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MEAC/SWAC CHALLENGE MEDIA CONFERENCE


August 21, 2014


Rod Broadway

Stephanie Grant

James Spady


LIZ McCOLLUM:  The 10th Annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney will showcase the NorthCarolina A&T State University Aggies of the MEAC against Alabama A&M University Bulldogs of the SWAC at Bright House Network Stadium in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, August 30th at 11:45 a.m.
The event will mark the first meeting between the two storied programs, and the yearly event which features teams from two prominent HBCU schools brings approximately 20,000 fans to Central Florida over Labor Day weekend for the start of college football season.¬† Tickets to the MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney can be purchased through Ticketmaster online, by calling 1‑800‑745‑3000, or by logging into www.MEACSWACChallenge.com.¬† The game will be televised on ESPN.
First, before we get started with the coaches, we'd like to introduce Stephanie Grant who is manager of events at ESPN Events.  She'll give us a little background on the MEAC/SWABG challenge which is celebrating its 10th year.  Welcome, Stephanie.
STEPHANIE GRANT:  Thank you.  So, yes, basically this event is an HBCU event that features the two prominent conferences you just noted, the MEAC and SWAC.  The game is played every Labor Day weekend.  We started this event in 2005.  For the first three years of the event it was played in Birmingham, Alabama, and really the whole premise of the MEAC/SWAC Challenge was to give each school in these conferences an opportunity to play on a national stage.
We do provide a bowl‑like experience for the student‑athletes that come to this event.¬† Really, we're just very excited to be celebrating our 10th year.
LIZ McCOLLUM:  This year the game will be played for the first time at Bright House Network Stadium on the campus of the University of Central Florida while the Citrus Bowl is being renovated.  Can you tell us a bit about the Bright House Network Stadium as a new venue?
STEPHANIE GRANT:¬† Sure.¬† The Bright House Network Stadium is a great facility for us, but just with any new, first‑year event or new venue that you're going to, you're definitely going to have some challenges.¬† But David Hansen, who we've worked with at UCF along with his staff have really been wonderful for us to work with.¬† It's really been kind of neat kind of helping them to learn and really to understand what it means and all the components that go into an HBCU football game.
LIZ McCOLLUM:  In addition to just the football game there are also other weekend festivities.  Can you tell us about the other events?
STEPHANIE GRANT:  Sure.  We really start off the week on Thursday, and we go to Oakridge High School where we have our high school seminar.  The event is entitled the ESPN 101 High School Seminar.  We have the opportunity to reach about 650 students.  We'll have a panel of five individuals who have varying careers within the sports industry, and really it's an opportunity to be in and hopefully to be able to influence these students and show you can still be in sports and not necessarily have to be on the field or other the court.
So that starts on Thursday.  Friday we have our team welcome dinner.  That is something we always host on Disney property.  We'll have both teams that will be there and some of our sponsors will be there.  We'll have a keynote speaker, Jay Walker will be our keynote speaker.  And it's really an event to welcome both teams to the city of Orlando and to the MEAC/SWAC Challenge.
On Saturday, that's a big day for us.¬† We have been able to with Disney being our presenting sponsor, have been able to create an opportunity for both of the marching bands.¬† So at 2:30‑‑ actually, the parade starts at 3:00, but I'm just saying 2:30 to make sure everybody's going to be there.¬† But both of the bands from the schools will be heading the Magic Kingdom Parade, so that is a pretty big deal.
I was actually on the call today and Disney is pretty excited about it.  We'll have information on the marquis, guests that are in the park that day will receive fliers as they're coming in.  So it's going to be a good event, and the schools will feel a lot of support from that.
Then of course, on Saturday night we'll be honoring our 2014 Class of Legends with our Legends reception.  We have a great class this year.  Really looking forward to that event.  The Legends that we'll be honoring are Betty Austin, Elvin Bethea, who is representing NorthCarolina A&T, Harry Carson, representing SouthCarolina State, Bill Hamilton, SouthCarolina State, and John Stallworth, Alabama A&M, and Betty Austin is also representing Alabama A&M.  So we're very excited to have this class.  Exciting to have three NFL Hall of Famers this year.  So looking forward to that being a wonderful event for us as well.
Then on Sunday, the reason everybody's there is obviously to see the match‑up between the Alabama A&M Bulldogs and the NorthCarolina A&T State Aggies.¬† This is the first year for both of these teams to participate in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge.¬† I'm not sure they've met before, but I believe this will‑‑ this is definitely the first time they've been in the event, so definitely looking forward to that.

Q.  Quick question about the venue.  Was there any worry there that the event would be moved out of Orlando or what was the process like trying to get it moved over to UCF?
STEPHANIE GRANT:  No, there was really no worry, obviously with Disney being our presenting sponsor, we certainly wanted to make sure that we stayed in Central Florida, specifically Orlando.  It was a little bit of a challenge obviously to find a location, but the University of Central Florida, again, they've been great to work with and looking forward to having the event there.
LIZ McCOLLUM:  Now we'd like to introduce NorthCarolina A&T head coach, Rod Broadway.
Thank you, and thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.  First off, could you just talk about the upcoming season and how practices are going and getting ready to head down to Orlando next week?
COACH BROADWAY:  Well, we're excited about it, actually.  I'm excited for our guys to have an opportunity to go to Orlando and play in this game.  We've had an opportunity to go there one year before and thought it was a great game, so the season, preseason has gone fairly well.  Like everyone, we're teed up and had a lot of guys miss too much practice time, but we're looking forward to the challenge of going down and playing well.
LIZ McCOLLUM:  What does it mean to start the season in a nationally televised game?  Like Stephanie said, it's kind of run like a bowl game.  So what's it mean for your guys to go down to something like the MEAC/SWAC Challenge?
COACH BROADWAY:  Well, again, it's a great experience for our guys.  Having had the opportunity to coach in it one time before, I think they'll definitely enjoy it, especially if we win the ballgame, that makes everything a lot more enjoyable.
LIZ McCOLLUM:  Speaking to the ballgame, what do you expect out of Alabama A&M and Coach Spady's first year at the helm?
COACH BROADWAY:  We don't know.  We have no idea.  It's a new staff.  I haven't had an opportunity to get any game tape on them because they haven't been together as a staff, so that can be an advantage for them, it can be an advantage for us because they haven't worked together as a staff.  But I'm sure he's put together a good, intelligent staff that's quite capable of doing a very good job.  Our challenge is to be alert and make our adjustments quick.  All eyes on deck, and just what they're trying to do, how they're trying to attack us and go from there and play.

Q.  Coach, I wanted to get your impression there about the first time around that you took part in this game?  What did the players get out of it, and how do you think it may have set the tone for the rest of the season for your kids?
COACH BROADWAY:  I don't know.  It's just a game.  It's one game.  I don't know if it's tone setting or anything else, but it's an opportunity for our guys to experience a great atmosphere against good opponents.  So we're looking forward to that.  The time before we were there, I mean, it was hot though.  Good Lord, it was hot.  Hopefully, it will cool down a little bit for us this year, but I think our guys are looking forward to going down there and competing.

Q.  Do you and Coach Spady keep in touch much?  I know he was on your staff at Grambling; is that correct?
COACH BROADWAY:  That's correct.

Q.  Did you keep in touch over the past years?
COACH BROADWAY:  Yeah, we talk maybe once or twice a year.

Q. ¬†Is there anything that you're going into this match‑up and kind of say, hey, I know what to expect out of him?
COACH BROADWAY:¬† We have no idea.¬† It's a new staff and we don't really have any tape on them of what they're doing.¬† It will be a lot easier for us if we had some game tape.¬† But again, because it is a new staff, it's going to be a great challenge for us, but it's a great challenge for them because they are a new staff that hasn't coached together, hasn't worked together, haven't been in game‑type situations together before.
So I'm anxious to just go play.  It seems like we've been in camp forever, so I'm anxious to see where we are as a football team and see what we need to do to have a pretty good year this year.

Q.¬† Coach, I understand that before each game you have the team go down and take a look at the statue of the four students who did the sit‑in back in the early '60s.¬† Would you tell us a little something about that?
COACH BROADWAY:  It's a tradition we started when we first got here in recognizing the Greensboro Four, and we want to pay homage to those guys and let our guys know who they are, what they represent.  We're not trying to change the world like those guys are.  We're just trying to change a football program and get it back on track and learn how to win and compete at a high level.

Q.  Has that been inspirational to the team?
COACH BROADWAY:  It really has.  We took them down to the museum and they know the history of the Greensboro Four.  They know the guys.  Actually, we had Mr.McCain came and talked with our squad.  His son came and talked with the squad and shared their struggles in going through that.  Again, it makes what we're going through seem very insignificant in so many ways.

Q.  Coach, the Aggies defense has been superb under your leadership, having the No. 1 rush defense in the nation in 2013.  What do you expect from them this season?  Also from your offensive players, including running back Tarik Cohen?
COACH BROADWAY:  Well, again, we should be pretty good defensively.  I don't know how good.  We lost a few guys.  What we do is we think is halfway sound.  The key is getting our guys to play hard.  I think they'll play hard for us.  We've been pretty fortunate that we've had some pretty good players, but I think our defensive coaching staff does an outstanding job of preparing our guys to play.  One of the things we go into each game saying is we've got to stop the run.  That's our calling card, we've got to be able to stop the run.
We want to see if people can pass it and pass it good enough to beat us.  We're not going to let them run it on us without putting up a fight.  We're going to overload and make you throw it.  If your quarterback's outstanding, you'll have a chance.  If your quarterback's not up to par, then you may struggle with our defense.  Offensively, we've got to get much better.  We're doing some things and what we're doing and how we're attacking things now.  We've got Quick, and he's a dropback passer now, and he's leading the coverages and knows where to put the ball now.  So I'm excited to see how he places the ball this game.
LIZ McCOLLUM:  Coach, thank you for joining us, good luck, and safe travels to Orlando.
COACH BROADWAY:  Thank you, looking forward to it, and God bless.
LIZ McCOLLUM:  We have Alabama A&M head coach, James Spady.  Coach Spady, are you on the line?
COACH SPADY:  I am, yeah.
LIZ McCOLLUM:  Great.  Welcome, and thank you for taking time to speak with us today.
COACH SPADY:  Thank you.
LIZ McCOLLUM:  First off, talk about your first year as head coach at Alabama A&M?  What are your thoughts on the season and the direction of the program?
COACH SPADY:  Well, I tell you what, it hasn't taken place yet, so it's really hard to talk about.  I've got to tell you that we're just trying to put one step in front of the other and trying to mark our progress as we go.  We've got some goals in place, and we want to mark our progress by hitting the first landmark or stage of the goal setting, and then just kind of see where it ends up.  To be honest with you we're really kind of in the beginning stages or infancy of our program, obviously, and we want to pattern ourselves after programs like NorthCarolina A&T.
I've known Coach Broadway for some years and I know what kind of program he has.  To be honest with you, we take a lot of what we do from his playbook.  Hope our football team can show up and be competitive.
LIZ McCOLLUM:  I asked a similar question to Coach Broadway, but what did it mean for your players to start the season on a nationally televised game like the MEAC/SWAC Challenge?
COACH SPADY:  Well, I tell you what, it's important that when you go out and try to sell your program from a recruiting standpoint, you want to be able to point to things like this as a selling point.  Guys have been competitors most of their lives if not all their lives, and they want to challenge themselves in ways that normal folks just don't challenge themselves.  So to get in these situations where you can partner with Disney and the MEAC/SWAC Challenge and ESPN and you can sell that to a guy that's been a competitor all his life, well, that's got to be a positive for your program.  We can't beat the exposure of playing on national television.  So I just don't see any negatives.

Q.¬† Coach, I wanted to find out‑‑ I know it's your third time here taking part in this challenge.¬† Any great memories that kind of stand out in the back of your mind from those days?
COACH SPADY:  I remember how hot it was.  Every time we've played this game, it was hot.  The first time I played in this game I was on the staff at SouthCarolina State and we played Alabama State in Birmingham, and it was hot down in Birmingham, but it was just a tremendous heat.  I can't even describe the heat the last time we went down when I was at Grambling with Coach Broadway and his staff.  It was just incredibly hot.  That is the biggest memory I have.

Q.  How do you get your guys ready to deal with the kind of heat you're going to be facing next weekend?
COACH SPADY:  I don't know if you can, to be honest with you.  We practice in the heat of the day here, but Huntsville, Alabama hot doesn't seem to be Orlando hot.  I was kind of disappointed.  I thought it was going to be hot and humid, and we've had some cool days.  So the players love that, but as a coach, man, I just want to put them in position where it's going to be familiar on the 31st, and I don't think we've had that kind of heat to this point.

Q.  Coach, getting a chance to coach your first game as a head coach at A&M against a guy you've coached for in the past, any special significance involved in that?
COACH SPADY:  There is a ton of significance.  I look at Coach Broadway as a mentor.  I look at Coach Broadway as somebody who I've learned from, and I've tried to emulate to a certain extent.  You know, that in itself carries quite a bit of emotion.  But the other side of it is we're, like I said earlier, we're in the infancy stages of building a program, and you'd like to start that out with success.  If I know anything, I know it's going to be a tough first half against Coach Broadway's bunch.  I'd rather play this against anybody else in the world than them.

Q.  Coach, you've got quite an extensive coaching resume.  What brought you back to Alabama A&M?
COACH SPADY:¬† Well, I don't know about extensive resume, but I tell you what, I've always wanted to be a head football coach.¬† There's never been a point in my 22 years as an assistant coach that I didn't think about the day that God was going to bless me with an opportunity.¬† This opportunity came up.¬† There were some others, but this opportunity came up and I thought what a great program, what a great community that is here in Huntsville.¬† This is a place you can attract good coaches.¬† You can recruit good players to this town.¬† It was a no‑brainer.¬† When they offered me the job, I jumped all over it.

Q.  Coach, can you talk a bit about the players that you expect to shine in Orlando?
COACH SPADY:  That's going to be tough because I'm not sure what we have.  We'll know at the end of the game on the 31st what kind of players we have.  We've gone through a really tough camp.  If what the players are telling me is true, this may be the toughest camp they've gone through.  That kind of helps us to identify who is the character.  Who is the guy that's going to stand up when it's tough and really rely on its fundamentals and that kind of thing.
I'll be honest with you, it's still a question mark in my mind.¬† The guys that have stood out during training camp are Montaurius Smith who was picked as a preseason, all‑conference player.¬† Our quarterback Jaymason Lee has been a pretty special player for us this camp.¬† We've got a plethora of really good football players on the defensive side of the ball.¬† But our linebacker, I tell you what, those two guys that I just mentioned, by the way, have been elected team captains and there is no doubt about the fact that you have to be a production player to be a team captain, and our players got it right when they voted for those guys.
But on defense, Bryan Brower, who is also a team captain, I'm sorry, yeah, Bryan is the defensive twin, and Byran is the offensive twin.  Anyway, Bryan Brower also was elected captain, and he's a standout on the defensive side of the ball.  I'll take any one of our defensive linemen.  I could talk about any one of those guys.  I'm expecting them to stand up and be great players for us this fall.

Q.  Coach, I'm not sure you're aware, but Hall of Famer and AAMU alumni John Stallworth will be honored the night before the game at the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Legends reception.  Do you think your players look up to him and other alumni for their contributions to the game and their successes beyond the gridiron?
COACH SPADY:¬† There is no doubt that they do.¬† John Stallworth is very involved in the program here.¬† He has taken his personal time to come visit with our football team, and we appreciate that very much.¬† But definitely they're in tune with what he meant to Alabama A&M football.¬† They're in tune with what he meant to the NFL and the contributions that he makes spiritually and character‑wise.
I mean, because we want to build character as well as great football players.  Having people like him around the program just makes everyone better.  Yeah, our kids are very in tune with him, and if they're not, I better speak to him again tonight.
LIZ McCOLLUM:  Thanks, Coach Spady for joining us.
COACH SPADY:  You're welcome.
LIZ McCOLLUM:  Thank you for joining us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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