New Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders is on a mission.
After securing the services of Louisville wide receiver Corey Reed via the transfer portal, and plundering a treasure trove of other three-star and four-star talent from the SEC and other Power Five conferences, you would think he would be all smiles. After all, the Hall of Fame defensive back is clearly building something special at Jackson State.
But the 53-year-old is also keenly aware that in order to level the playing field, he’s had to dip into his status as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport and pull rabbit after rabbit out of a hat—a luxury that most HBCUs don’t have. So in speaking with reporters during SWAC Media Days, Sanders called out the inequities that football programs at historically black universities face.
“The playing field is horrible,” he said, via the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger. “It’s not a level playing field. It’s unacceptable. Thank God that God called me to change the game, to open their eyes, to open the door. Not just for Jackson State, but for everybody.”
Life outside of the Power 5 is anything but glamourous. There aren’t any billionaires pouring millions of dollars into your program or 100,000-seat stadiums to help HBCUs generate revenue. And according to Sanders, the lack of resources also includes flimsy training tables, outdated helmets, pads, and practice equipment, and shoddy practice fields. Meanwhile, schools like Clemson are practicing in a $55 million sports complex.
So taking these factors into account, it makes it a bit more difficult to adequately recruit or prepare student-athletes for the rigors of the NFL.
“Some of the things that I’ve seen thus far early in my tenure are truly unacceptable,” Sanders said. “It causes a kid not to dream. It causes a kid to not have that passion because he don’t see no end result that’s promising for him.”
To combat this, Sanders has used his connections to secure big-money donations from the likes of golf legend Phil Mickelson and others. He’s also facilitated an apparel deal for the school with Under Armour and has met with Golden Corral to help feed his players off-campus.
But again, how many other HBCUs are capable of doing the same things?
“I’m doing this for these babies, man,” Sanders said. “They deserve it. The look in their eyes when they get a whole new sweatsuit just to wear back to the darn dorm. Shoes and looking the same when they get the helmets and the uniforms and all that stuff plays a tremendous role.”
It does, but imagine the product we’d get on game day if the playing field was actual even.