Commentary: Coach Deion Sanders is good for college football

Deion Sanders -Photo courtesy of The Athletic

Commentary: Coach Deion Sanders is good for college football
September 22
13:34 2021

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Football is a part of the American landscape. The buildup to each season is always exciting.

Like most of you, I am a football fan.

This affinity for football has been with me for many years. At the start of each season, I have these football talks with my friends. Our discussions run the gamut. We talk about spread offenses and who has the best defense. I am an old school guy, so I can talk high school, college and professional football.

While all football is great football, I especially like college football. Maybe it is because these guys are student-athletes. As we know, most college football players will not go to the professional ranks.

Another topic that we have spirited debates about is football coaches. Recently, after a short discussion about professional coaches, we quickly moved to the college coaches.

One name that stands out for me in the college ranks is Deion Sanders. First off, in my opinion, there has not been a college coach in any sport that has come on the scene like Deion Sanders. He is an eight-time All-Pro, 1994 NFL Defensive Player of The Year, and a two-time Super Bowl champion. These are impressive credentials no matter the yard marker that is on the field.

If you recall, Deion Sanders, now Coach Sanders, was a star student-athlete at Florida State University. He was accustomed to winning. Losing was not a part of his profile. Yet Coach Sanders did not receive his degree from Florida State University. Coach Deion Sanders is a proud graduate of Talladega College, an historically Black college and university (HBCU) in Alabama.

While Coach Sanders has won numerous and prestigious awards and honors, I believe his college graduation ranks right up there as one of his greatest achievements. Jackson State University in Mississippi named Deion Sanders as its head football coach ahead of the spring 2021 season. This HBCU gained instant world-wide publicity because of it. Folks may not know about Jackson State University, but they do know about Deion Sanders.

It is my strong opinion that HBCU athletic teams have benefited directly from him being in college football. Coach Sanders has changed the conversation and brought with him a different perspective.

Prior to Coach Sanders being hired, I cannot recall HBCU football getting so much airtime, especially on ESPN. Media at all levels have stories and interviews regarding football at HBCUs almost daily. The Grambling State University and Southern University Bayou Classic football game played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving was probably the most consistently televised contest.

Now, every week, you can listen to or watch HBCU football. That is what I call the CSE (Coach Sanders Effect).

Coach Sanders wants to truly market HBCU football. He has made comments about how the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) and the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) can work together.

He is thinking about the future and where HBCU football fits into it. I believe he is challenging traditional mores and that is a good thing.

Recently, I read where he wanted the players’ names on the back of their jerseys. That is a good idea. Parents want to identify their sons by their name and not by their number.

SWAC and MEAC schools are formidable opponents and have excellent academic reputations. If there are discussions about working together, allowances and compromises will be on the table. “Give and take” is what makes for healthy agreements.

Power 5 conferences create alignment opportunities when they see it is feasible for them to do so. For example, Texas and Oklahoma will be joining the SEC (Southeastern Conference) in the future. Both are currently members of The Big 12 Conference.

We will have to wait and see what happens with the SWAC and the MEAC as to whether it will gain a first down in the decision-making room.

Nonetheless, you cannot say that Coach Deion Sanders is sitting by and just watching things happen. I believe Coach Deion Sanders has come to Jackson State University at a prime time.

He wants to have a hand in making things happen. I am cheering for him.

James B. Ewers Jr., Ed.D., is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator. He can be reached at

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