Interview With Former A&T Coach Bill Hayes, Part Three
By Semaj Marsh
Published: August 18, 2021

As the old saying goes, all good things in life must eventually come to an end. After 14 years, 106 total victories, and three conference championships, that time unfortunately came for Bill Hayes at A&T in 2002.

In the third and final part of our exclusive, in-depth interview, Hayes offers rare insight into the “nightmare” 2002 season that ultimately led to his shocking termination. He also discusses how he was able to cope through that difficult period and how that setback led to him discovering a challenging new role as the athletic director at North Carolina Central University- his alma mater. Well, let’s move on to a somewhat darker subject and talk a little about your final season in 2002. In 1999 you fielded arguably the most successful team of your career, which went undefeated in the conference and won the MEAC championship. You led that team to the second round of the 1-AA playoffs that year, becoming the first ever A&T squad to win a playoff game after beating a number one ranked and previously unbeaten Tennessee State team in the first round. In 2000 you were 8-3 and finished second in the MEAC. In 2001 you were 8-3 once again. In 2002, the bottom kind of fell out, and you finished 4-8. Shockingly, at that end of that year you were terminated. What happened?

Bill Hayes: “Well see, those kids on that ‘99 team graduated by 2002, so we had to do the whole thing all over again. We had to go back out there and recruit and, oh man, we had a great recruiting year. We brought in at least 65 freshmen on the team my last year, and I had 68 more in the weight room that I didn’t let come out. I just had the track coach working with them. So there were about 130 kids that I had in the oven, ready to rebuild that thing. We were just young and we made a lot of mistakes, but you know what- we lost eight games by a total of 16 points that year. We lost eight games by a grand total of 16 points… and if you remember, Bethune beat us on the last play of the game. And…I think that was it. Remember that I told you that you make seven enemies every year? Well there were some folks that just didn’t understand what I was doing and how I was doing it, and like I told you before: if you do your job well, you’re going to make some people mad. If you’re coaching and you do what you’re supposed to do and you attack this thing the way you’re supposed to attack it and you don’t make any excuses and you try to build your program, you’re going to make some people mad.”


As the coach who had the most wins in A&T history and a man who had invested so much of his heart and soul into building the program from the ground up, do you think it was unfair how you were let go at the end?

Bill Hayes: “Well you know, I always tell me kids that this thing is not for long. Football isn’t promised to anybody. A lot of the lessons that I taught I learned first hand, and I can truly say that football isn’t promised to anybody. You can try, you can do the very best you can, you can do all the things right… and still lose. And that’s what happened to me. I mean, I really thought that I did things right. I thought I coached them in the right way. We checked on their classes; we coached the whole kid. And then in the end I ended up losing. But then again, I really didn’t– I ended up winning. Because, you see, I coached with a guy once who I thought stayed in it too long. You know, I thought he coached a few years more than he should have. And I had promised myself, and told a lot of the administrators, that I wasn’t going to let (the age of) 61 catch me out on a football field. And I was 59 when I was terminated. I had told them I wanted to coach only one more year because I didn’t want to overstay my welcome. I didn’t want to be out there trying to coach when I wasn’t capable. I was paranoid about overstaying my welcome in coaching. No so much there, but anywhere. I had planned to force myself to get out anyway…but I didn’t want to get out right then (laughing). So they might have helped me and did me a favor by getting me on out of there a little bit earlier.”


Before you were terminated, you were on a quest to get your 200th career victory. That was something that was very important to you, wasn’t it?

Bill Hayes: “Oh yeah. I was only about five games away. I had just been featured in a magazine that same year, where it mentioned that I was four or fives games from my 200th victory and that was a milestone in college football. I was named one of the ten top coaches in America that people should watch- going into that doggone year with all those freshman – and things just didn’t go right. You know, one of the things that really hurt us was that we lost our offensive coordinator on July 26 that year. He took another coaching job. I lost him on July 26 and had about 10 days to find a new coach. That really hurt us, and you know, we just weren’t clicking right, and….it was just one of those nightmare type of years. But I could see that we were going to be real good (in the future). I could tell that…and it happened.”


Yes it did. In 2003, after you left, a new guy by the name of George Small came in and was able to turn things around and win the MEAC championship with a lot of your old players.

Bill Hayes: “We had recruited them for that. You know, Doug Brown and all those guys- we knew they were going to be great players, they were just freshmen. And then of course (Curtis) Deloatch came around and he showed shades of brilliance. But like I said: it’s not promised to anybody, and it’s not for long. One day- the day before Thanksgiving- I got the call (that I was being fired). Yeah…that was the longest weekend of my life (laughing). . I got the call. Charlie (Davis) told me.”


Do you think it was Charlie Davis’ decision or did those orders ultimately come down from Chancellor Renick?

Bill Hayes: “I don’t know. Charlie had only been on the job for about two or three weeks and I’ve known him since my Wake Forest days. He’s a good guy…in fact all of them were. {becomes quiet for a few moments} I especially remember the way Chancellor (Renick) used to interact with the kids- that was something special.”


What were your overall thoughts of how you were treated by the A&T fans during the later stages of your career?

Bill Hayes: “I thought they were great. They were very, very supportive and, I mean, they followed us to the end. There were two or three people that were irate and said some nasty things to me and my family…but for the most part, the fans were great. We took that thing to the Promised Land and they followed us all the way there. Every time we played somewhere you had that group that was going to be there, come hell or high water, no matter where it was. I thought they were great. They were beautiful.”


Looking back at your entire career at A&T, do you have any regrets?

Bill Hayes: “I don’t have any regrets. Man, I can just look back at the whole thing and be happy. You know why? Because they gave me a chance. Chancellor Ed Fort- he was a great guy and he gave me a chance. Dot Alston- she was great. Doug Boone and Quiester Craig- they did a lot for us. I even remember that the people over in the cafeteria would always give us a little bit more (food) than we were supposed to get. So no, I don’t have any regrets.”


So when did the idea of becoming the athletic director at North Carolina Central first come about?

Bill Hayes: “Actually the football coach here, Rod Broadway, called me up and he worried me to death (laughing). I was trying to forget about football and just play some golf after I was terminated, and everyday…man, you’d be surprised at all the coaches that called me for help. I mean, I probably was coaching about 10 different guys in America during that time, maybe even more. Every Sunday, every day, just coaching. They would ask me: ‘How do I do this?’ ‘How did you get that?’ ‘How did you contact Sara Lee?’ They were all trying to find out how to build a program, from me. So Broadway kept calling me from down here at Central to show him how to be a head coach and how to get this thing going at a historically black college, because it’s different. It is definitely different. So I was talking to him and he said ‘Well look, I need you to come down for our spring game.’ So I came down to the spring game and I sat around and watched them, and after practice we had a little cookout and the chancellor came over and we had a chance to talk. The next thing led to an interview… and then I came on down and I said to myself I’ll give it six months and see what happens. Well, those six months led to a year and now I’ve been here almost two (years), and it seems like its picking up almost every day. I can honestly say that I’ve never been happier. It was kind of like a blessing in disguise (that I was terminated) because I would have never had discovered this thing called athletic directorship. I always thought they didn’t do a damn thing but get in the way of coaches (laughing). I never really had any respect for an A.D. because I never had anybody who really took the time to put their arms around me, directly. It seemed like they were always trying to hit me with a brick or something (laughing). But I’ve been really able to appreciate this thing and bond with the coaches. Since I’ve been in the trenches myself, I know what they need; I know how they feel. They don’t have to come in my office and plead and cry to me, because I know what they need. I think I’m special in this role because I know how they feel and I know how to get it. And I know how to motivate them. I can tell when they’re slacking off and I know how to push that button. I know how to pump them up. I know how to stick a hot poker in their behind to get them recruiting a little bit harder. You know, I don’t want to hear any excuses because I never made any. You’ve just got to find a way to win.”


Well now that you are back at NCCU, a lot of folks in Greensboro have begun to pay extra close attention to the football program down here. How is the Eagle program developing these days and do we Aggies have something to be worried about?

Bill Hayes: “I think we’re getting better. We were able to retain most of our coaches, although we lost Robert Massey. He’s the head coach down at Livingstone now. But we’ve got a great coaching staff, and they like to call me Al Davis (laughing). You know, I’m kinda standing around there watching them and helping out. I’m also excited about our players. I think our offense if going to be really good. We got a young, creative offensive coordinator who can really move those chains- Coach Ashbery. He used to be at Jackson State… and I did a number on him when we played them. I trained that boy (laughing). I told him: ‘Coach, when you played us you didn’t get the ball but probably once or twice a quarter; we kept it the rest of the time. So all that passing stuff you were doing didn’t work. If you don’t get (the ball) you can’t pass.’ But anyway – he’s doing a great job motivating the kids, and Broadway is getting better and better. (Broadway) came from UNC and Florida and he had never really (worked) around that many people of color before.


What is the biggest difference in coaching at a HBCU versus a 1-A school?

Bill Hayes: I think the biggest difference is that, while the people’s expectations of you is exactly the same as at a (1-A program), they don’t give you anything to get it done with (laughing). You’ve got to figure out how to get it done. And if you sit around pleading and crying, waiting for somebody to give you something, then you’re not going to do very well. You’ve got to be creative enough to figure out how to get it done on your own, using your mind and your energy. You can’t just sit around and wait for them to give you things- more money, another position, more scholarships. You’ve got to figure out how to get it done. It’s a formula to it…but you can easily get fired before you ever learn the formula (laughing).


So have you guys already circled the date of the Labor Day Classic on your calendars for this season?

Bill Hayes: You know, I don’t do that. Right now, we’re just planning a kickoff banquet where we really want to have a nice thing for Broadway and our football team to kick the season off right. And then we have an opening game before we play against the Aggies, and hopefully we can play well against them. We’ve got a lot of things going on right now to raise money and promote this program, and I’m just excited about being involved with it. We don’t have any axe to grind with A&T… or anybody else really.


Well Coach, on behalf of the entire BDF fan organization and the website, I just want to thank you for taking the time out to talk with us today. It has indeed been a pleasure.

Bill Hayes: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

Related Content