Nearing the end of the 2010s decade, HBCU football had been thrust into the national spotlight.
With Deion Sanders set to lead the Jackson State Jaguars (JSU) for the foreseeable future, it appeared as if HBCU football was gearing up to soar, and credit to Coach Prime, it did, briefly.
Sanders imposed his dominance by masterfully racking up 27 wins with only six losses during his three-year stint in Jackson, which included two consecutive Celebration Bowl appearances and SWAC Championships.
In December 2022, Sanders would officially end his tenure at Jackson State after being named head coach of the University of Colorado, a power five program competing in the Pac-12 conference. Sanders received a lot of criticism for his decision and defended his actions numerous times.
Most recently, at the 2022 Celebration Bowl press conference stating, “Never once did I say they’re going to put a tombstone with my name on it at Jackson State,” insinuating JSU was never the end goal.
Fellow NFL Hall of Famer Ed Reed has made public that Sanders called him personally with an offer to coach at JSU following his departure. According to Reed, he declined Sanders’ offer instead of choosing to accept the head coaching position at Bethune-Cookman University.
Cheerfulness initially shot across the world of HBCU football, but that positivity quickly became enveloped by drama.
After serving only twenty-five days as head coach Reed was out. BCU’s Interim President, Dr. Lawrence Drake, took to the digital daily show, Roland Martin Unfiltered, to voice his frustration with Reed’s “unprofessionalism.”
He says Reed was told, “This is not the University of Miami, and this is not the NFL,” during the interview process. He was made well aware of the University’s poor conditions after back-to-back hurricanes. In addition, Drake admits it was his decision to part ways with Reed.
Within hours Reed responded to Dr. Drakes’ remarks on Martin’s show, calling on him to stop lying.
During his savage indictment against the Interim President, Reed explained his players had no locker room, no showers, and had to wash their own clothes.
Reed denounced the BCU basketball Head Coach and Athletic Director, Reggie Theus, saying he is “evil” and expressing that the AD did not have the kids’ best interest in mind.
With controversy surrounding two of HBCU football’s most high-profile former coaching staffs, the future of HBCU football could potentially be destined for turmoil.
All hope is not lost thanks to veteran coaches such as Willie Simmons of Florida A&M and Buddy Pough of South Carolina State, whose reach extends to and beyond the world of HBCU athletics as they have proven to be staples in their respective communities.
Although there is a lot of uncertainty about the future, two things remain clear. If HBCU administrations don’t correct their leadership practices and improve the allocation of funds, there will be no change in the discouraging headlines.