North Carolina Central entered the Celebration Bowl as the decided underdog in what many believed would be a Jackson State coronation at their expense.
The Eagles, however, downplayed being predicted to lose by 16.5 points, according to the Las Vegas gambling spread leading up to the game.
But when NC Central triumphed in a wild 41-34 overtime win on Saturday, head coach Trei Oliver was candid about the perceived disrespect his group received all week from the Jackson State athletic director to bowl game officials.
“Their (Jackson State) athletic director (Ashley Robinson) addressed us as North Carolina A&T State University. We pull up to dinner the other night, (Jackson State’s) buses won’t move. They got to drop our guys off in the middle of a street,” Oliver fumed.
“Pregame, we’re supposed to come out at a certain time before the national anthem. For whatever reason, the team wasn’t ready, so they stopped everything. My guys sat in the tunnel for 10 minutes waiting to come out. But it didn’t matter. … They’re gonna put some respect on our name and Black colleges.”
Khalil Baker, the Celebration Bowl defensive MVP, said that all the attention, cameras, and conversation about Jackson State was somewhat of a godsend. NC Central could fly under the radar and out of the spotlight.
“There was no pressure,” Baker said.