On Sept. 25, the N.C. Central Eagles suffered a humiliating 14- 37 defeat to the N.C. A&T Aggie Bulldogs. But there’s always another year in this rivalry, a rivalry that goes back to 1922. There’s been ups and there’s been downs for the Eagles. From 1961 to 1974, the Eagles won 10 out of 15 games against the Aggies.
The story of the rivalry is told in an exhibit –More Than Just A Game: The NC A&T vs. NCCU Football Rivalry – now running at the Museum of Durham History. To date the total record for N.C Central against A&T is 34 losses to 53 wins by the Bulldogs, with 5 ties.
The exhibit got its start in 2004 when Durham’s Cultural Masters Plan, which highlights community priorities and ways to achieve them, rated having a history museum a top priority in the community.
The exhibit provides an in-depth history of the long rivalry between NCCU Eagles and A&T Aggies from the first year it started. It features video clips with remarks from congressmen, alumni, and others. An additional feature is the “kiosk” where anyone can record their memories of the rivalry and its surrounding events.
NCCU and A&T first played on Dudley Field in Greensboro for the first time in 1922. The Aggies shut out the Eagles at that first match 26-0.
Wilson Eagleson was the first coach for the Eagles and carried them to a 4-2-1 record. Eagleson coached until 1926.
Coach Leo Townsend, who came over from Hillside High, took over until 1945. He was the first coach to boast about bragging rights when the Eagles won four games in a row, making the record 4-2 with the Aggies between 1930 and 1933.
In the segregated South, both teams had a long established record of producing talented African American players throughout the 1940s and 50s. That talent pool served to intensify the rivalry.
In 1945 Herman Riddick, who also came to NCCU from Hillside High, became the longest-tenured coach in NCCU history. During his time there, he won a national title in 1954, five Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles, and had a total record of 112-56-11.
Riddick stepped down in 1964 and was replaced by James Stevens who had a 2 and 1 record against the Bulldogs.
In the early 1950s quarterback Albert Montgomery was the first Eagle quarterback to win three games against the Bulldogs, along with three CIAA titles. John Baker, a tackle, would spend 11 years with the NFL playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions.
Beginning in 1929 and on through the decades, the marching bands, added sonic intensity to the pigskin rivalry.
“People always made me aware of the fact we got to play A&T,” Jerry Head, former NCCU Director of Bands said. “It took care of itself. They were ready to play at that game.”
Between 1961 and 1974, the Eagles won 10 of 15 games against the Bulldogs.
“When we compete, we compete in everything and that’s a part of who we are,” Congressmen and alumni Henry McKinley Michaux Jr. said.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, NCCU returned to the CIAA, and the Eagle-Aggie Classic games were played in the Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
Former NFL great Larry Little coached NCCU from 1993 to 1998 with an overall 33-32 win loss record. In 1996, under Little, the Eagles led the nation in pass defense among all NCAA Division II schools.
In 2002, one of the most spectacular games ever took place: The Eagles were down and overwhelming 27 points. They ended up winning the game in overtime. This would be the biggest comeback in the rivalry history.
In 2010, NCCU returned to the MEAC as Division 1.
The passion continues and remains strong as the two teams approach 100 years of rivalry. Selected favorite memories from the public recorded at the kiosk are available at:
The Museum of Durham History is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is located at 500 West Main street. The Eagle-Bulldog rivalry exhibit will remain until April.