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Deion Sanders: Confident HBCUs Can Compete Against FBS Programs - 'Understanding That We Belong Here'

HBCUs can compete against the more well-funded FBS programs if they understand and believe they belong on the same stage.

Moments in history are created by the bold and courageous. Like John the Baptist before Jesus and Malcolm X was for Dr. King, the message may not be mainstream and politically correct, but it is necessary for that moment to pave the way for what's next. 

Coach Deion Sanders is that voice for HBCUs at this moment.

Jackson State's Head Coach Deion Sanders


This weekend, many FCS teams will face their FBS counterparts and are favored to be defeated.  "We get paid to get beat," exhorted Sanders.  Still, his true sentiment is against losing in that manner.

Deion Sanders and Rod Milstead are two HBCU coaches who categorize the losses to FBS programs as "demoralizing."

"We got to go there, not enamored with the stage, but understanding that we belong there," as Deion Sanders told reporters on SWAC's media call.

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Deion Sanders is what HBCU sports programs needed at the right time in this country's history. After the well-documented police brutality against minorities, George Floyd's murder, Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM), NBA and sports figures protests, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, many black students and athletes began to re-embrace and re-enter HBCUs.

A few years ago, Deion Sanders, at an NFL Scouting Draft Combine in Indianapolis, unknowingly began the renaissance of HBCU. Why? Because while on air, he openly challenged why the NFL did not invite more HBCU student-athletes to participate in the scouting activities. The Hall of Famer took it a step further and announced that he would start an HBCU Combine.

Sanders' hiring at Jackson State University was a godsend for HBCU and football programs. Something was lost in those illustrious institutions' athletic programs in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. The missing ingredient was talent. 

 The exodus of the black athlete to more prestigious institutions during those decades created a lack of interest in the programs and fans. In addition, HBCU college presidents and athletic directors had difficulty enticing boosters and marketing their programs in the way FBS schools have been successful.

Shedeur Sanders


All of this has changed. The past expectation is for FCS programs to "take the checks," be quiet and allow FBS teams to march over them of lopsided wins. However, FCS players and coaches believe they can win. 

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I was in Jacksonville covering the Saints-Packers game. Jacksonville State's last-second hail mary over Florida State gave them the 20-17 edge to upset the Seminoles. Several other FCS-FBS games were decided in favor of the lower-tier FCS programs.

I predict at least one FCS team will win this Saturday, Sept. 18.

SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland


Black athletes once transformed collegiate sports amid the civil rights movement and are on the verge of repeating history. But this time, a plan must be in place to sustain the growth with the four major HBCU conferences in the SWAC, MEAC, SIAC, and CIAA.

Natara Holloway is the NFL's Vice President Business Operations and Strategy within Football Operations. Holloway shared with me that the NFL invited the commissioners of the SWAC, MEAC, SIAC, and CIAA to the NFL x HBCU Open House. The seminars exposed HBCU sports leadership to initiatives and programs which can financially benefit HBCUs.

Eddie George and Deion Sanders


The black athlete again is a "hot commodity." ESPN and sponsors recognize the importance of the black viewer and consumers. Now is the time for HBCUs to capitalize, aggressively market, recruit premier talent, and give student-athletes the resources to achieve and win. Not only in school but in their lives after college.

Rich Eisen said this of his friend and past colleague Deion Sanders on his NFL Network podcast. "You know I'm biased about Prime [Deion Sanders]. Keep winning. And, keep winning in style, and keep talking about the kids, and keep showing what you're doing...he deserves all the respect."

Sanders' reach. Eddie George's reach and possibly more past NFL players of notoriety and skill will join the HBCU coaching ranks. It is incumbent on the college presidents and athletic directors to figure out how to properly market and utilize the talent. If so, you will notice a shift, and HBCU teams will level up and become formidable challengers against FBS programs. Then the paydays will not be for a few hundred of thousands of dollars; instead, for millions.

We shall see.