North Carolina A&T State University head football coach Rod Broadway announced his retirement today, capping a career which has claimed championships in three historically black athletic conferences and which forced HBCU football into discussions of mid-major relevance.
Broadway has five total black college football national championships, three mythical while at North Carolina Central University and Grambling State University, and two actual by way of victories in the Celebration Bowl. He has five conference titles across the CIAA, MEAC and SWAC, and finishes his career with 127 victories in 14 seasons.
To find Broadway’s place among the greatest of all-time in HBCU ranks, there has to be a reasonable classification of HBCU football before and during Eddie Robinson, and “modern” HBCU football, which arguably began with Robinson’s retirement in 1998. Competing against names Robinson, Eddie Hurt, Jake Gaither, and WC Gordon, Broadway does not easily find room at the legends’ table in categories of total wins, total championships or total years served.
But the post-Robinson era may be the most impressive. Translating an ability to recruit, to coach and to win across two decades with more recruiting competition for black athletes, social media, and more media coverage of black college sports, Broadway found success and relative longevity at three HBCUs and delivered titles to all three. All three programs were in unstable condition when he took the helm, and all were the gold standard of winning when he left.
Beyond this, it could be argued that Broadway single-handedly helped to make the Celebration Bowl a legitimate, marketable sports product in the billion-dollar college football enterprise. Two dominant Aggie teams won classic games in two of three editions of the Celebration Bowl. It shouldn’t be discounted that North Carolina A&T, the nation’s largest four-year HBCU in enrollment and one of the top five biggest alumni bases among all black colleges, has been a contender to appear in the game when ESPN, the MEAC and the SWAC needed numbers and interest to build in the years of its infancy.
If there is a growing sense that Nick Saban’s run is the greatest ever seen in college football, then surely there is room for Broadway in the HBCU discussion. And from many angles, it would be hard to make the case against him.