Once it became public that Deion Sanders was being courted for the Colorado football job, social media and pundits quickly got their criticism dandruff up. As expected, after he was hired by CU on Dec. 4 the criticism went bonkers.
Sanders, the football Hall of Famer, has been called about everything but a child of God. One adjective used against him was that he “pimped” Jackson State, the school he coached for three seasons.
Never one to shy away from controversy throughout his playing and coaching career, Sanders, known as “Prime Time” as a player and now as “Coach Prime,” once again became a lightning rod for media and JSU alums, and even more so by Blacks. Ignoring the typical White commentary, we instead looked at several Blacks’ takes on the subject:
MSNBC Opinion Columnist Jarvis DeBerry, in “Why Deion Sanders leaving Jackson State is bigger than football,” wrote “We can’t discuss Sanders’ decision to leave Jackson State without acknowledging what little honor there is among college football head coaches, who will often ask recruits to commit to them and their program even as they are eyeing their next gig.”
Deadspin’s Carron J. Phillips under the headline “Deion Sanders’ pimping of Jackson State and HBCU culture is finally over” wrote, “Sanders wasn’t a savior for HBCUs… Too many believed that his antics and soundbites were helping HBCUs as a whole—when they weren’t. Sanders didn’t care about making HBCUs better. He cared about making the one that paid him better—until he could parlay that into a better opportunity for himself…at a PWI.”
Jemele Hill of The Atlantic wrote in, “Deion Sanders’ Disappointing Exit,” “Sanders is leaving behind a trail of disappointment and criticism… Sanders’ new contract at Colorado is more than 10 times larger than Jackson State’s entire $2.1 million football budget in 2021.”
Our thoughts on the subject:
One, what Sanders did—leave one football program for another for more money—isn’t precedent-setting. Football coaches, White and Black, do it all the time. What is overlooked or little discussed amidst all the noise is that Sanders is the fourth consecutive Black coach Colorado has hired to lead its football program. If this isn’t a record, it should be.
Secondly, it’s rare that a Black HC at an HBCU is hired for the same position at a PWI.
Third, about the “pimping” reference, White coaches do it all the time. Let us not forget what Lou Holtz did here at Minnesota a few decades ago: He came here for a couple of seasons and then bolted for the more prestigious Notre Dame, a classic example of this pimping.
I once asked Coach Sanders during a virtual SWAC media day about being at Jackson State a year after he took the job and during the COVID pandemic. He waxed poetically on the importance of all Black schools upgrading their facilities in order to better attract top-notch national talent.
However, his remarks didn’t see the light of day because of his insistence on being called Coach and not by his first name when a White reporter did otherwise. This prompted Sanders to walk off the call, which went viral instead.
Sanders “brought the school unprecedented national exposure and made the Tigers a destination for some of the top high school recruits in the country,” wrote Hill. “But by jumping at an offer from a major conference school that is in the bottom rung of the Pac-12 Conference…Sanders reinforced the narrative that mainstream validation is more important than fostering Black excellence at a Black institution.”
Instead of the Chicken Little argument that HBCUs are now destined for doom because of Sanders’ exit, let’s instead discuss whether other PWIs will look at Black head coaches at Black schools and hire them for their programs. The outrage, real or imagined, is misdirected upon Coach Prime when White coaches do the same and leave for bigger paydays.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.