No other game on the HBCU football calendar to date has been surrounded by more intrigue — for so many football and cultural reasons — than Saturday when nationally-ranked Jackson State plays homecoming host to Campbell.
On the surface, a matchup between an HBCU and an FCS PWI normally doesn’t garner this much attention.
But when a game involves an undefeated top-10 football power transformed by a former generational NFL talent versus an opponent that has experienced more of a slow-burn metamorphosis en route to secure the top recruiting class in the country also led by an ex-pro, people will most certainly talk.
“I think it comes with the territory,” said Campbell head coach Mike Minter about the weeklong media blitz his program has undergone leading up to its trip to face Deion Sanders and his Tigers in Jackson at 3 p.m. on ESPN+. “This is part of what we wanted to get done. It’s a bigger vision than two football programs playing each other.”
That conceptualization, at least for Minter, who played more than a decade with the Carolina Panthers, involves spotlighting visibility to both programs through the dogged work of Black head coaches breaking ground at the FCS level.
“How Coach Prime is doing it over there as far as his recruiting and how Coach Mint is doing it over here,” Minter told HBCU Sports in a phone interview. “It speaks so much about coming together.”
This unique marriage was consummated through a phone call from Jackson State athletic director Ashley Robinson to Campbell to fill a hole in its 2022 schedule.
For Sanders, he wanted more than a typical cupcake slotted as its homecoming foe. JSU wanted, he said, “an opponent that can play.”
“Not someone that’s a cupcake. Someone that can flat-out play,” said Sanders. “That’s what they present.”
Both programs also represent a shift in the recruiting landscape. Campbell (4-2) has been able to build its roster through Power 5 transfers and notable high school commitments. Jackson State (7-0) constructed its juggernaut by landing four-star high school signees like quarterback Shedeur Sanders, ex-FBS pickups such as defensive menace Nyles Gaddy in the transfer portal, and five-star stud Travis Hunter on National Signing Day.
“(Minter) does a great job recruiting, does a great job of coaching, and they can play the game,” said Sanders. “They have a few guys that are pro-caliber guys as well like we do. So, it should be a tremendous contest.”
For Campbell, it will experience its very first HBCU homecoming — something that Minter is looking forward to because he’s never seen the spectacle in person after growing up in Lawton, Oklahoma, and then playing college ball at Nebraska.
It’s also one in Jackson that is expected to draw close to 60,000 fans. Though Campbell has played at FBS venues over the years, the upcoming environment will be a different journey.
“We’re about to find out,” said Minter with a laugh how the Camels will handle what is anticipated to be a raucous setting at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. “I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve played national championship games. I’ve never played in a stadium with 60,000 Black people.”
After Campbell tangles to the Tigers, it will be off to another HBCU homecoming at Big South Conference rival North Carolina A&T.
Or what is otherwise known as the Greatest Homecoming on Earth. JSU and NC A&T are two of four scheduled games Campbell has against HBCU opponents this season — more than even Tennessee State and Hampton.
“We’re going to Jackson State’s party and then we’re going to A&T’s party,” said Minter. “We are going to find out who’s the best.”
Leave a Reply