Washington Earns MEAC Coach of the Year

EAST GREENSBORO (November 26, 2018) –Many coach of the year honors are given to the person who exceeds expectations. But not enough credit is given to the person who has to meet extraordinary expectations.

Meeting hefty expectations is the task North Carolina A&T head football coach Sam Washington had ahead of him in his first year as a head coach, and he accomplished the enormous task despite the adversity that came along the way. Enough Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference head coaches around the league recognized the outstanding job Washington achieved in his first year and voted him the MEAC Coach of the Year.

The Aggies ended the regular season 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the MEAC to win the school’s fourth conference title in five years. The Aggies are also headed back to the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl for the third time in four years when they play the SWAC champion Saturday, Dec. 15 at noon at Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium. Washington joins Rod Broadway (2017), George Small (2003), Bill Hayes (1999, 1991), Mo Forte (1986), Jim McKinley (1980) and Hornsby Howell (1975) as N.C. A&T coaches who won MEAC coach of the year.

 “We accomplished many of the goals we set out to accomplish,” said Washington. “I’m very proud and grateful that I have been blessed with this honor. It all boils down to having a great coaching staff and outstanding players. It is truly a team award.”

Broadway, the Aggies coach from 2011-17 retired in January. Yes, Broadway turned over to Washington, his longtime assistant, a team coming off a 12-0 season, a MEAC title, a Celebration Bowl win and a black college football national championship.

Yes, the 2018 team Washington inherited included three star skilled players in running back Marquell Cartwright, quarterback Lamar Raynard and wide receiver Elijah Bell. The team also included eight returners on defense including first-team all-conference returnees in defensive end Darryl Johnson, Jr. and cornerbacks Mac McCain III and Timadre Abram.

Washington used the inherited talent to open the season with two humungous wins. The Aggies defeated the No. 6 Football Championship Subdivision team in the nation in Jacksonville State to open the season in the FCS Showcase before beating FBS opponent East Carolina at ECU. That was followed by a blowout win over Gardner-Webb at home.

After the GWU win, the Aggies rose to No. 4 in the nation, the highest ranking in school history. Then adversity entered. In what was deemed a non-conference game before the start of the season because the departure of Hampton University left some schools with only seven conference games, the winless Morgan State Bears ended the Aggies 15-game winning streak at N.C. A&T’s BB&T Stadium with a 16-13 win on a 36-yard field goal with two seconds remaining.

The Aggies then found themselves trailing 16-10 at halftime five days later to S.C. State before a second-half rally fended off a second straight loss. But on Oct. 13, the Aggies did drop a conference game as Florida A&M overcame a 21-6 halftime deficit to defeat the Aggies 22-21 on a 26-yard field goal with four seconds remaining. In an instant, all of the expectations coming into the 2018 season seemed to be weighing on the Aggies. It began the process of Washington earning his respect as a head coach.    

 “We needed the wakeup call,” said Washington. “We started to smell ourselves so to speak. We thought we were better than the way we were practicing. Losing to Florida A&M was a turning point for putting things back into perspective. Despite how good you are, you still have to do the little things for big things to happen for you.

You can’t assume people are going to lay down for you because of your past success,” Washington continued. “You have to play the game right. There is a reason those games are on the schedule. You have to work hard to win every time.”

Washington led the Aggies to four straight wins to close the regular season. All four wins were by double-figures including a 35-10 win over the No. 2 in the conference Bethune-Cookman on the road and a 45-0 win over archrival N.C. Central on the road. FAMU went on to lose two more conference games pathing the way for the Aggies return to the Celebration Bowl. The Aggies will play the winner of the Alcorn State/Southern SWAC championship game scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 1.

 “The expectations at this university are always high and that speaks to the excellence this university has displayed over the years,” said Washington. “Thanks to the excellence of coach Broadway, those expectations were made even higher. Coach (Broadway) built a program here where people expect us to do great things. I’m thrilled we are still meeting those expectations.”