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The 'Deion Sanders Effect' in Year 1

Deion Sanders' positive effect in the landscape of HBCU sports is undeniable.

Deion Sanders' positive effect on the landscape of HBCU sports is undeniable.

Coach Prime

The energy, passion, boldness, and honest conversations have brought an infusion of interest in HBCU sports, that has been missing for decades. 

Although this may be true, great coaches have resided at HBCUs since the days of legendary coach Eddie Robinson mentored young men to win 408 games at Grambling State University.  Equally important were historical figures with names like Alonzo Smith "Jake" Gaither (FAMU), John Merritt (Tenn. St.), and Billy Joe (Central St.).  Since those glory days, few young people could identify who coached at what HBCU program since.  Doug Williams (Morehouse, Grambling) and Pete Richardson (Winston-Salem, Southern) are familiar names, but would the young men of today recognize them and their influence?

He's What Young Men Today

In reality, as powerful as they once were, today's young football players probably don't understand their impact on the game and position in the legacy of HBCU football.  

Then again, they do know Deion Sanders. 

Today as Coach Prime, Sanders may bellow commands to his players and staff, take time to inspire young athletes and fans, have interesting dialogue with media, and post on social media — still, his goals never change.  

I recall from one SWAC press conference, he spoke of building young men to become great men in life where they don't just play football, but afterwards, "they can have careers."   

Coach Sanders and Shedeur Sanders

It's Sanders' Presence 

Sanders' interaction with media usually comes towards the end of a two-hour session. He has longtime reporters waiting with anticipation. Not with mere admiration being star-struck, but as Sanders said on Monday, to have "a relationship" together. I am not sure Bill Belichick would craftily handle a presser the way Sanders had since his arrival at Jackson State University one year ago.

Coach Deion Sanders

His anniversary has come with a few nicks and bruises, then again, what worthwhile journey doesn't have a few hiccups. Jackson State released impressive statistics highlighting Sanders' impact on the university in honor of his first anniversary at the prestigious institution.

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First-Year Accomplishments of Coach Deion Sanders for JSU

  1. Signed to FCS Recruiting Class for JSU.
  2. Generated $185 million in advertising and exposure for JSU.
  3. JSU is ranked No. 2 in HBCU for their social media presences since Coach Sanders' hiring.
  4. He secured custom suits for JSU Football team players with the help of former TSU alum and fellow Hall of Famer Michael Strahan.
  5. Instrumental in a historic NCAA NIL (name, image, and likeness) deal.
  6. Increased the visibility of JSU and other HBCU schools on ESPN each Saturday.

Sanders' Financial Impact

Jackson State University President Thomas K. Hudson told the Clarion Ledger's Eric Shelton that "you're hiring someone to lead your football program.  And once you get past everything else, the excitement, the flash, the cameras.  You're hiring a football coach."

President Hudson continued, "If you talk about the social media impact, and just a publicity impact, it's in the 10s of millions.  Just in terms of the publicity, we've gotten, the free media we've gotten, just the boost to the JSU brand and name recognition, we're second among all HBCUs in terms of our social media presence.  And that's certainly due in part to having a Coach Prime on staff, and as a part of the JSU family. 

From a fundraising standpoint, it has certainly helped our fundraising.  Giving to our athletic department has really has really grown.  It has really grown in a lot of ways, [I'm] excited about that.  Then just the overall interest, though things that you can't put a price on. 

Morale of the alumni, interest in the program, people who did not know about Jackson State beforehand now taking a deep interest in our program.

Those are things that you can't necessarily quantify with dollars but they matter. They help the image of the university, they help the stature of the university and lead to more things like more dollars and things like that." 

Jackson State University's President Thomas K. Hudson

Sanders' had reshaped the narratives and perspectives of networks, sponsors, and NFL scouting. New fans and interest in HBCU football were due to Coach Sanders.

The ROI's are very profitable for ESPN, AFLAC, and other sponsors since Sanders accepted the offer to become head coach at Jackson State University. Other HBCU programs and conferences have indirectly benefited from the on-field success of his team during the Spring and early in the 2021 regular season.   

Tennessee State chose to duplicate JSU's hiring when NFL legend Eddie George was chosen as its program's head coach.

The Stakes are High for HBUCs

The stakes are high for all associated with Sanders. If he wins, every HBCU and FCS program will succeed. If he loses, they still win. JSU and Sanders must avoid colossal failures on the field. If you know Deion Sanders, the athlete, players, analyst, Hall of Famer, and now a head coach - failure is not an option on his watch.

He demands greatness from his players, staff, and himself. His program is on the verge — you can sense it — like the days when he fielded a punt or intercepted a pass.  You had to feeling something extraordinary would happen whenever Prime touched the football.

The questions are there.  Will he win?  How can he win?  Will he go to a FBS program?   All are valid, yet, Coach Prime says' he's "locked in" at JSU. 

We shall see.

For now, it's great to witness his incredible journey.  HBCUs need Deion Sanders, as much as Deion Sanders needs HBCUs.