Deion Sanders, head coach of the Jackson State University Tigers, is on the defensive regarding comments made by University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban about the Tigers' football program.
Saban accused Jackson State of paying $1 million for a player to come and play for the team due to the name, image, and likeness (NIL) rule. The player in question is Travis Hunter Jr., a five-star cornerback rated as the number one prospect in the nation.
While attending an event earlier in the week, Saban went on a rant against several teams that he believes paid players through NIL deals, including Jackson State. Saban said:
“We have a rule right now that says you cannot use names, images and likenesses to entice a player to come to your school. Hell, read about it in the paper. I mean, Jackson State paid a guy a million dollars last year that was a really good Division I player to come to school. It was in the paper and they bragged about it. Nobody did anything about it.”
The message spread to Coach Prime, as Sanders is often referred to, and he had a quick and brutal retort on Twitter:
"You best believe I will address that LIE Coach SABAN told tomorrow. I was & awakened by my son @ShedeurSanders that sent me the article stating that WE PAYED @TravisHunterJr a Million to play at @GoJSUTigersFB! We as a PEOPLE don’t have to pay our PEOPLE to play with our PEOPLE."
Sanders and Saban, as it would seem, were friends before this event. The two filmed a commercial for AFLAC together and have been seen speaking to each other on good terms in the past.
Perhaps that all changes now with the report of Nick Saban criticizing Coach Prime's HBCU program.
Can Deion Sanders continue to make positive waves for HBCU programs?
In the 1960s and 1970s (and only sporadically after that time), Historically Black Colleges and Universities, also known as HBCUs, were producing players that would graduate to the NFL and have successful careers.
Some of those players include running back Walter Payton (Jackson State University), receiver Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), and defensive lineman Deacon Jones (South Carolina State/Mississippi Valley State).
But since the 70s and a small portion of the 80s, players from HBCUs making it to the pros have been rare. Just last season, there were zero players from HBCUs drafted to the NFL (and only four this year).
Coach Prime joined the Jackson State University Football program as head coach in 2020. His inaugural season was abbreviated in the Spring of 2021 due to COVID-19. The team had a record of 4-3.
But in his first regular season with the Tigers, he led the team to the Southwestern Athletic Conference title with 11 wins. Sanders has already begun to make progress as players such as Hunter have started to sign with HBCUs.
Hunter is the number one prospect in the nation, and Sanders was able to flip him from attending his alma mater, Florida State University. Sanders has also caused several HBCUs to improve their football fields and weight rooms while adding quality coaches to their programs.
Former Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans legend Eddie George is now the coach of the Tennessee State University Tigers. Former NFL head coach Hue Jackson is the head coach of Grambling State University.
These recent hires are part of a trend started by Coach Prime. With national attention now placed upon these and other HBCUs, there can hopefully be a groundswell of momentum for players entering the NFL from HBCUs.