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Cricket Celebration Bowl - South Carolina State v Jackson State

Head coach Deion Sanders of the Jackson State Tigers looks on against the South Carolina State Bulldogs during the second half of the Cricket Celebration Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 18, 2021, in Atlanta | Source: Kevin C. Cox / Getty

We are in the midst of arguably one of the most impactful eras of HBCU athletics.

The attention and spotlight on HBCU sports are at one of their highest points in recent history. A huge reason for that is the influx of former professional athletes taking head coaching jobs at these institutions and providing their guidance and expertise to the next generation.

As many people know, Deion Sanders became the head coach at Jackson State and has made waves, especially with the acquisition of top-level prospects such as Travis Hunter and Kevin Coleman Jr.

But it’s not just Sanders that’s creating change; many other notable former professional athletes are making a positive impact on these schools’ athletic programs.

Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, who is one of the greatest basketball players in WNBA history, is now at the helm as the head coach of the Texas Southern Lady Tigers. Eddie George is a Tennessee Titans’ legend and is now leading the Tennessee State Football program. Hue Jackson, a respected NFL coach for years, just took over the Grambling State football head coaching position. And Mo Williams, an NBA vet, is now trying to transform the Alabama State basketball program as the head man in charge.

These are only a few of the names that are strengthening this reinvigoration of former notable professionals coming to these historic institutions.

Hopefully, this movement will foster the pipeline for former professional players to come to HBCUs to get coaching experience. This will help solve a few different problems that seem to persist when it comes to diversity in athletics. This new wave will not only strengthen the visibility of many HBCUs around the country from the exposure that these former professional athletes can provide, but it will also give former athletes who wish to get into coaching an avenue to gain experience and increase their skill set as a coach.

HBCUs win because of the notoriety and expertise they gain from the coach and the coach gets a chance to prove himself in a traditionally safe space. We already have a lack of minority coaches on higher levels of football especially in the NFL where there is only one Black head coach currently employed. HBCU coaching opportunities could be the start of real change in the coaching community.

It’s a win-win for all parties involved. These former players can build their coaching resumes and for the ones who choose to stay at their HBCU for the long term, they could potentially create a dominant program that resembles the old school days of HBCU football.


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