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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Prime Time boosts HBCU programs

Photo courtesy of Clementine Miller

The Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders gestures towards the field during the game against Colorado State University on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. (Clementine Miller/CU Independent)

Lately, current University of Colorado head coach Deion Sanders and his goal to transform the Buffaloes’ losing program have been the talk of the sports world, but just last year, he was focused on a completely different goal at the Historically Black College and University, or HBCU, Jackson State.
His goal: to promote HBCUs and restore them to their former prestige and popularity, outside of the most well-known ones like Howard, Spelman and Morehouse. NFL Hall of Famers who attended HBCUs include Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Shannon Sharpe and Micheal Strahan, just to name a few.
In the past 10 years, the prominence of HBCUs has waned in funding and recruitment, due to players being lured to powerhouse FBS programs like Ohio State, Georgia and Alabama.
In recent years due to the introduction of NIL, student-athletes are free to capitalize on their own personal brand. Why would an athlete willingly attend a school that does not offer as many, if any, opportunities in NIL? When compared to powerhouse universities, HBCUs struggle to find ways to promote their programs as time and money are not on their side, but Sanders flipped the script during his time at JSU.
Coach Prime spent three years redeveloping a culture around Jackson State in order to bring in money and recruits for the once legendary university before taking on the role at Colorado.
Sanders accomplished this feat through various efforts including media coverage, sponsorships and a renewed sense of passion for the vitality of HBCUs in the world of college football. During his tenure at Jackson State, Sanders had a 27-6 record and won the SWAC Conference twice.
Sanders transformed the view on HBCUs with his in-depth look behind the scenes of a season at JSU, courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.
Following the success of the documentary and of JSU, broadcast deals for HBCU conferences were a reality now that “Prime Time” had paved the way for their renewed media coverage.
ESPN now broadcasts a SWAC conference game every week and even brought College Gameday to the Jackson State versus Texas Southern game, only the second time ever in history an HBCU received the honor.
Just this year, the governing body over some of the oldest HBCUs, the CIAA or the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, struck a 10-year deal with Allen Media Group to create HBCU GO, a streaming platform for CIAA events.
In terms of fixing the recruitment process, Sanders successfully lured prominent athletes from top schools across the country to JSU in order to set an example for other HBCUs to follow.
Recruits like five-star defensive back and wide receiver Travis Hunter, who was the first five-star to attend an HBCU since the ranking system was introduced, and four-star sophomore wide receiver Kevin Coleman.
Sanders also called awareness to the “money games” dilemma, which is smaller FCS and HBCU programs being forced to play against Power 5 teams in order to pay their bills.
“If we [are going to] get our butt kick[ed] shouldn’t it be worth it?” Sanders said to reporters following an FBS matchup, “How in the world are we settling for the peanuts in the little minute droppings that they [are] giving us when everybody’s darn near [receiving] $500-600,000 [or more]?”
Sanders went on further by describing how smaller FBS programs are treated more favorably.
“Appalachian State got $1.5 million to play against Texas A&M,” Sanders said to reporters. “Georgia Southern got $1.4 to play against Nebraska.”
The “Prime” effect on JSU went beyond just improving media endorsement, recruitment and bringing awareness to discrimination. It also helped convince the city of Jackson to approve a bill for the construction of a new stadium to honor its winning program.
Coach Prime’s mission to change the culture surrounding HBCU football is starting to be seen as a success when examining the statistics.
Looking at the latest attendance records according to the NCAA, there are five HBCUs in the top 10 for FCS this season. JSU also tops the rankings with an average game attendance of a little over 27,000.
“[Sanders] makes the biggest impact anywhere he goes, the fact that he vouched for HBCUs everywhere … [puts] them in the spotlight,” A&M engineering senior Tim Adu said. “[Even] now at Colorado, Sanders still advocates for their continued success.”
Even though some criticized Sanders’ decision to depart from JSU to take the head coaching position at Colorado, the legacy he renewed there will continue to live on and thrive at HBCUs across the country.

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