Deion Sanders had made it known that Jackson State has aspirations of playing in a bowl game, not the FCS playoffs.
To go a step further, the JSU coach is suggesting that multiple Division I HBCUs — including his own program — get an opportunity to compete in a bowl game after the Celebration Bowl.
“Why can’t that be us? I’m just saying, why can’t it be us?” Sanders asked Monday. “You’ve got teams that are virtually 6-5 going to a bowl game. Ain’t nobody going to see them play. Ain’t nobody turning the channel to witness the foolishness. But you have us that travels deep, travels heavy.”
Jackson State is 9-0 overall and the odds on favorite to repeat as SWAC champions and appear in the Celebration Bowl — the only non-FBS bowl game played in the postseason.
Sanders also recently proposed that HBCU all-star team participate in bowl season against FBS programs.
According to the NCAA, bowl games are not limited to the Bowl Subdivision; teams in the three lower divisions of the NCAA— the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Division II, and Division III — are also allowed to participate in bowl games at their levels. But schools from different subdivisions are prohibited from competing in postseason bowl games against each other.
SWAC commissioner Charles McClelland told the Clarion-Ledger that it would take NCAA legislative action to make it possible for FCS schools to play in bowl games. “There are certain things you have to be in order to play in those bowl games, part of that is scholarships.”
Sanders, however, suggested that the allure of strong HBCU fanbases would be attractive enough to generate the interest of “wonderful Fortune 500 companies” to invest in bowl games involving Black college football programs.
“Say Pepsi has a bowl game, whatever, wouldn’t you want it to be us because of what we bring to the table. Especially if it’s pre-New Year’s Day,” he said. “And then there’s also a purse that comes with that game that we would love to have. That can help us as a program tremendously. But not only that, give our kids some exposure and expose them to other things in life where they get to go somewhere for three or four days in another city and just have a wonderful time as well.”
Monday wasn’t the first time Sanders has made an overture for HBCUs to participate in a bowl game. In 2020, Sanders took to Twitter to offer that his Tigers play in a bowl after a myriad of games were canceled in 2020 due to COVID outbreaks. Florida A&M head coach made a similar pitch in 2021, too.
In 2018, Football Gameplan hosts Dave Hashagene and Emory Hunt suggested FCS teams that did not make the playoffs play in bowl games.
Princeton coach Bob Surace once recommended an Ivy League-HBCU bowl matchup. The Ivy League does not participate in postseason play.
“Why wouldn’t we work with historically black colleges and play them?” he told SB Nation back in 2018. “Take a school like Grambling or Howard vs. Princeton or Columbia or whoever. You’re gonna hit a huge number on TV, and you’re gonna sell it out in Atlanta or New Orleans or Washington DC. Why wouldn’t we want to bring more attention?”
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