The Coach Prime Effect Year 2 | Deion Sanders’ new school rules pave the way for the transformation and upliftment of black college football

(Photo by David E. Klutho/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

When Jackson State athletic director Ashley Robinson told school president Thomas Hudson that he was looking for Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders to become head football coach, Hudson was all totally agree.

He realized the impact someone of Deion’s stature, football experience, charisma and knowledge could have on a program that, like most HBCU programs, was treading water.

Sanders’ announcement was met with great fanfare and hype, but there were also those pundits and shock jocks who questioned the move and believed it wouldn’t work.

They questioned Deion’s lack of experience at the college level and his dedication to building an HBCU program with all the financial and cultural challenges that come with the job.

Build an empire

So far, Sanders and Jackson State’s union looks like a heavenly marriage.

During his introductory press conference, Sanders emphasized the importance of his commitment to excellence in everything he does. He walked out of the gate with the audacity to dream big and create a new culture at Jackson State while improving the prospects and possibilities for black college football.

“We’re going to win,” Sanders proclaimed with the same confidence that fueled his storied NFL career. “We’re going to look good while we win, and we’re going to have a good time while we win.”

Those words seemed to echo through the halls of the Lee E. Williams Athletic and Assembly Center and throughout the JSU Training Pavilion and the Walter Payton Health and Recreation Center.

During Sanders’ introduction, Robinson and Hudson talked about the power move to bring in the man who became known as Coach Prime.

Hudson said it was a “thank God” hire.

“These things just come together,” Hudson said. “We are so lucky, really lucky to be in this space and to have a man, someone like that join us.”

Robinson relied on Sanders’ feelings about winning at a high level.

“We hope to compete and win championships at Jackson State, and Coach Sanders will help us achieve our goals.”

Sanders didn’t let Jack State down

Following the cancellation of the 2020 SWAC fall season, Sanders began his first season as Tigers head coach during SWAC’s abbreviated spring season. The Tigers went 4-3, but Sanders was unhappy and refused to use the many challenges presented by COVID-19 as an excuse.

He’s just taken the time to improve his team for the 2021 season, his first full season at the helm. The Tigers hit the road running, winning their first SWAC championship since 2007. They also took part in the Celebration Bowl, a de facto black college football championship game played in Atlanta that featured the SWAC champion against the MEAC champion.

Sanders is not a model, and he knows that in order to win and compete consistently for championships and shake the false belief that HBCUs lack professional talent, then he must recruit at a high level. That’s what he did with his 2021 and 2022 promotions. The Tigers’ 2021 class ranked 55th nationally, the highest ranking ever for an HBCU or FCS program.

But 2021 was just a glimpse of what Sanders could do on the recruiting trail. In 2022, he did the unthinkable by getting Travis Hunter, the highest-ranked rookie in the nation, out of Coach Prime’s alma mater, Florida State. The move sent shockwaves throughout the sport, but Sanders wasn’t done. He’s worked on social media and used his influence and matchless resume to lure another top-50 recruit in Kevin Coleman, as well as 17 impact transfers, including four former four-star recruits.

In addition to winning, he became a personal crusader for the HBCU cause, while helping to raise revenue for the town of Jackson and making Saturdays during football season a national attraction.

Heading into Year 3, Sanders continues to elevate HBCU football: visibility, accumulated exposure revenue

As HBCU football enters the 2022 college football season, Deion Sanders’ effects on the HBCU landscape continue to come into full focus. In April, four HBCU players were drafted after being left out of the draft a year prior. Sanders campaigned passionately to co-sign the HBCU’s talent tier and bring NFL organizations to organized combinations to see the best black college football had to offer.

As of today, all four picks are in line to make their team’s roster. Additionally, there were a record 24 players who signed minicamp and training camp contracts. Plus, a handful of them are still in the running to make an NFL roster because the start of the season is just a week away.

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This is a direct result of the increased exposure and visibility that Deion has garnered. His influence led to deals with broadcast services such as ESPN and new media such as mogul Byron Allen’s new venture “HBCUGo”, a streaming service with nothing but HBCU football coverage.

Add endorsement deals with Pepsi, Gillette and Cricket, and new football facilities being built. This is all a product of Sanders magic. He not only raised the bar at JSU, but he shared the love with schools and administrations eager to work toward a team goal.

Sanders has proven he’s on a special mission at JSU. Anyone who doubted his original intentions muzzled critics, especially after he reportedly turned down several Power Five opportunities to finish breakfast at Jackson State.

Deion has made his transition to Jackson State head coach and HBCU ambassador a family affair, which is further indication of his dedication to the mission. His sons Shedeur and Shilo play for him, and his daughter Shelomi plays for the women’s basketball team. He even brought his two oldest children into the mix, as Deion Jr. and Deiondra both work with the program to some degree.

While progress is evident, JSU’s path to success hasn’t been overtly welcomed by some coaches across the country who see Deion changing the game a little too quickly.

Some legendary Power Five coaches who are used to calling shots without having to make adjustments forced by world beaters like Coach Prime have shown their fears and greed by bashing Sanders’ use of these very NIL deals. that the Power Five schools have used to distribute millions to acquire talent.

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Although the outspoken Sanders was an opponent of the NIL, he also repeatedly said he was for it if executed fairly and correctly. But he is also quick to say that players should focus on the next level and not so much on the money that can be earned from NIL deals before taking a shot on the pitch.

It’s on the pitch that the fruits of Deion’s labor as a head coach are truly judged. Along with the massive talent upgrade, he has secured the services of an entirely new and innovative coaching staff with professional experience.

Year 3 for Sanders in Jackson, Mississippi kicks off this weekend with a visit to South Florida to take on FAMU Rattlers in the Orange Blossom Classic.

When was the last time an HBCU program was so anticipated so early in the season?

Martha K. Merrill