Things got spicy in the SWAC this weekend after Alabama State University’s head football coach Eddie Robinson Jr. snubbed Jackson State University head coach Deion Sanders during the traditional postgame handshake.
And it might be one of the best things that could have happened for HBCU football.
The exchange created a firestorm on social media before completely exploding when Robinson Jr. and Sanders both gave impassioned comments regarding the incident.
“I thought it was a lot of disrespect all week,” Robinson said after the game. “You know going to be disrespectful the whole week in the media. We didn’t talk in the pregame. I was out there the whole time at the 50-yard line. He walked around our offensive huddle and our whole end zone. He came the lone way around the get to his side of the field. I thought that wasn’t classy at all.”
Robinson Jr. emphasized: “He ain’t SWAC. I’m SWAC. He ain’t SWAC.”
In case there was any confusion, Robinson Jr. added: “We ain’t friends. There was no need for no embrace.”
Sanders didn’t mince his words when asked about what happened.
“I’m not one to come back the next day and you going to pick up the phone and you going to apologize and we straight,” Sanders responded. “No, not whatsoever. You meant that mess. And one of the comments that kind of disturbed me out of all the comments, that I’m not SWAC. Who is? I got time today. Who is SWAC if I ain’t SWAC? Who is SWAC if I ain’t SWAC?”
Robinson Jr. was a star linebacker for Alabama State who helped the team win a Black College Football National Championship in 1991. It’s easy to see why there is a lot of pride that Robinson Jr. has in being the football coach for Alabama State.
And while his handling of this situation with Sanders was controversial, a healthy and respectful animosity amongst SWAC coaches would be good for HBCU football.
The SWAC is now unequivocally the premier HBCU sports conference since the MEAC has shrunk due to schools leaving. As a coaching newcomer hired last year, Robinson Jr. has now added a new level of interest in future matchups against Sanders.
No matter how good each team will be in the next few years, eyes will be on those two coaches as long as they both stay at their respective universities. At a time when national audiences are gaining an increasing amount of interest in HBCU sports — especially HBCU football — the need for more intriguing relationships and storylines to follow will be extremely beneficial.
A little pettiness like this back-and-forth will likely do more good for the sport overall as long as it’s kept under control.
If the SWAC can continue to elevate its profile, it could lead to improvements in many other areas such as increased revenue from sponsorships, media distribution deals, ticket sales and even enrollment.
So, as Sanders continues to dominate the SWAC, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for someone like Robinson Jr. to continue to challenge the Jackson State juggernaut both on and off the field.