Officials at North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central are trying to make a positive out of a negative in the wake of January's brawl at the Corbett Sports Complex.
A&T's Moss said the long-time rivalry between the state's leading historically black universities will continue and that next year's game will be played at the Greensboro Coliseum. In addition, this year's football game between A&T and Central is likely to be played at Duke's Wallace Wade Stadium.``It'll give us better crowd control. That's the No. 1 reason for moving it,' Moss said. ``Plus, it's time for us to elevate our program image-wise, and playing in the Coliseum is part of that. We hope to bring Winston-Salem State here (to the Coliseum). Had we and Howard continued that great rivalry that produced the overflow crowds of years past, we probably would bring that game here, too.'
Moss hopes the switch will boost attendance and possibly lead to a television contract. The Corbett Center seats 7,600 fans. The Coliseum, located about 10 minutes from campus, can accommodate 16,000 spectators.
``That first game coming back here should draw a great crowd,' Moss said. ``Even though we had all the negative publicity from the fight, it probably did a lot for us as far as getting the name out there for both schools. Hopefully, we'll have 10,000, possibly more. We're looking at scheduling it on a weekend, maybe even a Sunday afternoon.'
The fight between A&T's Jimmy Humphries and Central's Derrick Leak escalated into a 15-minute fracas involving players and fans from both schools. Eleven people were arrested. Film footage was televised nationwide.
The fight occured with eight minutes remaining and A&T leading by two points. The game was ruled a ``no contest' and there was speculation during the days immediately following the incident that the 60-year-old series might be discontinued.
Moss is equally optimistic about the future of the football game.
``We want to play it at Duke next fall and we're exploring the possibility of taking it to a permanent site somewhere else,' Moss said. ``If we could take it to a permanent site every year, then split the income from the gate, it would give us money every year instead of every other year ... which would help stablize our budgets.
``We've been talking to the folks at Johnson C. Smith about taking it to Charlotte,' Moss added. ``We wanted to make it a football weekend ... like a Labor Day Classic, which could mean big money. We'd have all of Central's fans, all of A&T's fans and all of the Charlotte people who would normally go do something else.'...
Norfolk lands MEAC The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference basketball tournament, which called the Greensboro Coliseum home for six of the last eight years, is moving to the Scope in Norfolk, Va.
Conference bosses plan to call a press conference in the next few days to make it official. Recently, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association decided to move its highly popular post-season event from Norfolk to Richmond, Va., freeing the way for the MEAC to take over the Scope.
``The city of Norfolk is primed to demonstrate that the CIAA should have never left,' North Carolina A&T athletic director Orby Moss said. ``If the MEAC can come in there with a good showing the first year, I think that's critical.'
Moss said his school has enjoyed the homecourt advantage the Coliseum affords but realizes a change of venue could be good for the league.
``It (the tournament) has been good for us because we were able to keep our pep band here, and even though it's played during spring break - which has always been a problem - we were able to keep our dorms open and save ourselves the expense.
``On the other hand, other than an A&T crowd, I haven't seen much happening as far as the city coming out and supporting the tournament. It's been here for a long enough time for it to be a good event. In that respect, a move might be helpful.'. . .
Late Bloomer Coppin State coach Ron Mitchell is glad the nation's more widely known Division I programs missed out on 6-foot-7 forward Larry Stewart, this year's MEAC player of the year.
Mitchell was one of the few coaches at any level to show interest in the Philadelphia native. Four years ago, Stewart was a skinny 6-4 senior wing with barely a year's experience at Dobbins Tech High School in Philadelphia.
``One day in gym class, my high school coach came up to me and asked me to try out,' Stewart said. ``I was a junior and probably 6-3, real skinny. I made the squad and ever since then I've been playing. I liked it, so I just stuck with it.'
He improved dramatically between his junior and senior seasons, growing to 6-7, 200 pounds. He also earned a spot on the city's McDonald's All-Star squad.
A non-qualifier under Proposition 48 standards, Stewart drew only marginal interest from area Division II programs, notably Alleghany College. But once Mitchell offered him the opportunity to play for a Division I team located in Baltimore, Stewart leaped at the chance.
``I wanted to play for a Division I team,' Stewart said.
After sitting out his freshman season, he made an immediate impact as a sophomore, averaging 18.2 points and 11.2 rebounds a year ago. He also earned a spot on the MEAC's all-conference second-team.
This season, he and teammate Reggie Isaac are the primary cogs on a 24-6 team that beat ACC opponent Maryland and finished first in the MEAC standings. Stewart led the conference in field goal percentage (66.1) and rebounds (11.0 per game), and was fifth in the league in scoring (19.0). Amazingly, his field goal percentage was almost 11 points higher than runnerup Tracey Walston of Delaware State (55.4 percent).