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Deion Sanders and Willie Simmons Blast ESPN

ESPN's lack of awareness about featuring important HBCU sporting events is being scrutinized once again.
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ESPN's lack of awareness regarding how it features important HBCU sporting events is being scrutinized once again — this time by head football coaches Deion Sanders and Willie Simmons.

The network decided to broadcast the Orange Blossom Classic featuring Jackson State and Florida A&M on ESPN 2 and not ESPN's national coverage. Instead, the highly contentious outing between two SWAC favorites is set for ESPN 2 coverage at 3:00 PM ET on Sept. 4.

According to ShowBuzzDaily, last season's contest drew in .42 household rating on ESPN 2, and nearly 36,000 spectators watched at Hard Rock Stadium.

The game's attraction surrounds two legendary football programs with equally great coaches, teams, and players starting off the new season. Coaches Deion Sanders and Willie Simmons were not pleased with the lower-level broadcast announced by ESPN.

Is the network tone deaf to HBCUs and/or more focused on Power 5 programming?

Coach Deion Sanders wrote on social media, "ESPN, please check ratings from a year ago and see how we compared to Power 5s playing on the same darn day? ESPN, you're better than that and much smarter than that. Check the ratings, please."

"Deion Sanders and I are in agreement that the Orange Blossom Classic on Sept. 4 should be nationally televised on ESPN. The reigning Buck Buchanan Award winner Isaiah Land and the reigning @JerryRice Award winner Shedeur Sanders are going head to head! Last year's game was decided by 1 pt.," Willie Simmons posted supporting Sanders.

Last season's OBC had Coach Prime's Tigers defeating the Rattlers 7-6 in a defensive battle. Also, consider this fact. Jackson State swept the SWAC and played in the 2021 Celebration Bowl - one game away from an HBCU National Championship. Coach Simmons' FAMU team earned a trip to the 2021 FCS playoffs.

Both teams have supportive fanbases that travel well and tune in to live broadcasts.

For a very ratings-conscious network, why would they choose to feature the SWAC/MEAC Challenge in Week 0 with Alabama State versus Howard on ESPN rather than the Orange Blossom Classic between more well-known brands of JSU and FAMU?

No one knows for sure, but my best guess is that Sanders and Simmons aren't through voicing their discontent about this matter. Will it affect a change?

We shall see.