Deion Sanders, Colorado, HBCUs and ‘Black America’s Team’

Has Deion Sanders made Colorado football Black America’s college football team? That question has been floated around since the team took down TCU to open the season.

The headlines began creeping up and growing with momentum after win over Nebraska and reached a fever pitch after its thrilling win over rival Colorado State. Even in the wake of Colorado’s abysmal 42-6 loss to Oregon on Saturday, the question continues to pop up.

Tuesday Skip Bayless, host of FS1’s Undisputed asked the question on his Twitter and discussed it on its show. 

The very question of whether Colorado is ‘Black America’s Team” is both laughable and no laughing matter to many people — particularly alumni and supporters of historically black colleges. Less than three percent of CU’s students are Black and no HBCU comes close to the level of funding the state gives its flagship school. 

Those of us who have come through the HBCU ranks know that no matter how exciting and entertaining Coach Prime, Shedeur Sanders and the rest of the gang are — there is nothing like an HBCU — no matter how many non-HBCU alumni may insinuate otherwise. 

Still, the question has merit and is more nuanced than many would like to think. 

When it comes to African-Americans and college football there are multiple pockets represented in this conversation. There are those who are HBCU supporters first and foremost. Then there are those that follow college football but attended or cheer for PWIs (Predominantly White Institutions) and then there are those that aren’t really fans of college football, but are open to casual watching. 

As a proud HBCU graduate and someone who makes his living writing about college sports from an HBCU perspective, I identify firmly with the first group. Winston-Salem State University was my introduction to college football almost 20 years ago. While I don’t get to publicly cheer (during a game) when it comes to sports, WSSU will always be first — no matter who it plays. 

My younger brother falls into the second group. He attended Appalachian State University in the mountains of North Carolina. I asked him whether he felt Colorado was ‘Black America’s team’ and whom his allegiance would be if his G5 squad played Deion Sanders’ Power Five squad. 

Colorado, Shedeur Sanders
Reigning SWAC Player of The Year Shedeur Sanders has been stacking awards at the FBS level.

“I can understand where they’re coming from, and if Colorado was the play App, I’m still pulling for App,” he wrote via text. “But to see them play any other school, I’m going to pull for Colorado. It’s like watching boxing or UFC, if a Black person is fighting any other race, I’m pulling for them. Then if there’s a Black American vs. someone Black from another country, then I’m pulling for the American.”

Then there’s my father. He is an avid football fan — but mostly the NFL. He doesn’t have any collegiate football allegiance, and he’s been keeping up with Colorado as much as I’m keeping up with HBCU football. 

They have been compared to college basketball programs like Georgetown in the 1980s, or the Fab Five in the 1990s. Both of those squads had longer periods of success, obviously, but its clear that adding Deion Sanders has pulled a lot of black folks that aren’t college football fans in.

There are a lot more viewers like my father and brother tuning in for Colorado games since Coach Prime showed up, according to the numbers. Colorado’s first three games (TCU, Nebraska and Colorado State) rated 77% higher among Black viewers than anywhere else in the country, with Black viewers making up nearly one-fourth of the viewership, compared to 15 percent in non-Colorado games.

Those numbers obviously include many HBCU fans — although not all of them are cheering for the former Jackson State coach. There is a segment of hardcore HBCU supporters that feel that Sanders and the media coverage he has received put HBCUs — JSU in particular and all of them in general — in a bad light as institutions, if not as a brand of football. Or they didn’t like how his presence often overshadowed their programs. Many of them were as satisfied with Oregon taking Colorado to the woodshed as Oregon fans or anyone else who felt the ‘hype’ was too much.  

The other portion of HBCU fans will never make Colorado  — or any other Power Five program — their man college football team. But they do appreciate what Sanders and his new program are doing. You can include North Carolina Central head coach LeVelle Moton in that number.

“The Love is so Fake…The Jealousy be so Real,” Moton tweeted after the Oregon loss. “One man has “Disrupted” the State of College Football. Pay attention to all who take shots.”

Case in point: I covered the NCCU – Winston-Salem State game in Durham. While on the sidelines, I overheard the men running the chains checking to see if there was an update on what Colorado was doing. CU had just knocked off TCU in its opener despite being a heavy underdog, and I let them know the result was in the books. Even as the team that beat Deion Sanders in his last game at Jackson State in the Celebration Bowl was getting its season started, it was pretty obvious that people were paying attention to what was going on with Prime and Co.

My brother pretty much summed up the feelings of those of us who fall into this category.

“I think you get feeling more because it’s Prime being told that he couldn’t do something — and he came out and did it. Then they said “oh that’s just at the HBCUs, he can’t do that at THIS level” and he showed up to a place made his whole team, and is doing it. I think it’s people wanting to rub it in the faces of the nay-sayers that the HBCU athletes and coaches aren’t good enough to do it at that level, or that it’s an ultimate conglomeration of underdogs. Colorado being trash last year, Prime coming, rebuilding his team, putting his “unproven” son at QB, and the first real two-way star player in decades… and they’re all BLACK! So it’s an easy story to get behind, especially for black people.”

Not for all black people are supporting Deion Sadners and Colorado — but certainly a sizable portion are. And even more are watching. 

Deion Sanders, Colorado, HBCUs and ‘Black America’s Team’

Source link : hbcugameday.com

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