Commentary: I guess Coach Prime wasn’t SWAC

(Photo courtesy of the Associated Press) Deion Sanders after being introduced as the new head coach at Colorado University.

Commentary: I guess Coach Prime wasn’t SWAC
December 08
10:52 2022

Since the news dropped over the weekend, social media has been buzzing with people sharing their thoughts and opinions on Deion Sanders’ decision to leave Jackson State University for the head coaching job at Colorado University, so I figured I’d share my thoughts. 

Before I begin, let me start by saying I will never be against a Black man improving his situation and creating a better life for his family. In fact, I wish Sanders nothing but success at Colorado University, and if I were a student athlete right now, Coach Prime is the type of coach I would want to play for. He’s a players’ coach who will do anything for his guys and at the end of the day, he’s in it for the right reasons. 

I also understand that from beginning Sanders’ goal was to get to a Power 5 conference and Jackson State didn’t live up to their end of the deal, so I don’t really have an issue with him leaving. I do have an issue with how it was done and as a graduate of an HBCU, I feel like Sanders used the culture and made promises he couldn’t keep to reach his own goals. 

From the moment he took the job at Jackson State in 2020, Sanders talked about how he was elevating HBCUs and how Black athletes should be attending HBCUs. 

And that’s where the problem lies for me. 

Sanders is not the first former NFL player to coach at an HBCU. He’s not even the first hall of famer; however, he is the first to tell players to choose HBCUs over PWIs. If Sanders would’ve just taken the job at Jackson State and did his job without all the rhetoric about changing the culture and elevating all HBCUs, nobody would’ve had an issue with his decision to leave.   

Just by hiring Sanders, Jackson State put themselves on the map. Just by getting Prime to sign on that dotted line, JSU was going to grow in popularity. But when Sanders pulled out his soap box and started sharing his recruiting pitches with the whole world, it turned into something else. It wasn’t just about football and winning games anymore; Sanders was talking about real change, change that takes more than three years. 

How can you preach about the need to elevate HBCUs and leave after just three years? How can you tell me a student-athlete they should go to an HBCU when you don’t even want to be there? And to make matters worse, from what I’m hearing from a very credible source, Sanders didn’t even really stick around to celebrate with his team after winning the SWAC championship. He was on the first thing smoking to Boulder after the game. 

Oh, and all the top-tier talent he bragged about bringing to an HBCU and changing the culture with? All headed to Colorado. 

So what did he really elevate?

He did do a lot for the Jackson State program and a lot of it he did with his own money and resources. He even kept his promise by winning back-to-back SWAC championships while facing some real issues in Jackson, but when it comes to elevating the culture, he fell short of his goal. 

On Saturday, Oct. 8, after Jackson State defeated Alabama State, Alabama State head coach Eddie Robinson didn’t pull any punches when sharing his thoughts on Coach Prime. During the postgame press conference, Robinson talked about a heated exchange with Sanders at midfield after the game. Robinson said how he felt disrespected by Sanders in the days leading up to the game and during pregame warm-ups. When discussing Sanders specifically, Robinson said, “He ain’t SWAC … I’m SWAC.”

Robinson, who is also an Alabama State alumni, was referring to the Southwestern Athletic Conference, which is made up of HBCUs in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida. The conference was founded in 1920 and is widely considered one of the top HBCU conferences in the country. 

At the time I thought Robinson, who played 11 years in the NFL, was being a hater after just losing a hard fought game to Sanders and Jackson State. But as Jackson State prepares to play in the Celebration Bowl without Coach Prime and probably most of their key players, I can’t help but think Robinson was right the whole time. 

I guess he wasn’t SWAC. 

Tevin Stinson is the senior reporter for The Chronicle.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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