ATLANTA (December 16, 2017) – Famous North Carolina A&T alumnus Rev. Jesse Jackson went to Twitter after North Carolina A&T’s historic 21-14 win over Grambling State in the 2017 Celebration Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday.
The former presidential candidate and civil rights leaders typed: “.@ncatsuaggies @Football_NCAT WON #CelebrationBowl today. #NCAT is also theNo.1 #HBCU in nation for #STEM disciplines&online edu programs&named in top10of50 BESTcolleges forAfrican-Americans #Proud to be a graduateof an HBCU. http://www.greensboro.com/news/local_news/perfect-n-c-a-t-completes-undefeated-season-with-/article_8cbeb0b5-b46d-5591-b569-9814dccc41ba.html#utm_campaign=blox&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social … #AggiesCelebrate #Greensboro4
The good reverend is right. N.C. A&T is hottest thing out there, from athletics, to enrollment, to STEM, it doesn’t get much better than being an Aggie or being associated with the N.C. A&T Aggies. Only a quick glance inside the Atlanta Falcons home field, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, can tell you that. Out of the 25,873 announced attendance, the eye test says the majority of those people were draped in blue and gold.
But what else do you expect from the largest Historically Black College or University in America? What do you expect from the first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference football team ever to finish an entire season undefeated (12-0)? What do you expect from a program with two black college football national championships in three years?
“I want to thank all our fans,” said N.C. A&T quarterback Lamar Raynard, the offensive player of the year in the MEAC. “When you look at our side, it was packed out. I appreciate the fans coming out to support us. We had our ups and downs during the game, but they’re always with us. That’s the beauty of this team, we’re fighters.”
Saturday was not a bandwagon situation. Aggies love their football. Aggie Pride was on full display throughout the season, even on the road. What makes the Aggies 12-0 season amazing was the fact that the Aggies played four of their first five games on the road. In all four of those games, it could be argued that Aggie fans outnumbered the home fans. In fact, it could be argued that the only road game where the Aggie fans didn’t compete for attendance supremacy was at Florida A&M on Oct. 14. It was the Rattlers homecoming.
“Our people show up big time,” said N.C. A&T coach Rod Broadway. “We got to Gardner-Webb, we outnumber them. We go to UNC Charlotte, we outnumber them. Most places we go, our numbers are strong. Our fans are really supportive.”
What is there not to like about being an Aggie these days? Men’s basketball (6-4) has already doubled its win total from last season, and if they can keep their solid play going, they are on the verge of having one of the biggest one-year turnarounds in Division I history. Ben Hall’s baseball program is trending up and baseball alumnus Cutter Dyals and Luke Tendler are playing well in the minors. Track and field swept all four of the MEAC track and field titles in 2017, and there is nothing to indicate 2018 will be any different. Women’s golf is not two years old yet and have already won two tournaments.
Volleyball had its best season in 11 years. In the last five years, the Aggies have two national championships in football and one in bowling. Also, in the last five years the Aggies have made NCAA postseason appearances in bowling, football, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. What about MEAC championships in the last five years? Football has three and there has been one apiece for women’s basketball, men’s basketball, men’s outdoor track and field, women’s outdoor track and field, women’s indoor track field and men’s indoor track and field.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Broadway. “When you say team, it's not just the people you see on the field. There are a lot of people behind the scenes who are a part of this team, and it starts with our Chancellor (Harold L. Martin, Sr.), our (Director of Collegiate Athletics Earl M. Hilton III) who has been incredible to work with and of course all of our support staff have done a fantastic job.”
Outside of athletics, N.C. A&T is the No. 1 producer of engineering degrees on the undergraduate level awarded to African Americans. N.C. A&T is the highest-ranked public school for combining research and teaching by the Wall Street Journal. N.C. A&T also continues to set new highs in enrollment and potential students applying to the school.
Following the Aggies perfect football season and another impressive showing on live network television, those numbers may continue to rise.
“Playing in and winning this game is big,” said Broadway. “The last time we won this game, not only did we benefit from it, but the university benefited as far as applications to the school being at an all-time high. I'm sure the coverage today is going to do the same thing.”
As Rev. Jackson may say, Amen.