Photo courtesy of Jackson State athletics

Amongst all of the conference realignment news on Twitter on Thursday, we had an interesting tweet from one of college football’s well-known head coaches.

After the announcement of the SEC voting unanimously to invite Oklahoma and Texas, Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders had this to say, “I would love to have a conversation with you” towards the Big 12 Conference. Reading more into the tweet, you have to wonder what “Coach Prime” really means by this sentiment.

So of course, we have to run with and dig deeper.

Anecdotal Thoughts on Coach Prime

  • While everyone recently has been clowning Sanders for chastising a reporter who referred to him by his first name and not by “Coach”, people really have to think deeper. Is Sanders really displaying the cliché of himself playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. Regardless of what you think of his antics, we ended up talking about him and promoting Jackson State even further.
  • Can we all admit that Sanders is one of the most determined and hard-working individuals to grace the football field? That also includes his coaching stint so far. It is his job to look out for the best interest of his players, no matter what we think. Bringing them publicity is his job.

Coach Prime’s Proposal

While we do not know his exact intentions for wanting to talk to the Big 12, we know that putting Jackson State front and center is among them. We can also reasonably assume that other HBCUs would be in the talks for Big 12 membership from Sanders’ perspective. While 99% of the Twitter timeline would think this is ludicrous, maybe just see the perspective. Maybe Coach Prime’s proposal wouldn’t be as farfetched as you think.

It is universally accepted that there are eight blue bloods in major college football. The Big 12 housed two of them with Oklahoma and Texas. With the departure of those two, the Big 12 is now scrambling for answers.

It looks like the American Athletic Conference schools are not going to budge, as the conference thinks it is on par with the remaining members of the Big 12. Why would Boise State and BYU give this watered down Big 12 a chance when they have been looked over for years? We all know West Virginia will try to bolt for the ACC if allowed.

We all know that others will try to bolt to another power conference as well with the conference destabilized. Unfortunately, the majority of the remaining eight will be sinking with this conference. So there are a few choices to the remaining members that cannot find a power conference home: Go join the AAC, Mountain West, or try to reinvent yourself.

Why HBCU?

Like we said earlier, the major HBCUs are national brands. The universities themselves are already legitimized, but the football programs could easily be legitimized at the highest level under the right conference. If a major conference took a chance on some major HBCUs, you would see some powerhouses grow overnight.

It has become popular for some top level recruits to do their due diligence and include HBCUs in their recruiting process at a respectable level. Remember when Kayvon Thibodeaux took a recruiting visit to Florida A&M?

With the two major money makers leaving the Big 12, there is no short term Band-Aid to fix this issue. The Big 12 could reinvent itself by legitimizing some HBCUs and try to catch up in the long term. This would create the parity in college football that some have been desiring.

  • Media Markets: In the Nielsen DMA 2021 Rankings, these cities all floated around the top 100: Jackson Miss., Baton Rouge La. and Tallahassee Fla. Those belong to three of the five HBCUs included in the graphic above. Then of course, we have Tennessee State who is in Nashville, which has a top-30 ranking.
  • Attendance: While most of these programs play in smallish stadiums, when they meet each other at neutral venues, the attendance is insane. Look at the yearly Bayou or Florida Classic. In 2019, the Bayou Classic had 68,000-plus in attendance while the Florida Classic was at more than 55,000. That is very comparable to a Big 12 game without Oklahoma or Texas.

It is all about perspective

It’s not hard to understand why this would be incredibly unpopular. But remember, it was not that long ago that some Grambling State teams would have whipped up on some of Paul “Bear” Bryant’s Alabama teams if they ever met. If these football programs were given the resources, not only would they explode from potential, but the conference that housed them would have reinvented themselves while creating parity in college football.

Put some HBCUs on a similar playing field to some FBS schools and you might be surprised at how recruiting could be swayed.

Bottom line: don’t knock Coach Prime for trying to create this narrative.