The effect Deion Sanders and his Jackson State Tigers football program have had on black college football has been astounding. When you factor in exposure, visibility, revenue and excitement, it’s been second to none, and something HBCU football could only dream of prior to his arrival in Jackson, Mississippi.
In fact, last season teams that hosted the Tigers saw a huge jump in fan attendance, with Sanders and his Tigers the main attraction in all of FCS football.
Jackson State’s increased visibility has caused opponents such as Bethune-Cookman (who host the Tigers this season) to move their game to a bigger facility. During SWAC media day Coach Prime questioned BCC moving the contest to the home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars (TIAA Bank Field).
Sanders said it doesn’t make sense to him during a virtual SWAC media day press conference.
“That game upsets me. Bethune-Cookman, what is their fan base? I’m trying to uplift the SWAC. … Their attendance is how many fans per game? You’re depending on our fan base to come and fill it.”
“I don’t think it makes sense. I would pay them to come to us.”
The decision to move the game from the Wildcats newly-renovated 10,000-seat on-campus stadium to one 90 miles away is a head-scratcher for Sanders. But it probably shouldn’t be, considering the number of fans the Tigers brought out on the road last season. Even amidst a waning pandemic, fans packed stadiums to see the JSU Tigers show travel around the SWAC.
Deion Sanders is not happy about the decision to move the Jackson State Vs. Bethune Cookman game to TIAA bank field.
Sanders said "Why we playing in an NFL stadium?" pic.twitter.com/palBa5F6Tr
— Jamal St. Cyr (@JStCyrTV) July 21, 2022
Bethune-Cookman Looking To Cash In?
In June, when the decision was made to the move the game from Daytona Beach to Jacksonville, Terry Sims, the head coach of the Wildcats, was satisfied.
“It’s going to be great for our guys to play in an NFL stadium. For us, to play in a city like Jacksonville, with our great supporting alumni associations, it will be very exciting, and it’s still a close enough drive up the road for our regular crowds from Daytona to attend. We are looking forward to the opportunity for our team and our fans.”
For a team that averaged just over 5,000 fans at home games, with just one sellout last season, Coach Prime is correct about the hope for JSU fans to come in droves in order to fill up the stadium. But that’s also risky business as well, because after hearing Coach Prime say that was their intention, the game may not do as well as it pertains to fan attendance.
A SWAC championship game-record 50,128 fans attended today’s game at Jackson State’s Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Tigers’ average attendance over six home games this season was 42,293, an FCS record. JSU also had the previous high average, 38,873 in 1997. pic.twitter.com/k8YJhvbeJL
— Craig Haley (@CraigHaley) December 5, 2021
JSU Brought Out Some Major Crowds In 2021
Jackson State had over 53,000 show up for their homecoming. That’s the hope of BCC by moving the game to Jacksonville. The Tigers averaged over 42,000 fans during the season. That’s more than 18 Power Five programs including Maryland, TCU, Rutgers, Stanford and others. The Tigers even had more fans show up for them in 2021-22 than College Football Playoff representative Cincinnati.
— Jackson State Football (@GoJSUTigersFB) October 16, 2021
So, as Sanders stated, he sees what BCC is trying to do. They’re looking to capitalize on his team and their fan base. Forty-three different times the SWAC has led FCS in football attendance, and the Jackson State Tigers traditionally have been a huge reason why.