Deion Sanders has truly changed the face of HBCU football and challenged the normalities of the NCAA football landscape as head coach of Jackson State University. Coach Prime reflected on his incredible impact during an interview on “60 Minutes” this past Sunday.
“I truly believe with all my heart and soul that God called me collect (laugh) and I had to accept the charges,” Sanders told CBS correspondent Jon Wertheim. “I had to accept the charges. But understanding when you accept those type of charges, it’s gonna cost you something. Lot of sleep. But I can’t say I don’t love it. I love every durn minute of it.”
Sanders joined Jackson State three months after George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis Police.
“It was relevant because a lot of folks sit back on them, with Twitter fingers, and talk about what they’re going to do. And and I wanted to go do it. Change lives. Change the perspective of, of HBCU football. Make everyone step up to the plate and do what’s right by these kids.”
The decision has paid off handsomely for JSU as there has been a considerable attendance increase and buisiness is booming in the impoverished city. The HBCU has a storied history of producing greats in football including four hall of fame NFL players including running back Walter Payton. However, no Jackson State player had been drafted in 12 years before Sanders’s arrival. He assessed it as a lack of resources.
“The need. You want to start in alphabetical order or in numerical? (laughter). Horrible. (Laughs) and, I’m sitting up there thinking, even to this day, how can a public high school in Texas look better than a college? School. Forget the durn football facility. The whole durn school, that shouldn’t be right.”
HBCU football has experienced a revenue spike for SWAC, the Southwestern Athletic Conference, that has benefitted the HBCU system as a whole.
“I did not, and I often say this. I’ve been around stars before. This is the first time that I’ve been around a super star,” said Dr. Charles McClelland, the conference commissioner. “And I really didn’t realize the difference.
“Well, you know, a superstar can enter any room, can enter any boardroom. Coach Prime is a business person. Coach Prime has opened up doors for the Southwestern Athletic Conference that we could not get into.”
For Sanders, his memories as a top high school recruit where he was never approached by any HBCUs is a memory that he wants to correct for this generation.
“They never recruited me [HBCUs],” Sanders continued. “That’s why I never considered HBCU, HBCUs just started recruiting the four- and five-star players just recently because they never thought they, they could get them. Now, they believe.”
However, amid all the hype and raised profiler, challenges still exist. JSU’s entire football budget is only $4 million, and with Sanders now a hot and proven coaching commodity, the school and he have some things to discuss.
“I’m hoping a political figure or some billionaire out there saying, you know, what? I’m going to bet on Prime, man. Let me go help that program because I just want to see what it would be like if he had the resources, these other schools would have.”
Sanders is aware that a Power Five school might reach out to inquire about his coaching services now that he is on everybody’s radar. He is open to conversations even if that is not what the HBCU world wants to hear.
“I’m going to have to entertain it. Straight up. I’d be a fool not to.”
Whether for a short time or his coaching lifetime, what Deion Sanders has done for HBCU football will live forever.
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