It was big news nationally a couple of years ago when Hall of Famer and former All-Pro defensive back Deion Sanders accepted the head coaching job at Jackson State. The same was true last year when former Titans All-Pro running back Eddie George took over at Tennessee State. Here were two high profile ex-NFL stars opting to coach at HBCUs instead of Power 5 schools. Both have enjoyed some early success, with Sanders and Jackson State going 9-1 this season and winning the SWAC Eastern Division.
George has not enjoyed quite the same degree of victory, but has taken a team that went 2-5 in the spring to a 5-5 mark with one game remaining against Mississippi State. The Tigers had a four-game winning streak and were in the hunt for their first OVC title in eight years before losing to UT Martin. When the Tigers and Jackson State met in this year’s Southern Heritage Classic it was covered the same as any early season matchup between SEC or ACC teams.
Given that degree of attention and publicity as well as the improved performances of both squads, it’s not surprise that now major colleges are expressing interest in both George and Sanders. George’s name has been mentioned for the opening at Akron, while Sanders, who’d been off the sidelines a few weeks due to foot surgery, reportedly interviewed for the Texas Christian University opening. Both positions make sense as George has Ohio roots and connections and Sanders both played and coached in Texas. However what is also interesting is the reported reaction of each to the possible openings. George said Sunday night it was “flattering” to hear reports that he is a candidate for the Akron coaching position, but maintained that he has not been in contact with anyone about that job and does not plan to leave the Tigers. George signed a five-year deal in March at TSU at an annual salary of $400,000 and plans to honor it.
“My commitment is to Tennessee State, and I don’t want to send any mixed messages,” George said in published press reports. “I am just enjoying my boys, trying to build this program in the right way. We had a great recruiting weekend. We’re trying to get the right recruits in, and I am just focused on getting my offense back up and ready for the game the week.”
Multiple reports claimed Sanders interviewed for the TCU job last Monday. A Jackson State spokesperson has declined to comment.
“I’m not saying he is going to get the job, not saying he’s the leading candidate at this point,” an unnamed source close to the selection committee told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “but he is in the mix. He was impressive.” Sanders began his coaching career at a school he started, Prime Prep, which was also in the area. His last stop before Jackson State was Trinity Christian in nearby Cedar Hill, Texas, where he was offensive coordinator. Sanders is under contract with JSU through Dec. 1 2024, making $300,000 annually. If he terminates the contract he will owe Jackson State 50% of the remaining value of his contract.
It’s no surprise that George and Sanders are in demand. They have name value and credibility with prospective recruits that can’t be underestimated. It was. major coup for TSU and Jackson State that they chose them, and both schools are getting major attention because of it. Given the lack of Black head coaches at major colleges, and the paydays that they can get, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if either or both decided to leave before their contracts expire.
However it looks as though George, at least for now, has no desire to depart, while Sanders may well leave if he gets the opportunity.