I’ve previously written about the “Deion Sanders Effect” at Jackson State. It’s definitely palpable. He’s ushered in an energy on campus that we’ve never seen in the past. That excitement has managed to engulf the entire city. Add to it JSU’s first SWAC championship since 2007, and it isn’t far-fetched to say that JSU Tigers football is the bright spot in our much maligned capital.
The Tigers defeated Prairie View this past weekend (27-10) to win back a title that we pretty much owned for the decade of the 1990s. JSU now heads to Atlanta on December 18th to play in the Celebration Bowl, which was created in 2015 to showcase the nation’s top HBCUs in NCAA Division 1. Coach Sanders even managed to top that news earlier this week by landing the nation’s number one high school recruit, Travis Hunter of Suwanee, GA. The Collins Hill HS corner back flipped on Florida State and chose Jackson State after meeting with Sanders last month and visiting the campus. “Prime Time” had definitely been on a roll!
But, this has morphed into something more than just sports and school pride. The success of Sanders and the football team has put the city of Jackson in the national spotlight — in a positive spotlight at that. It has united Jacksonians (and Mississippians) from all walks of life who have rallied around the team and its high profile coach. I’ve seen Black, white, young, old, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss fans cheering on JSU. JSU IS mentioned on high profile sports TV programs and articles in Sports Illustrated. It’s a hot ticket indeed.
Tiger Woods once famously said, “Winning solves everything.”. And while a championship and national attention won’t cure all that ails us, it’s a start. Jackson is experiencing a crippling infrastructure issue. The pipes under the city have failed and our water supply is regularly affected. It’s going to take billions of dollars and at least a decade to fix. We’ve just broken a record for homicides in the city. Crime has plagued us for years and there’s been an uptick since the pandemic. We don’t have enough police officers on our streets to handle the demand and the pay doesn’t have people lining up to get sworn in. Public trust for elected officials is in the toilet and Generation Z can’t wait to take the first thing smoking out of Jackson. To me, though, it’s not far-fetched to think that JSU’s success could be part of the answers we’ve all been looking for.
Between Homecoming, the Capital City Classic, and now the SWAC championship game, it is estimated that JSU has generated nearly $15 million for Jackson. Hotels have been booked to capacity and restaurants have been full. He who holds the coin makes the rules. So imagine a scenario where JSU President Thomas Hudson wields more power than the mayor or a state senator. If this kind of revenue can be regularly generated each year, that could be a thing.