There are good points in these arguments, but it should not be forgotten that Sanders managed to turn Jackson State football around, returning the team to a form resembling its former glory and enhancing, albeit briefly, the school’s public profile. He will be sidelined for one final game as his undefeated team takes on fellow HBCU, North Carolina Central, at the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 17.
It was always going to be nearly impossible to keep Sanders at Jackson State if he consistently won. Everyone involved knew about the deal, and Sanders spoke openly about listening to other offers. This week, the school warmly thanked him for his short race. Sanders is what he’s always been: a sports mercenary with carnival barker looks, roadside preacher panache and a knack for winning.
“Usually when God sends me to a place, he sends me to be an agent of change,” he said during a press conference/introductory sermon.
I mourn for our HBCUs They have been chronically underfunded since their inception in the late 1800s, deprived of proper resources from state legislatures and the federal government as more and more money pours into majority schools white. The black college higher education project remains stuck in what appears to be a long, unrelenting race for survival. The struggling HBCU sports teams are certainly part of this grind.
Among black people, many of us wanted to believe that Sanders would stay longer than that, and now find ourselves with a particularly painful wound because the black community so often finds itself on the periphery, feels so often abandoned by bold guarantees .
Sanders’ jump to a wealthy, white school after promising the world to its young black athletes and their families is another reminder that black people, in particular, have always had to take insurance with a healthy grain of skeptical apprehension – even when they come from people in our communities.
Looking back, what made us think a former player with Prime Time status and ego would stick around for more than a trickle of seasons? Nothing in Sanders’ past suggested such consistency. Sanders played on four teams in nine seasons as an outfielder in Major League Baseball. During his NFL Hall of Fame career, he played for five teams in 14 seasons. Sanders won a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers and then another with the 49ers’ hated rival, the Dallas Cowboys. Prior to accepting the Jackson State job, he left the NFL Network for Barstool Sports.
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