Deion Sanders & The HBCU Community’s Dependence On Celebrity Culture (Randall’s Thoughts)


Note: This is a transcript of the “Randall’s Thoughts” segment from HBCU Pulse Radio on SiriusXM Channel 142 HBCU. Listen live every Friday at 5 PM EST/4 PM CST/2 PM PST.

On today’s Randall’s Thought on the premiere episode of HBCU Pulse Radio, I want to talk about Deion Sanders. Yes, I know it’s 2023 and it’s been over a month since he left Jackson State to go to the University of Colorado Boulder and only a couple of weeks since Jackson State lost in the Celebration Bowl to North Carolina Central. But, I didn’t have a radio show back then so you know I’m gonna talk about it now! And besides, it’s been a lot of people that have spoken about this situation without understanding anything about HBCU culture and how alumni are feeling. So, allow me to present the final take on Deion Sanders and what his time at Jackson State truly means for the HBCU community. 

First, there is no HBCU alum that was mad at Deion Sanders for leaving Jackson State to go to Colorado. We understand that sometimes you have to do you have to do! You have to do  what’s best for you and your career and your family. However, Deion Sanders never presented himself as just a coach. He did everything short of declaring himself the savior of HBCU sports. He promised to increase visibility and awareness for HBCUs saying that he wanted to be the leader of a movement that saw talented athletes choose HBCUs instead of other FBS and FCS institutions. He sold that to me, to you, to the HBCU community, and to the nation as a whole. So, hearing of his departure from Pete Thamel of ESPN a few hours before the SWAC Championship was disheartening, to say the least. It seemed like he aborted the mission before it truly got started.

What I just said should be understood because the thoughts and opinions of HBCU Alumni should be valued. We’re not always wrong. But, I want to take it a step further. Deion Sanders exposed something about the HBCU community that we’re often not apt to speak about. The HBCU community is dependent celebrity culture. We find no value in what we do on our campuses unless a celebrity is involved. Homecoming is lame if the hottest HBCU artists don’t show up to our campus. Graduation wasn’t as big of a moment because the another school got a celebrity or well-regarded politician to speak. We even try to leverage a person’s celebrity and money to fight decades of HBCU underfunding and disenfranchisement. That’s not how this works. 


We have to ask the tough questions. Why did it take a black celebrity to be given an opportunity at our institutions for folks outside of the HBCU community to care? Why are HBCU stakeholders and supporters married to the notion that a celebrity or former professional player is the answer to every problem in HBCU life? Deion Sanders didn’t provide a blueprint; he exposed a flaw in our thinking that we must deal with if we want to grow HBCUs. Campus life & HBCU Football don’t need celebrity validation. It might be nice to have but it doesn’t define our experience. The true blueprint has always been right in front of us. 

Deion Sanders was never going to be Eddie Robinson. Eddie G. Robinson was 22-years old when he became the head coach of Grambling State University in 1941. He was only making $63.75 a month and had to build a winning team without the advantages of celebrity and fame. He was never offered an FBS job and turned down a job with the then Saint Louis Rams in the 1970’s. He, like HBCU alumni in the past present, did so much with so little. That’s why he’s considered one of the greatest college coaches. Why can’t the blueprint be finding a quality candidate for the coaching position that has potential or some record of winning and a care for the institution? Why can’t we find worth in our HBCU experience and view celebrity culture as it should be: added value?

As we move forward, we must find value in HBCU culture and the amazing professionals that we produce. We also must continue the Eddie G. Robinson blueprint of finding coaching candidates who might not be celebrities but want an opportunity and a desire to build a winning program at an HBCU. That, also, should be the blueprint that we follow at every level of operation for our HBCUs. 

Those are my thoughts on today. You’re listening to HBCU Pulse Radio on SiriusXM Channel 142 HBCU. We’ll be right back.



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