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So long, TarAggie, you left a good mark

Rod Broadway officially retired as head football coach at North Carolina A&T State University this week, and with no apologies, even to soon-to-be NC Sports Hall of Famer Bill Hayes, I’ll go ahead and say it:

Next to Eddie Robinson, Broadway may go down as one of the greatest coaches in black college football when looking at his total body of work.

The 62-year-old head coach walked away from the game with a short press conference on Tuesday, and he leaves on his own terms: three Mideastern Athletic Conference titles and two national championships (2015, 2017) in three seasons plus a lifetime of memories – and that’s just what he did at A&T.

After playing four years in Chapel Hill for the late Bill Dooley, who recruited him out of West Stanly High School in Oakboro, Broadway began his college coaching career at ECU in 1979 under Pat Dye before moving to Duke under Steve Spurrier. It was ‘the ol’ ball coach’ who later took Broadway with him to Florida where he helped the Gators win a national championship. He then coached with former teammate John Bunting back at UNC before going up the road to Durham and North Carolina Central.

At NCCU, Broadway won back-to-back black college football national championships (2005, 2006). He then headed south to the hallowed ground of Robinson’s Grambling State in Louisiana where he succeeded a couple of football legends (Robinson, Doug Williams) by becoming one himself. He needed just one more year before winning another national championship (2008), his third.

With an undefeated team this season, Broadway campaigned hard to get the Aggies into the FCS championship pool, but to no avail. His salve was to just head to Atlanta and win the Celebration Bowl and another black college football national championship; beating his old team, Grambling, in the process.

When asked before the season began how he was going to re-tool his team after losing star running back Tarik Cohen to the NFL Chicago Bears, Broadway had a Broadway-like answer.

“We got some gizzards and some livers leftover, and that’s enough to just keep making chicken,” he laughed.

Tuesday, Broadway went out the way all coaches dream of going out, telling jokes and laughing with his friends and colleagues, promising to come back once in a while and pledging to spend his fall Saturdays with a rod and reel in his hands, far from football players, football officials, and rowdy, sometimes crazy, fickle football fans.

In Greensboro, he didn’t just turn around a football program, he changed the culture of the university itself: from NCAA probation to a more than respectable graduation rate. He took a team that had lost 27 straight games and transformed it into one of the best programs in America; changing the Greensboro school academically and athletically. Not many college leaders, let alone football coaches, can say they’ve done that.

I always thought it was a shame he never got a shot at something the likes of a mid-major BCS job, but he never pouted nor labored or suffered over it.

He just kept making chicken.

A columnist called Broadway a renaissance man, strong endorsement for a football coach. But he’s been known to collect fine art, smoke good cigars and watch his old friends and colleagues working on television while he sits in his favorite recliner and blows smoke rings.

I think he knew it was time to step away. A Tarheel and an Aggie (TarAggie) is not a bad epitaph.

“I’m going to spend fall at the beach,” Broadway said at his farewell press conference; he will become an assistant to the Aggies’ athletic director for the next six months. “I’ve been doing this for 50-something years. I think I’ve fished twice in the fall. So, I’m going down to the beach and go fishing.”

From chicken to fish. That’s a pretty good diet if you ask me.

 

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.