The man behind ‘Solid Gold’

It was in 1964 when the singer Sam Cook belted out the touching ballad “A Change is Gonna Come.” And after several interrupted seasons of disappointment for the N.C. A&T basketball program, the lengthy rebuilding phase may finally have a strong enough foundation to build a legacy upon.

In 2003, Keith E. McCluney was placed in charge of game day operations. Behind his leadership, N.C. A&T literally struck gold.

By creating and popularizing the traditions of wearing gold to the games, he has, in a sense, been the psychological contractor for the rebuilding stage of the basketball program at A&T.

“I’m responsible for game day promotions,” McCluney said. “The expectation is to wear gold to the games. That’s a marketing campaign that stands the test of time. As I like to call it, a ‘multiple-year’ marketing campaign.”

The result of his golden campaign?

Nearly an undefeated home record for the men’s basketball team and a one loss home record for the females.

“When that crowd gets behind you, you can’t help but do spectacular things,” said Aggie forward Jason Wills.

“You don’t wanna hear it and at the same time you do, but you can’t help it.”In 2005, A&T led all Historically Black Colleges and Universities in attendance at basketball games.

Last year, the Aggies finished second only to Tennessee State with an average of over 4,000 per game.

And now the idea of “Aggie Pride” is garnering national recognition through ESPN as A&T was placed on a top 25 ballot on ESPNU.com as one of the best college basketball atmospheres in the country.

“Aggie Pride to me is more than just being a fan,” said the Fayetville State graduate. “It’s a sense of ownership and a sense of duty. To me the real meaning is someone who would back it up with financial support if you were a graduate. If you are a student, just get into the habit of giving. We need everyone to come and support to help us regain the crown.”

One of his main promotions of the gold spirit has been his creation of the Aggie Maniacs.

They can be found on the lower level under the basket next to the band. It is there responsibility to keep the crowd, as well as the players energized no matter what the score is.

“The thing I am most proud of is the Aggie Maniacs,” McCluney said.

“They spawn from the Aggie Mania theme. Wearing the solid gold is my baby. Anyone can be a part of it. Just be unique. It’s just going to continue to grow. I’ll be able to leave a tradition.”

Not only could McCluney leave a tradition among the school spirit, but also the irony of him arriving at the same time as men’s basketball head coach Jerry Eaves allows him to also play a role in leaving a winning tradition at Corbett Sports Gymnasium.

At 9-11 and 12-8 respectively, both the men and the women Aggies are within striking distance of first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

“We’ve got the best fans,” Eaves said. “You take the ACC away, there are no better fans in North Carolina than the Aggies, period.”

Now that Corbett has been recognized as one of the most difficult arenas for opponents to step foot into, the next phase is for the fans to take their pride on the road.”As the team continues to improve and get better we need the Aggie Maniacs,” McCluney said.

“We’re gonna need some students to give up their spring break’s to come to Raleigh from March 5-10. We need them to be there. The team needs to see that gold.”

  • Malcom S. Eustache