Rod Broadway made the most of his opportunities

by Donal Ware

On the day of the College Football Playoff National Championship, a coaching legend is retiring.

When North Carolina A&T head football coach Rod Broadway officially announces his retirement at a press conference on Tuesday (his longtime defensive coordinator Sam Washington will be named as the new head coach), he will be leaving an Aggie team that he coached to an undefeated season and a Celebration Bowl victory on their way to being named Black college national champions. He was the head coach of the greatest season in the history of Aggie football.

Broadway retires having done something in a season that most coaches can only dream of. If there were a time to retire, this was the time.

Broadway’s career at A&T doesn’t begin with the 2017 season. It began in 2011 when he took over the program in which he has referenced as “the laughing stock of Black college football.” The program was indeed in disarray. A&T was on probation for APR issues which had resulted in lost practice time and no spring game.

I remember that season vividly. The Aggies had no spring practice, reduced practice time, and reduced scholarships, meaning they had just 30 equivalent scholarships. He had inherited a team that was 1-10 the season before. He left a Grambling program which he helped revive that was 9-2 in 2010 to come to A&T.

While the Aggies went 5-6 in that first season, what was more impressive was the fact that their last four losses were losses by eight points or less – all on the road – with an opportunity to at least tie or win those games in the waning seconds of the game. The Aggies defeated archrival North Carolina Central to end the season.

There were some great moments and wins for Broadway at A&T. The wins against FBS opponents Kent State in 2016 and Charlotte this past year were good. Perhaps the Aggies biggest non-conference victory under Broadway and one of the biggest in A&T history was against Appalachian State in 2013, 24-21 to open the season. The Mountaineers had begun making the transition to FBS that season and in 2011 the Mountaineers defeated the Aggies 58-6 in Boone, NC.

Broadway won two Black college national championships as head coach at A&T in 2015 and 2017, led the Aggies to an at-large berth in the FCS playoffs in 2016, and was 57-22 as the head coach, a winning percentage of .721. By the way, most people remember the three-straight losses to NCCU (2014-16), but forget his teams defeated the Eagles his first three seasons and also won back in November, giving him a 4-3 record against NCCU.

He was also the only coach in the country to offer Tarik Cohen a scholarship out of tiny Bunn High School, about 35 miles northeast of Raleigh. All Cohen did was become the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher and has been named as a 2018 Pro Bowl alternate in his rookie season for the Chicago Bears.

His story doesn’t start at A&T.

From 2007-10 he was the head coach at Grambling where he again turned around a program that was 3-8 in 2006 and finished the first season 8-4, leading the Tigers to the SWAC championship game. The next year, the Tigers won the championship, finishing 11-2 on their way to being named Black college national champions. He had two more productive seasons at Grambling before either not being appreciated at Grambling or wanting to return to his roots in North Carolina when the A&T job opened. He finished with a 35-12 record in four years at Grambling, a .714 winning percentage.

His story doesn’t start at Grambling.

From 2003-06 he was the head coach at North Carolina Central. After a 4-6 season in 2003, the Eagles went 8-2 in 2004. They then won back-to-back CIAA and Black college national championships in 2005 and 2006. He helped lead NCCU into the Division I ranks and ultimately part of the Eagles success at the Division I level can be attributed to Broadway. His 2005 team defeated North Carolina A&T 23-22 in the Aggie-Eagle Classic. His record in four years at NCCU: 33-11, a winning percentage of .750.

His story doesn’t start there either.

He was an All-American defensive lineman at UNC. After that he began his coaching career at ECU, before moving on as the defensive line coach at Duke where he won an ACC title under Steve Spurrier, before joining Spurrier’s staff at Florida from 1995-2000 where the Gators won a national championship in 1996.

He then returned to his alma mater for two seasons as defensive line coach before taking his first head coaching position at NCCU.

Broadway’s story is a good story, but it is also one that most Black coaches that have a good resume face. He never received a shot as head football coach at an I-A/FBS program. He was a candidate for the Duke head coaching position in 2008 that ultimately went to David Cutcliffe.

When given the opportunity as a head coach, he showed what he could do. It is a shame that a man that has the resume and credentials that Broadway has was never given that opportunity. I have covered Broadway for 13 years, known him for 12 years. I have seen him mellow over his time as a head coach and become a real advocate for HBCUs. He was an advocate for HBCUs playing more games against each other. Before each road trip, the Aggies would stop by the on campus statue of the Greensboro Four, get off the bus and touch each representative of the statue, paying homage to those that sacrificed so that Black folks would have equal rights; ensuring that his players would know something about A&T and Civil Rights history.

Broadway wanted that shot; the shot to be a head coach at the highest level. Hopefully at least what he’s done will open the eyes of athletics directors and presidents at FBS programs that what more Black coaches need is an opportunity and that Black coaches can be successful. His success will help younger coaches coming up the ranks, just like legendary A&T and Winston-Salem State head coach Bill Hayes, who became the first Black assistant coach in the ACC, helped make it so that Broadway got his shot as an assistant at Duke.

In 15 seasons as a head coach, Broadway tallied a record of 127-45, a winning percentage of .738. He will be on our list of the 125 most influential in the history of HBCU football. His teams won six conference championships and five Black college national championships. He is the reigning BOXTOROW Coach of the Year.

I’ve had an opportunity to be around Broadway in his seven years at A&T. Under that sometimes hard exterior is a smart, thought-provoking man, who cared about his players. He could be very funny as well. I will miss two of his famous sayings, “All wins are good wins,” and “If something good happens keep playing; if something bad happens keep playing.”

And that’s what the Aggies will do; keep playing. With Broadway not too far away, enjoying his retirement.

Notes from the Press Conference: Broadway mentioned the fact that athletics director Earl Hilton wanted to negotiate a contract extension two years ago after the Aggies won the Celebration Bowl. Broadway wanted to hold off, saying let’s wait because, “your opinion of me may change and may opinion of you may change,” as folks gathered at the press conference chuckled.

Broadway also stated that he seriously contemplated retiring prior to the beginning of the 2017 season.

Broadway called himself a “TarAggie,” being that he is a graduate of UNC, but appreciating being the head football coach of the Aggies.

Broadway said that when he left UNC as the defensive line coach there to take the position as head coach at North Carolina Central, people talked about how he was coming from a white school. When he took the job at Grambling in 2007, people talked about how he was not from the area. When taking the job at A&T, the A&T community welcomed him with open arms.

Hilton mentioned that things were in such disarray with the football program that when Broadway was first hired, Hilton, Broadway and Chancellor Harold Martin went to Utah to meet with the NCAA and they were asked the question why A&T should still remain an FCS status school.

Sam Washington has been the defensive coordinator with Broadway the last 11 years (seven at A&T, four at Grambling) and was introduced as the new head football coach. Washington is ready to take on the “pressure” of the job and introduced four assistant coaches, all of which are holdovers.

Broadway will remain as an advisor to A&T athletics for six months. Some of the things we wants to do include fishing and consulting football programs. Broadway said one of the things he loved to do growing up was fishing and he has only been able to do that twice in all his years in coaching.

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