Three Aggies Make Preseason First Team
Patience. It is the main solace Rod Broadway is offering longsuffering Aggie football fans as he enters his first season as head coach at North Carolina A&T.
Even after seven years without a winning season, Aggie fans may be willing to give Broadway time to repair what ails the once proud football program because he owns something that is very attractive and appealing to them - a proven track record.
Four years of Broadway at N.C. Central and four more years of being on Broadway at Grambling produced a Black College National Championship for each school. On the 91 occasions when he has led a football team into battle, his team won 75 percent of the time.
Plus, N.C. A&T's current impediments are hard to ignore even for the most enthusiastic Aggie. Broadway is the sixth head coach the program has had in the last 10 years, so stability has been an issue.
"Well if you keep replacing the same part on your car, and it still keeps breaking down then that part might not be the problem," said Broadway. "What we're trying to do is find the root of the problem, make it better, so that the entire athletics department can be successful."
On Friday, Broadway and Aggie nation found out the Aggies were picked to finish ninth in the MEAC by the league's sports information directors and head coaches. Three Aggies were named to MEAC's preseason first team, including 1,000-yard rusher Mike Mayhew.
Junior cornerback D'Vonte Graham and senior kick returner Justin Ferrell joined Mayhew on the first team. Graham led the MEAC in interceptions in 2010 and Ferrell returned three kicks for touchdown last season. Ferrell was also a member of the preseason second team as a defensive back. Senior center Brent Walker was also a second-team member.
Despite having five mentions on the all-conference teams, N.C. A&T only has 33 scholarship players (there are Division II teams with more players on scholarship), which is 30 scholarships below the allotted amount in Division I-FCS football. In addition, there is no 2011 recruiting class to speak of.
"Normally, we would like to have 90 bodies in for preseason camp," Broadway said. "By the first day of class, we would then bring in 20 more just to take us to 110. Right now, we're looking at 63 bodies, which are not very many when you're trying to make it through a camp and a season."
In association with the Aggies' lack of numbers is the fact that N.C. A&T is in the middle of Academic Progress Rate sanctions by the NCAA for a low graduation rate. But despite all the obstacles, according to Broadway, the Aggies football program is not terminal. The veteran head coach said N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold L. Martin and Director of Athletics Earl Hilton were honest with him about the Aggies' APR problems when he interviewed for the position.
Broadway, a North Carolina native and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, was still willing to leave a Grambling program he led to a 35-12 mark to come to a program with 15 wins in the last seven seasons. He cites the need to be close to his family has one of the reasons he accepted the N.C. A&T position. But he also believes N.C. A&T is the type of school that can one day sustain having a football juggernaut.
"Even with the information we received about A&T's program, it didn't scare us off," said Broadway. "I think A&T has an outstanding campus and great facilities. Everyone is knocking down our door to play us now, which is fine. It's going to take us a minute to get our scholarships back so we can get some players in here. Then let's see how much noise is at our door."
Until that day, he is ready to take full control of the 2011 Aggies. It is a team not without its deficiencies, but it is also a team with promising parts.
"Athletically, we're closer to where we want to be offensively than we are defensively," said Broadway. "We are lacking a couple of big-play receivers and a big-time quarterback. If we had those two spots, we could survive offensively."