The latest monumental move for Deion Sanders and the Jackson State Tigers football program, will occur in April when they’ll become the first HBCU program to have their annual spring game televised by ESPNU in what is a landmark move.
The game will take place on Sunday, April 24, at 5 P.M. on ESPNU.
Here’s what the HBCU trendsetter himself had to say about the huge move.
“Being the first HBCU to have our spring game nationally televised is a monumental leap in the right direction for Jackson State and all HBCUs. It’s time that we’re seen, heard and recognized.”
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) March 11, 2022
Sanders Brought Visibility And Exposure: That In Turn Has Brought Talent
During the 2021 season, JSU had five of its games televised on ESPN networks. There was also a deal with Under Armour, which coincides with Barstool Sports. Then a deal with soft drink giant Pepsi to be the official supplier of the SWAC through 2023. None of this was happening until Sanders arrived at JSU.
Just an unreal rebuilding job by Deion Sanders.
Jackson State was 18-37 the 5 years prior to his arrival.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) December 5, 2021
Sanders doesn’t take the title of Ambassador lightly at all.
“I think we’ve done a wonderful job of getting the attention, but now that we’ve gotten the attention and focus we’ve got to make something happen,” Sanders told reports. “We’ve got to put pen to paper and not only be in the spotlight but we’ve got to make it happen. That’s what Pepsi’s done — they’ve taken the initiative to truly make it happen for not just here at Jackson State, but a multitude of HBCUs across the country.
“I’m happy to be the conduit, to be the ambassador of the SWAC and this wonderful partnership. I can’t even tell you how wonder and large this is for us.”
— SMAC Entertainment (@SMAC) April 5, 2021
The hiring of Coach Prime at Jackson State in September 2020 brought questions about his qualifications to coach a college football program. Having coached only in the high school ranks, many saw the move as a publicity stunt.
An HBCU hiring a Hall of Fame athlete to sell tickets, while providing visibility. Most also believed winning was the last thing on the list with the hire. They were oh so wrong, as Coach Prime has taken the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) by storm in his 18 months down in Jackson, Mississippi.
Since day one, Coach Prime has used his huge platform to enhance visibility and appeal for all HBCUs. He’s talked about making sure players look good, because if they look good they play good. New suits, new uniforms, multiple game helmets. There have been more HBCU football games on television than anyone can recall in the past.
In fact, Fox 5 (D.C.) news anchor Wisdom Martin, a JSU alum, spoke to that very phenomenon.
“Before, Coach Prime got there Jackson State was rarely, if ever, on TV. But once he started doing his thing and the attention he brought to the program, our exposure took off, and it also helped spread the word about HBCU sports.”
Sanders Has Been Busy Since His Arrival In Jackson: Major Moves In 18 Months
Sanders has been a busy man since he joined the SWAC as head coach of the JSU Tigers. He led the school to its first-ever 11-win season, first SWAC title in 14 years, and it’s first appearance in the Celebration Bowl, aka de facto Black College National Championship. All this while dealing with complications following toe surgery which caused him to have two toes amputated.
At one point, he was told by doctors he could lose his leg and possibly his life. But Sanders never fretted, as he persevered through that trying ordeal. For his efforts he was named the Eddie Robinson Award Winner, given annually to the top coach in FCS.
The awards keep rolling in for @GoJSUTigersFB and the Sanders family 🏈
🌟 Shedeur Sanders – Jerry Rice Award, the FCS Freshman of the Year. Sanders is the first HBCU player to win the award.
🌟 Deion Sanders – Eddie Robinson award, the FCS Coach of the Year pic.twitter.com/721wlvDCob
— Andscape (@andscape) December 14, 2021
Son Shedeur, his team’s quarterback, won the Jerry Rice Award, given annually to the top freshman in FCS. And Jackson State set a new FCS attendance record of more than 42,000 fans per game.
Sanders wasn’t done as he then went out and landed two top-50 recruits, including the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in Travis Hunter, a dynamic cornerback and wide receiver who’s expected to play both ways for the Tigers as Sanders did during stints in his illustrious Pro Football Hall of Fame career.
Overall, Prime landed 14 transfers who are all expected to contribute next season.
— Maria Martin (@Ria_Martin) December 15, 2021
The city of Jackson, which struggled mightily throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, saw an increase in revenue from barely $16 million in 2019 to over $30 million in 2021.
Sanders was adamant about dominating, while bringing, exposure, visibility and revenue to HBCUs. Thus far he’s off to a great start of doing just that.