TIAA Bank Field Jacksonville, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, will serve as host to a big HBCU football matchup between Bethune-Cookman and Jackson State.
While some bill the Oct. 15 game as evidence of SWAC football growth and popularity, Deion Sanders — the ever outspoken coach — does not see the game being played at an NFL site as beneficial to either program.
“That game upsets me,” bristled Sanders at SWAC football Media Day Thursday when asked about the game moving from Bethune-Cookman’s home stadium in Dayton Beach to Jacksonville. Bethune-Cookman, what is their fan base? What do they average per game? Why are we playing in a stadium of that magnitude?”
In 2021, Bethune-Cookman averaged 5,323 fans at Daytona Stadium. The multi-purpose stadium holds an estimated 9,601 at capacity. TIAA Bank Field, which once hosted a Super Bowl and annually is the home of the Georgia-Florida football game, can seat more than 67,000 fans.
Despite the larger surroundings and potential influx of Jackson State fans filling TIAA Bank Field, Sanders suggested he did not want the venue’s attractions to take away from what either school could gain at a true HBCU site.
“I’m trying to help uplift the SWAC,” he said. “I’m trying to make sure the SWAC … when we show up somewhere we show out and it’s packed. Why are we playing in a darn NFL stadium and they (BCU) average how many per game? You’re depending on our fans to come pack it? We’re not doing that.”
The third-year head coach also expressed trepidation because Jackson State is already scheduled to travel to Miami — another neutral site contest — to play Florida A&M in the Orange Blossom Classic.
“I don’t know why we are doing that,” he said. “I don’t think it makes sense. I would rather pay them to come to (Jackson) and put up a couple of hundred thousand in their pockets.”
Bethune Cookman coach Terry Sims said he has no control over the schedule and will focus on preparing for the game.
“I really can’t say anything about it because I’m coaching a football team,” said Sims. “The fans might not be happy about it but it’s not my place to say anything about it because I didn’t make the call. All I do is get the football team ready to play the game.”
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