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WSSU-A&T Renew Rivalry In War of Words

The rivalry between NC A&T and North Carolina A&T has been on the shelf for nearly three years. (NC A&T Photo)

The rivalry between North Carolina A&T and Winston-Salem State has been put on the shelf for almost three years, but apparently the fire still burns pretty hot. A blog post by the Winston-Salem Journal’s John Dell about WSSU’s wish to revive the currently-on-hiatus rivalry hit the internet last night and the back-and-forth began almost immediately. 

The athletic directors at both schools, Bill Hayes at WSSU and Earl Hilton at NC A&T both said that no discussions of reviving the rivalry have happened of late. But Hayes, who is owns the record for all-time wins by an A&T football coach, and WSSU coach Connell Maynor who played for both A&T and WSSU say they would like for the game to come back.

“We would love to start the rivalry up again with A&T and get a big-money game for both schools,” Maynor said. “I think the game has to be played. We need to get it back together and work it out and just play. Fans are always asking why we don’t play either Central or A&T, so we need to do it.”

One of the more controversial parts of the article was Hayes wish for a 40 percent guarantee on the gate for WSSU. That statement inspired this Youtube response from a current A&T student. 

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It’s been nearly three years since the two two teams last met on the football field, when Maynor led WSSU to 21-14 upset against his alma mater. That was the last of a five year stretch in which the two schools, separated by a few miles on Interstate-40, met each year. During four of those years, however, Winston-Salem State was in transition to Division I and a provisional member of the MEAC, the same conference A&T has belong to since 1970.

As always, there are two sides to this story. Many A&T fans feel that as the Division I school, the Aggies are in control of the situation, and if WSSU wants to play, it will have to do so in its terms. Conversely, many WSSU fans feel that A&T is dodging the matchup for fear of loss against at Division II program, albeit a powerful one. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

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The two schools are natural rivals, based on proximity and their status as state-funded institutions. I covered the first three WSSU-A&T matchups in the 21st century as a student reporter, and the atmosphere for that game was electric. One of the reasons I argued for WSSU to keep on the Division I route was the opportunity to play peer institutions like NC A&T, NCCU, Norfolk State and others. WSSU has had a lot of success at the Division II level, and it’s hard to argue with success. Still, one has to wonder what this rivalry could become if the two teams played in the same conference, met every year and funded a similar number of scholarships.

Will we see these two teams play again? My guess is yes, but don’t look for it to happen anytime soon. It doesn’t look like either program is budging from what it feels like is a valid argument for the rivalry to be played on their terms. As long as this rivalry stays on the shelf, the real losers are the fans.

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