Jackson State football has been a mainstay in the public consciousness since 2020 when NFL legend Deion Sanders took over as head coach.
During that time, he’s amassed a 20-5 record, including 7-0 so far this season. For the first time in program history, Jackson State will host ESPN’s “College GameDay” ahead of Saturday’s game against Southern. All of this attention is good, but it might also mean “Coach Prime” isn’t long for coaching at this level. According to Bo Jackson, a fellow two-sport superstar, Prime could coach at the highest levels.
“Deion could coach anywhere in the country — college or professional level— that he wants to,” the former Auburn football standout said to USA TODAY. “It’s just whether or not the organization is ready for Prime. You can look at what he’s done for Jackson State in the short amount of time he’s been there. He has the charisma. He has what it takes because Deion, like myself, we were coached old-school and that’s the way he’s coaching his players. You’re seeing the results.”
The talent disparity at Jackson State versus other SWAC schools likely has more to do with their success than “old school coaching.” But they have better talent because of Prime’s ability to sell himself and a vision. He’s always been good at that.
Jackson was a two-sport star and Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn University, which might be looking for a new head coach after this season. This early “endorsement” of Prime could be crucial if he wants to make the jump from the SWAC to a Power Five school.
Regardless of how dedicated Deion is to elevate JSU’s program, the football world is always watching and waiting to see if he shows real interest in the numerous Power Five gigs that he’s been rumored to be a candidate for over the past two seasons.
Last month, Auburn football fans got excited when flight information provided by a Twitter user showed a flight from Jackson, Mississippi, to Auburn. From that little bit of information, Auburn fans on twitter went crazy, hoping that the flight information had something to do with the highly-coveted Sanders.
When a tweet was sent out ostensibly confirming that Deion was aboard the flight, all heck broke loose, and Auburn fans started suggesting that Sanders was meeting with interim athletics director Rich Mcglynn about replacing head coach Bryan Harsin, who will be exiting at the end of the season.
Per @flightaware, a plane took off from Jackson, MS and landed in Auburn, AL last Sunday morning (9/18) after Auburn’s loss to Penn State.
Deion Sanders and the Jackson State Tigers defeated Grambling State 66-24 at home to improve to 3-0 less than 24 hours beforehand. pic.twitter.com/t20tiS9aSW
— jack (@great_tweeter) September 22, 2022
For now, Prime is focused on Jackson State and continuing their undefeated season with “GameDay” coming into town. Saturday marks only the second time that the ESPN show has been hosted at an HBCU.
“I was excited, really excited,” Sanders said. “But you gotta understand, I expect stuff like this. Why not us? You know lots of people wear that shirt that says: ‘Why not us.’ But they don’t believe what’s on the shirt half the time.
“You better believe it. Don’t just wear it. Believe it. I really think like that. I think, ‘Why haven’t you come yet?’ Thank God, they pulled the trigger. We’re blessed to have them. It’s phenomenal.”
JACKSON STATE, WE’RE COMING TO YOUR CITY‼️
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 23, 2022
“GameDay” broadcasting from the Jackson State-Southern rivalry, also known locally as the “BoomBox Classic,” s a great opportunity for the SWAC and HBCUs. These schools are woefully underfunded and are critical to the advancement of Black and Brown people. If more eyes are on them and interest increases and dollars follow, it’s a win-win.
“I just hope we, as a city and as a school, understand the magnitude of what’s about to transpire. I hope we do our homework as a city and come out and support ‘College GameDay,’ support what it is and then some,” Sanders continued. “We need to put on for our city for real. Southern needs to be a big part of this as well.”
Prime may want to move on and coach at a higher level, but it would be incredible if he established an infrastructure that would enable Jackson State and the SWAC and HBCUs by extension to thrive when he’s gone.