Aggies spend a lot of time outdoors during the Greatest Homecoming on Earth, which began in earnest on Sunday and will roll all week, until the game on Saturday and whatever comes after. Right now, the campus of NC A&T State University teems with students clad in bulldog gear, school colors, logo apparel on an unseasonably warm fall afternoon. They gather in clusters that break up and then regroup, like starlings, laying out the week’s plans one huddle at a time.

Browning leaves drift down to scuttle across concrete paths while tiny robots crisscross the quads delivering snacks, and grand, new structures gleam above the turning treeline, like garnets among the more stolid red-brick low-rises that more or less defined the campus for a century, when there wasn’t a lot of “new” going on around here.

Besides the capital investment on campus and in the neighborhood, A&T is on a roll, with Olympic athletes passing through its halls, a role in Space Force, a former NBA star on its golf team and a capital investment campaign for its football program, which recently upgraded its conference affiliation and is making a play for the big time.

In the world of HBCUs, A&T has always been big time — it’s why Black folks all over the country know about Greensboro, NC even as so many white people in the United States have never heard of us. And it’s why GHOE is GHOE.

If you’ve never been, it’s impossible to explain: a football game, yes, and a parade, but also pageantry, pride, artistry, joy, excellence…. A&T is, in its own way, like the Howard University of Ta-Nehisi Coates, which he called Mecca. The vibe at A&T in the days before GHOE is so palpable, even a middle-aged white guy can feel it.

And it’s been happening here since long before the money started coming in.

The football field is now Truist Stadium — aren’t they all? — where solitary footsteps make echoes on the aluminum bleachers and the women’s track team runs drills on the lanes that circle the fields.

At ground level, you can see a slight dome effect on the football field, a barely discernible convexion all but invisible when the place is full. From the stands, 27 rows up, you can hear the hum of the highways and thoroughfares that encircle the campus, note the faded letters on the 50-yard line and the patina of rust on the ancient west bleachers, see the radio towers tall enough to reduce everything on the ground to insignificancy.

But you can also see greens, reds, yellows, oranges and browns on the trees that carpet the campus at A&T in autumn, a blanket wrapped around Aggieland, as always just in time for GHOE.

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