Ever since his arrival at Jackson State, Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders has gone against the grain to build a new culture. One thing he’s made a sticking point is trying to get his team out of the HBCU classic games they currently play in. Deion doesn’t see any benefit to his burgeoning program to continue old tradition.
The Orange Blossom Classic versus FAMU, the Southern Heritage Classic versus Tennessee State and the Gulf Coast Challenge versus Alabama A&M are games that Coach Prime feels can be used to play other teams that will elevate and bring more national visibility to the JSU program.
Sanders is of the mindset that those games don’t do much for his program or Jackson State as a whole. In fact, Sanders has said this will be the last time his JSU Tigers make the trip to Memphis for the Southern Heritage Classic. Sanders says it isn’t beneficial from a revenue-generating standpoint to play that game anymore.
During Monday’s SWAC coaches teleconference, one day after his team’s 59-3 dismantling of the FAMU Rattlers, Coach Prime talked in depth about what he means when he says those games take away from the Tigers.
“Vital. Shoot, we don’t have a home game if we don’t. We’re already giving away three games to these dern Classics, which I don’t like.
“We’re gonna give away three home games which I don’t like. This could be three home games. That’s more revenue for this team, this school, this community, all of us. I don’t even want to go into that. It’s vital we play at home. Like Dorothy said on ‘The Wizard of Oz’ there’re no place like home. Didn’t she? We love playing at home.”
Sanders has been advocating to stop playing in the Classics, and JSU even cancelled the “Southern Heritage Classic” this year, only to be sued and pretty much forced into not breaching the contract.
Sanders Says Those Schools Just Aren’t Beneficial To JSU
In February, Sanders told “The Undefeated” the classics weren’t beneficial to JSU. The Tigers attempted to end the 28-year relationship, with three years left on the contract.
“These classics aren’t beneficial for us. The fans can kick and scream all they want, but they have to understand we’re doing business in the SWAC,” Sanders said.
“Wherever we go to play, we’re the draw. Wherever we go to play, it’s packed. We sell out everywhere. My focus is taking care of my kids and Jackson State.
“I don’t want to go to the game and limp back. Traditionally, the classics have been great for the fans, but it needs to be great for the schools.”
Jackson State University Coach Deion Sanders Raises Game Trophy following Orange Blossom Classic Win over FAMU pic.twitter.com/bG9Mf5Ouui
— HBCU Premier Sports (@HBCUSports1) September 5, 2022
That’s what Coach Prime has stressed consistently. If it isn’t beneficial, for the betterment of JSU’s student-athletes, he sees no need to partake in it. Finally, someone not afraid to buck the trend and get rid of classics that bear no fruit.
Beginning in 2023, JSU will instead play Arkansas Pine-Bluff in the SWAC Classic. Followed by Southern in 2024. The games will be played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.
As in-conference games, the matchups will generate revenue for the entire SWAC. Sanders still would rather these be home games, against conference opponents and not neutral site games, but he’s not against everybody eating as long as his kids eat first.
Sanders Still Wants More Home Games
The pageantry of the marching band, “Sonic Boom of the South,” and 50,000 to 60,000 screaming fans is what Coach Prime wants to see more of.
“We love when the kids get off the bus and take that walk and fans are screaming and adoring and the Sonic Boom band is playing,” Sanders told reporters during Monday’s news conference. “We can feel everybody. We can feel 60 (thousand fans).
“I’m crazy enough to believe every time we walk in that stadium we’re gonna feel 60,000 this year. We’re not accepting nothing less, it should be (capacity crowds). We feel like we got a really good team, a really good staff, a really good fan base and a really good band. Everything is going on all cylinders right now. We want to take advantage of that. We must play at home.”
Sanders is looking to capitalize on that homefield advantage his program has built at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. That starts with getting more signature games at home.
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