I am not mad at Jackson State University football coach Neon Deon Sanders. I said it, and you know what else, the rest of don’t have the right to be angry at him either or call him names. He, like football, was seasonal and the good he did far outweigh his decision to move on.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on where you sit in the stadium, when a player or celebrity of his caliber brings a spotlight to something as beloved as college football, yes, we get hot and bothered if that light fades, but what Sanders has done is say the whole world should pay attention to these gifted athletes and amazing schools. Thanks Coach. He said to the world and sports enthusiasts you need to see what you’re missing. Again, thanks Coach.
He had an agenda –raise attention, awareness, and resources, make some good trouble on behalf of young men who may have otherwise languished in obscurity, and last but not least, keep Mr. Prime in primetime. From where I sit, I’d say Mission Accomplished.
Unlike many folks who work at our beloved Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) who sign on early in their career and find their mission and ministry nurturing the next generation and never leave, Coach Prime never said he would do and make do—without elaborate facilities, salaries, bonuses, luxury perks—forever.
Now that he has come and gone, the rest of us need to step up and pick up his unfinished mission because everything he was trying to do at this Mississippi landmark and the other 105 HBCU still needs to be done.
The bright light he brought and displayed during his brief tenure still needs fuel/light bulbs to keep shining. While most of these schools, both private and public, were created after the Civil War, few have been adequately funded, but all have an unquestionable record of empowerment and achievement.
Many HBCU are experiencing record enrollment and improved gifts but not all, so the attention a superstar like Eddie George at Nashville’s Tennessee State University can bring is a plus any way you run it. Further, after pro players like Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Jerry Rice came from HBCU, so we’d think that would make them a logical recruiting stop, but it ain’t necessarily so. Doug Williams, whose legendary professional career includes the NFL and college coaching at his beloved Grambling State, also must be remembered for the star value he offered.
HBCU are a wonderful investment –not just for the few years of glitz and glamour Sanders brought to the gridiron but for a great education and community building. A recent article touted Phoenix Suns’ Christopher Paul who is graduating this month from North Carolina’s Winston-Salem State University.
Paul, who is completing his degree at his parents’ alma mater, gets high marks from me for investing his time, energy, and influence to advocate for degree completion, and support of HBCU value. What comes next is where the rubber hits the road for the rest of us.
We can’t all razzle and dazzle like Deon, but we can send a generous gift to support excellence and dreams. We won’t all get a generous offer to coach at a swanky school like the University of Colorado, Boulder but can we visit our neighborhood HBCU and see for ourselves the magic that happens there every day? Finally, can we stop hating on Brother Deon and let him live his life?
Now that he’s making more money, he has more to give back to JSU for the “prime” spot they gave him. Touchdown!
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