FBC SHAWN KEARNEY

Linebacker Shawn Kearney (left) of Winston-Salem State rips the ball out of North Carolina Central wide receiver Phillip Barren’s hands in a game at Bowman Gray Stadium in 2009. N.C. Central and WSSU haven’t played against each other since 2010 but will play in Durham in 2020.

Winston-Salem State’s football schedule is set for this fall, but the 2020 schedule is shaping up nicely thanks to a game in Durham against N.C. Central.

WSSU and N.C. Central haven’t played football since 2010, but that will change next year thanks to a one-year agreement between the two programs with the game scheduled for Sept. 12, 2020. The contract calls for the game to be in Durham, and there’s a chance the two teams will also play in 2021 and 2022.

“Right now, we only have the one-year contract, but that could change,” said George Knox, the interim athletics director for WSSU. “We are certainly excited about this opportunity because they are a rival that goes back to the early days of the CIAA.”

Dr. Ingrid Wicker McCree, the athletics director at N.C. Central, is looking forward to the game.

“The Rams and Eagles have not played each other in football since 2010, so I know both enthusiastic fan bases will be energized for this in-state clash,” McCree said.

WSSU will receive $50,000 with a chance to make more depending on how many tickets are sold.

“We’ll actually get a chance to sell our allotment of tickets and can benefit from selling those tickets,” Knox said about playing the Eagles, who compete in the MEAC and are in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Robert Massey, the interim head coach of WSSU, is a 1989 graduate of N.C. Central. Massey, who played nine seasons in the NFL, says everything about games featuring WSSU, N.C. Central and N.C. A&T represent what is best about football at HBCUs.

“I’m thrilled that this game has come together like it has and it should be a Classic where it’s held every year,” Massey said. “The community aspect of these games, the long history all three of these schools have had makes these games special. I can guarantee you that it will be a sellout, especially since the two schools haven’t played in 10 years.”

Massey said if the game becomes an annual affair, naming it after Bill Hayes would be a no-brainer.

“Coach Hayes is a graduate of N.C. Central and you know what he did at Winston-Salem State all those years as a coach and an athletic director,” Massey said about Hayes, who grew up less than a mile from the N.C. Central campus.

In 2020, the Rams’ three nonconference games are the season opener against UNC Pembroke at Bowman Gray Stadium, the road game against N.C. Central and a home game against Tuskegee. In 2021, the only nonconference game scheduled so far is a road game against Catawba.

“We’re still working on the 2021 schedule and are even looking at our nonconference opponents for 2022,” Knox said.

The all-time series between the Rams and Eagles is tied 22-22. The last time the two played was in 2010 in Durham, with the Rams winning 34-27.

Knox says he’s been in conversations with other schools about future schedules but hasn’t talked with officials at N.C. A&T. The Aggies went 10-2 last season on their way to winning the MEAC championship and the Celebration Bowl.

The Rams and Aggies haven’t played since 2010 when the Rams won 21-14 in Greensboro. The Aggies lead the all-time series 37-12.

Despite the two schools being separated by about 25 miles, there appears to be nothing on the horizon in terms of a possible game.

“I would love to schedule a football game with A&T because that’s one of our natural rivals, and there’s a long history of the two schools playing each other,” Knox said.

The last time WSSU played N.C. Central and N.C. A&T in the same season was in 2010, when WSSU decided to not move into the MEAC. During their transition period to move up to Division I, WSSU played N.C. Central and N.C. A&T on a regular basis. The school decided to stay in Division II and rejoin the CIAA.

“We have three nonconference games a year and we want to make those games enticing for our fans and alumni,” Knox said. “We’ll continue to look ahead and see what’s best for us as we schedule future games.”

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jdell@wsjournal.com (336) 727-4081 @johndellWSJ

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