Winston-Salem State and NC Central entered O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium on Sept. 11, 2010 feeling confident. NCCU was fresh off a 59-0 win over former CIAA foe Johnson C. Smith, looking to build off a 4-7 in 2009. WSSU was perfect as well, riding high after a 21-14 win over North Carolina A&T under first-year head coach Connell Maynor.
Maynor had started his college career at Winston-Salem State in the mid-1980s, before following Bill Hayes to A&T. Hayes had brought his prized pupil to take over the program, and after a blowout win over Virginia Union and the win over A&T, things were looking up.
Fans from both schools filled into the stadium to watch the two long-time rivals square off in the early September twilight.
Slow, but steady rivalry
The rivalry wasn’t much of a rivalry early on. Both programs fought the shadow of North Carolina A&T, a school whose agricultural focus made it a more natural fit for attracting football athletes. While NCCU had some success against A&T, WSSU struggled against both programs, going 0-10 against NCCU and 0-21 against A&T heading into 1977 season.
It wasn’t until Winston-Salem State hired Bill Hayes, a former NC College standout, in the late 1970s that it started turning the corner. Hayes won his second game against his alma mater 21-13 in 1977, and then rolled up two more after that.
NCCU rejoined the CIAA in the early 1980s, making it a yearly game once more. It would take two out of the first three in the decade, along with the 1980 title. WSSU would go 7-4 in the decade under Hayes and his successor, Pete Richardson. Two of NCCU’s wins came in 1988 as it handed WSSU its only two defeats of a 10 win season, including a playoff game.
The next decade and a half would see WSSU continue to hold the edge over NCCU as, besides a three-year stint in the mid-1990s, the rivalry swung its way. In 2004, WSSU announced it would be joining the MEAC and moving Division I. Not long after, NCCU declared it intended to do the same under the leadership of Bill Hayes. Hayes had hired Rod Broadway in 2003 after years as an ACC assistant.
His first matchup against WSSU was a nationally televised game on BET at Bowman Gray Stadium. WSSU thumped NCCU 47-0 that night, but Broadway got the better of Blount in each of the next two seasons before WSSU started its Division I transition in 2006. NCCU followed a year later, and took two of the next three as both schools moved toward’s full-time membership in the MEAC. The MEAC had its sights set on centering the conference in North Carolina, with NCCU and WSSU flanking A&T.
Three years later, NCCU was officially welcomed into the MEAC. The following day, Sept. 10, 2009, Winston-Salem State announced it was abandoning its Division I attempt and heading back to the CIAA.