Home Editorials Conflicting views following Deion leaving JSU

Conflicting views following Deion leaving JSU

by William T. Robinson, Jr
Former Jackson State University football head coach Deion Sanders has accepted a position as head coach at the University of Colorado
William T. Robinson, Jr.

As everyone probably knows by now, Deion Sanders has made the decision to further his career by leaving Jackson State University and accepting a position as head coach at the University of Colorado. His decision has been met with a myriad of feelings ranging from praise, indifference, disappointment, to downright hate and hostility from the Black community. These conflicting feelings may spurn from Deion’s monumental success in bringing attention to HBCU football, especially in having their athletic football programs getting rightfully due recognition.

Some feel Deion’s decision to go to Colorado will diminish the rise and attention now being given to HBCU football as well as HBCUs on a national level. Deion has brought national attention to the importance and worth of HBCU football and demanded better financial support for these institutions, so they would be in a better position to compete with wealthy powerhouse PWIs (Predominantly White Institutions).

There is no question that HBCUs’ football has benefited from the exposure and recognition heralded by Sanders. He has done such a great job that you find some Blacks who feel his departure from JSU going to a PWI powerhouse will undermine all the work he did in opening the door to spawn HBCUs football recognition and  acceptance—especially as it relates to financial compensation from endorsements, sponsorships, and national TV coverage.

Some people who feel hurt or disappointed compare his actions to opening a door to receive the light then abruptly slamming that door. These people question his motives and paint him as an opportunist whose only interest is in himself. They literally cry, “We have been played.” But they should see all the positive results gained from Deion’s involvement. How can they say that he played HBCUs only for his own benefit?

However you may feel about Deion, you cannot diminish his role as a mentor, motivator and positive role model for young Black men. That goes without saying.  His messaging was influential in Black athletes supporting or considering HBCUs. He literally helped kick start a resurgence of Black athletes as well—not to mention Black students opting to go to HBCUs. He changed the landscape of JSU and the city of Jackson for the better. That is irrefutable. JSU has a new field and a winning team. Deion helped to revitalize the city of Jackson even with the water problem they were having. He changed the trajectory of how HCBU football is looked at nationally, and brought College Day to JSU. These are unprecedented accomplishments and blessings that warrant praise and thanks that cannot be refuted.  

Right or wrong you cannot dismiss what Deion has done to promote and highlight JSU and HBCUs. Some even perceive him as being ‘heaven sent.’ Maybe his time at JSU was over (his contract was only for three years), and he is destined for even greater things. Many of his supporters don’t think he has abandoned supporting HBCU football or HBCUs and may be in an even better position to bring light and support to them.

The media may be presenting Deion in a bad light by saying that many Blacks hate him. However, the feeling is more of being disappointed or hurt  because of the phenomenal job he has done. The word ‘hate’ is such a strong word and may be intentionally used to divide the Black community as pertains to Deion.

Many of his supporters find themselves conflicted in their feelings. They are happy for him but sad that he is leaving. Those who are angry may feel he is a hypocrite who sold Black athletes and the Black community a bill of goods about supporting HBCUs. Then he did an about face. Originally, his messaging was that Black athletes should consider and support HBCUs over PWI powerhouses. He came across for many as the ‘messiah’ who was going to help save and promote Black athletes and other Black students, encouraging them to come home and support their own institutions.

Many feel his departure will cause a dismantling of the enthusiasm, excitement, and attention he generated for HBCU football and HBCUs as well. It is realistic to assume that many of his top recruits will follow him to Colorado. It would be understandable that feelings and emotions are running all over the place in the Black community, especially from those who feel Deion hasn’t stayed long enough to fully elevate HBCUs to the level he once spoke of. One must also understand HBCUs’ alumni and their students have a fierce loyalty to HBCUs that supersedes other Black alumni or students at PWIs.

In all fairness to Deion, we should remember he is a man with dreams and aspirations. He shouldn’t have to apologize for bettering himself and reaching for his dreams. Isn’t that what we drill into our children, only with the caveat of considering ‘what if one gained the world only to lose one’s soul?’ Dion is well off monetarily, so one shouldn’t conclude he sold out for the money. But even if the money was a factor, isn’t he entitled to go for his dreams with our blessing?

Maybe Deion’s only mistake is that he did his job so well with uplifting JSU and awareness to HBCUs’ football that his departure rattles our emotions—and for some causes a loss of hope.   Regardless of how one may feel at this time, let’s congratulate Deion on a job well done and give him our blessings in his new role. We cannot conclude that Deion is through as an ambassador for HBCU football. Whether we see it or not, he may be in a better position to promote and bring more attention to HBCUs’ greatness.

Deion is only one man. We must realize that there is too much greatness resonating from HBCUs to minimize the continued rise of such prestigious institutions to one man. Deion did a great job, but HBCUs will continue to grow on their own merit. It is up to the Black community to put our energy, monies and voices to promote our HBCUs. Maybe we should stop looking for someone else to make a difference when we can make the difference.

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