FILE – Jackson State Head Coach Deion Sanders points during an NCAA football game against Louisiana Monroe on Saturday September 18, 2021, in Monroe, La. Deion Sanders has appeared on national television and has put Jackson State in the spotlight every time its insurance commercials air. Hiring Eddie George has had a similar effect in Tennessee State. (AP Photo / Matthew Hinton, File)
Deion Sanders was featured on all national television, putting Jackson State in the spotlight every time its insurance commercials aired.
Hiring Eddie George has had a similar effect in Tennessee State.
Thanks to their high-profile coaches, Jackson State and Tennessee State are benefiting from larger crowds and more interest from top recruits to companies looking to tap into all the hype, graduating with universities as well as players under the new name, image and likeness Rules.
Just as the university officials had hoped.
“It’s all about rebuilding and simply restoring our football brand that has been so dominant for many decades,” said Tennessee sporting director Mikki Allen of George. “He was everything I could ask for in a head coach.”
Allen said enrollment in the state of Tennessee was already complete, and four- and five-star recruits are taking a close look at George and the Tigers. The state of Tennessee hosted 317 recruits in one weekend.
Tennessee State has had corporate interests from companies like The General, Best Buy, and bottling sponsor Coca-Cola. A six-figure gift from the Western Express shipping company started a new weight room project for the indoor complex.
The Tigers have also partnered with OpenDorse to help athletes who have signed contracts with restaurants, vendors, hair salons, and cell phones to solve name, image, and likeness issues. Allen said brands that want to use George’s star power will be carried over to his players.
“Of course, a lot of brands want to be connected to our head coach,” said Allen. “But then I think that he transferred a lot of the star power that he transferred to our student athletes in football.”
The Southwestern Athletic Conference, home of Jackson State, was ranked 17th among the leagues for NIL deals tracked by OpenDorse through October 31. The SWAC will also look at both audience and TV ratings to see how this could translate into new packages and more money.
“Deion Sanders’ coaching has brought more prominence from a Jackson State perspective,” said SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland. “Of course the conference benefits because if you see Jackson State as a different institution, that other institution continues to benefit from that advantage.”
Attendance is also high. With Sanders, Jackson State averaged 41,633 home games this season. That’s a jump from 6,605 per game from 2019, the last full season before the pandemic and a year before Jackson State hired Sanders in September 2020.
Jackson State did not return messages from The Associated Press seeking interviews for this story.
Sanders’ son and starting quarterback Shedeur received his own advertising deal with Beats by Dre. On the field, Sanders saw Jackson State (10-1) in the championship game of the Southwestern Athletic Conference on December 4th. Tennessee State (5-6) has just finished its season.
“It’s an enormous achievement,” said Sanders on a recent call from the SWAC coach. “People just thought we were kidding when I said we believe, but we really believe without a doubt.”
The Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback had a lead over George, walking out 4-3 earlier this year in the spring season delayed by the pandemic.
George was hired in mid-April to revive a program of 13 national championships for blacks after three straight defeats, including 2-5 last spring. He led the Tigers to their longest winning streak since 2016, four straight wins in the Ohio Valley Conference for the first time since 2013 and their best record since 2017 at 5-6.
The enthusiasm for George has not translated into a surge in visitor numbers to the state of Tennessee. Its largest audience was in Memphis as part of the Southern Heritage Classic against Jackson State and Sanders. The Tigers drew 8,627 for one home win over Murray State, but averaged 4,022 for four home games. That’s a decrease from 8,787 on average over seven games in 2019.
“The only way to get people into the stands is to bring a winning product onto the field,” said George. “That’s it. I mean, of course I was disappointed that we didn’t have any fans, but that’s because of the lack of success. So I have to do my part.”
Because of this, Tennessee State will hire a recruiting director and upgrade the equipment through a deal with Under Armor. George wants offices, meeting rooms, classrooms, and a weight room all in one building to streamline operations and save critical time.
Sanders and George were successful enough to have their names pop up for other jobs. George, who won the Heisman Trophy in Ohio State, has been linked to Akron, while Sanders was reportedly interviewed with Texas Christian while he was recovering from complications following foot surgery.
The man known as Coach Prime said you never believe rumors, especially when he’s been in hospital after complications from foot surgery. Sanders said TCU and others are interested in what they are doing in Jackson State.
“You’re trying to figure out the formula,” said Sanders. “There is no such thing as a formula man. It’s about loving these children, challenging these children, holding them accountable. Make sure they are smart, tough, quick, and disciplined. That is the secret. Not everyone has this recipe. “
That’s what George wants to build, hopefully as quickly as Sanders – and he’s let his Tigers know that changes are coming.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen Game of Thrones, but winter is coming,” said George. “Winter is coming and it’s time to get busy.”