North Carolina A&T topped Alcorn State in the Celebration Bowl to win the HBCU national championship for the third straight year and finish at the top of the BoxToRow coaches and media polls.
The championship means a lot to second-year head coach Sam Washington. A&T also won the championship in 2015.
"What we did at the Celebration Bowl is historic. There are not many teams on any level at any sport that can say they won their sports top honor back-to-back-to-back, three in a row,” Washington said. “I want to thank the coaches and the media for recognizing us as BoxToRow national champions for the third straight year.
“To make it to this point takes a lot of sacrifices. I am not only talking about on the field but in the classroom as well. We want these young men not to just come to class but do well in the classroom. We want them to have a degree with some meaning and some direction and with some purpose."
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Saturday’s game in Atlanta was the fifth Celebration Bowl. Each time, the game has decided the national champion.
Florida A&M, which defeated the Aggies earlier in the season but was ineligible for the Celebration Bowl or Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference crown, received three first-place votes from the coaches and one from the media and finished No. 2 in both polls.
The Braves finished third in the final coaches poll and No. 4 in the media poll.
South Carolina State, which shared the MEAC title with N.C. A&T, finished No. 3 with the media and No. 4 with the coaches. S.C. State lost to A&T 22-20 in Orangeburg in November.
Southern rounded out the top five in the coaches poll, while CIAA champion Bowie State rounded out the top five in the media poll.
The coaches had Bethune-Cookman at No. 6, followed by Alabama A&M, Grambling, Prarie View A&M and Alabama State.
The media had Southern sixth, followed by Bethune-Cookman, Grambling, Savannah State and Miles.