Willie Simmons and Deion Sanders
Photo: Orange Blossom Classic

While Deion Sanders and Willie Simmons will be on opposing sides in the Orange Blossom Classic to open the 2022 regular season, the head coaches — four months before kickoff — have come to a singular agreement about the matchup.

That the SWAC rivalry game should command increased exposure on the worldwide leader in sports television.

Florida A&M and Jackson State tilt is scheduled to be played on Sept. 4 on ESPN 2. However, that slot, Sanders and Simmons suggested, isn’t good enough.

“How do we get to ESPN2 when we had better ratings than Power 5s that played on the same darn day?” Sanders asked on Instagram in response to the release of ESPN’s fall 2022-23 college football schedule. “ESPN you are better than that and much smarter than that. Check the ratings please.”

Also read: Nick Saban reached out to Deion Sanders; apologizes for singling out schools

Simmons agreed: “Deion Sanders and I are in agreement that the Orange Blossom Classic on Sept. 4 should be nationally televised on ESPN. The reigning Buck Buchanan Award winner (FAMU’s Isaiah Land) and the reigning Jerry Rice Award winner (Jackson State’s Shedeur Sanders) going head-to-head! Last year’s game (was) decided by one point.”

Last year’s Labor Day weekend opener, which ended in a 7-6 victory by Jackson State, drew an average of 700,000 viewers on ESPN 2. It was the second-highest rated game of the day only behind Florida State-Notre Dame, on ABC, which drew 7.7 million viewers.

The only other college football game scheduled to be played on the day of the Orange Blossom Classic this upcoming season is a primetime matchup featuring Florida State and LSU on ABC.

Neither Fox nor CBS has college games slated for that weekend.

The likely reason this year’s Orange Blossom Classic game won’t be on ESPN’s main channel is that the network will be televising the U.S. Open tennis tournament scheduled for Aug. 29 through Sept. 12.



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