their seats Thursday night at Georgia Tech’s Grant Field while 99 percent of the Yellow Jacket fans were gone by the fourth quarter?)
Even though they are bitter rivals, I guarantee the fan base from NCCU and N.C. A&T both would have attended the other’s game to root for their MEAC comrade against the bigger boys.
And you know what that means: cha-CHING!
Finally got your attention, eh?
Not trying to be critical but to serve up food for thought for the next time.
As hard as it is to believe, there is another world besides the ACC.