The Jackson State Tigers have become the featured attraction in FCS and Black college football. In 2021, Deion Sanders’ first full season, the Tigers posted a new FCS single-season attendance record of over 42,000 fans per game.
That topped the previous FCS record the school held since 1997 with over 38,000 fans per game.
For Sanders, while it’s a great start and one of his many goals, that’s not enough for the Pro Football Hall of Famer who wants to continue to build on all the momentum his program has accrued. This season the Tigers will have a rare opportunity to play in three NFL stadiums. That’s a huge jump in facilities compared to where the Tigers are usually lining up on Saturday afternoons.
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During a recent appearance on the “How It Goes Down” podcast with Desi Banks, Sanders touched on a bevy of subjects including fan attendance.
“What’s troubling me is I’m tired of just being a lightning rod to attract you, because there has to be more,” Sanders said. “Because now we all have to play team ball and I have to satisfy you. Because now kids are going to Jackson, FAMU, Bethune, Southern, Alcorn, they’re going to all these places because now we have a light of attraction. But when they get there I want to make sure we’re satisfying their needs academically, housing, all different facets of the needs desired for these kids.”
Sanders has always made it clear that while football was a way to bring visibility and exposure back to HBCUs, it wasn’t the only thing he was striving for.
Could The Tigers Play In Three NFL Stadiums?
The JSU Tigers’ 2022 schedule will begin with a road game against SWAC foe FAMU. The game which is known as “Orange Blossom Classic,” will be played at Hard Rock Stadium, located in Miami Gardens, Florida. It also happens to be the home stadium of the Miami Dolphins. The same two teams locked horns in the season opener last season, with the Tigers outlasting the Rattlers 7-6 in a rainstorm. The win propelled JSU to their magical season, which included a SWAC championship and an appearance in the Celebration Bowl.
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The Tigers’ road game against SWAC foe Bethune-Cookman has been moved to Jacksonville and TIAA Bank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
And if things go as planned for Coach Prime and his Tigers, they’ll play in another Celebration Bowl, which is played in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. That is home to the Atlanta Falcons. All three edifices seat at least 65,000 fans for football. These turns of event are a direct result of Coach Prime turning the Tigers into a main attraction home and away.
Tigers Have All The Pieces To Make It Happen: Will They?
After coming up short in the Celebration Bowl last season, Coach Prime has made it clear anything short of a SWAC Championship and Black college national championship would be a failure in his eyes. So to give his guys the best opportunity to have a different ending, Sanders out-recruited the Power Five programs and landed the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in Travis Hunter. He also landed Kevin Coleman, another top-50 recruit, making JSU the first FCS and HBCU school to land two top-50 recruits in a single recruiting cycle. Sanders also added 16 transfers who are all capable of playing right away.
There were also coaching staff upgrades as well, with new offensive coordinator Brett Bartolone coming over from Nevada. He was hired to take quarterback Shedeur Sanders and a rather predictable Tigers offense to the next level. And with renowned tight ends coach Tim Brewster joining the fray late in the spring, Coach Prime’s staff is elite.
In all, Coach Prime has the Tigers primed to go back-to-back, and with the plethora of fans flocking to see his guys play, it should be a movie weekly. But the rest of the SWAC, especially FAMU, will be looking to derail that notion.