Deion Sanders caused a shift in tectonic plates in the world of college football. Since March 2020, Travis Hunter, America’s # 1 football rookie, has been busy in the state of Florida. Hunter reiterated his commitment to the university in both September And October. The Tampa Times just wrote yesterday that Hunter had been a Florida State fan all his life and was going to be the title of a potential top 10 recruiting class for the program after hitting his biggest post-Bobby Bowden low with a defeat to the state of Jacksonville.
The gossip mill it started running on V8 power late this morning, the day of the early signing. Rumors that the most recognizable athlete in the history of the state of Florida had swooped in and taken the best college football player in the country from where he originally became famous. Then it happened. on a live broadcast Hosted by 11 Alive News of Atlanta, Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Georgia, Hunter put on a good production.
Hunter had the three hats in front of him as do most of the top players: Florida State, Georgia and Auburn. He threw the Auburn hat off the table. Hunter put the Georgia hat on his head, but tossed it into the crowd. Then he donned the state of Florida, and it didn’t hurt to stay in character before throwing him into the crowd and asking for a different hat. Hunter unzipped his hoodie to reveal a Jackson State IBelieve shirt and picked up a Jackson State hat. Sanders turned America’s # 1 recruit into an HBCU. An FCS program.
It’s not like Jackson State has never had high-profile talent on its football program. When Ole Miss introduced the program’s first black player in 1971, Walter Payton went to Jackson state and would become one of the greatest football players of all time. The HBCUs still bring talent to the NFL, even if they haven’t sent as much since Power 5 football is fully integrated. From the day of the cut – 1 September 2021 – they were there 18 players from HBCU on NFL rosters, including two-time All Pro first-team linebacker Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts, who was selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
While there are still good players in the HBCUs, a ready-made talent like Hunter is unusual. Those players normally fall through the cracks, or are late in flowering. Hunter could have started day one in the state of Florida or any other major college football program.
Sanders’ personality and status as one of the most influential figures in football history probably played a large part in Hunter’s decision, it is likely that there were some overhead financial reasons that heavily contributed to this. Yahoo’s Pete Thamel tweeted that it is believed NIL money was one of the main reasons Hunter changed his commitment. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde tweeted that he heard a lot about it discussion on NIL at HBCU.
For those who have complained about NIL money damaging competitive balance in college sports, check out the little guy. Sure, Sanders is connected, and the program is in a relationship with Barstool Sports (reportedly, the original reports of Hunter signing a sponsorship deal with Barstool are false), but there is no way to paint this as the rich getting richer.
It will take some time for the reverberations of this cymbal shift to stabilize to see what this means for the future of college sports. What does this mean for shows that are even bigger than Jackson State but aren’t yet previewed? What about Houston, DePaul or even St. John’s? The Johnnies play in the media capital of the world. If they really want to return to the top of men’s college basketball for the first time in nearly 30 years, Jackson State seems to have shown them the way.
That way, while not perfect, it’s still better than college sports were in the past: Universities pump money like they blow balls into athletic facilities and athlete dorms. This is pushing Silicon Valley to make the workspace as inviting as possible so employees will stay longer, except, for college athletes, none of the Silicon Valley money coaches and administrators get.
So far, this new era of college athletics is about athletes getting better pay and top-tier talent than going to places they normally wouldn’t. It seems that NIL is working well.