When Jackson State announced the hiring of NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders as the team’s newest head coach back in 2020, it undoubtedly changed the trajectory of Tigers football. Not only did JSU start to become an HBCU power again practically overnight, but college football in general saw the ripple effects of the high-profile hiring.
Sanders, who also goes by “Coach Prime” at JSU, did what only a man of his caliber could pull off and flipped then-Florida State commit Travis Hunter to Jackson State. Hunter was a five-star cornerback regarded by several media outlets as the top prospect in the country.
Hunter, who had been committed to FSU for nearly two years, became the first five-star recruit to sign with an FCS program. This was truly historic for not only JSU, but for the subdivision as a whole. That’s the effect a coach with the personality and the prestige of a guy like Sanders can have.
Landing Hunter has been just one of many successes the Sanders regime has achieved. Jackson State won 11 games last fall, many in blowout fashion, en route to a dominant SWAC championship victory and the program’s first appearance in the Celebration Bowl.
Sanders’ own son and team quarterback Shedeur Sanders won the Jerry Rice Award last year as well, an honor given annually to the FCS’ best freshman player. And for Jackson State, this all is just the beginning. Many believe, with good reason, that JSU is in the dawning days of a dominant HBCU dynasty.
That’s probably why fans have been intrigued and even downright giddy about the idea of Jackson State squaring off with juggernaut North Dakota State for a potential non-conference matchup at some point. For weeks Twitter has been full of chatter about how JSU should schedule a non-conference game ot even a home-and-home series with the Bison. After all, what better litmus test for the Tigers than playing the team that has practically owned the FCS over the last 12 years?
NDSU, winners of 9 of the past 11 national championships, have the most decorated trophy case of any team at that level, past or present. Head coach Matt Entz is one in a long line of Bison coaches to continue the proud tradition and everybody knows that trips to Fargo are almost impossible for any visitor. North Dakota State is just that program.
So when it came to light earlier this month that the Bison had indeed contacted Jackson State about the idea of a game, FCS fans went wild. In this case though, fact is much more bland than fantasy. According to multiple reports, the prospect of an on-field meeting between the two teams will have to wait for a while.
“We’ve had some conversation with them and at this point there wasn’t interest from their end,” North Dakota State athletic director Matt Larsen told The Bluebloods . “I think Coach Sanders is building a great program down there ... We like to go out and schedule teams that are really competitive and play at a high level, and they certainly are one. Again, we’ve reached out but at this point that’s not a direction they wanted to go and we certainly respect that.”
A few outlandish claims are being made on both sides of the coin regarding the news, some saying that Jackson State wants no part of NDSU out of fear and others saying that the Bison are practically begging JSU for a game because FBS schools no longer want to pay them for a potential upset. Both notions are incorrect.
The fact of the matter is that scheduling non-conference games is not as cut-and-dried as many believe. Calendars must be open on the right dates for both parties involved and it must financially make sense for the traveling team as well as the host institution. Right now those stars just don’t align for the Tigers and the Bison.
NDSU has inked out its non-conference slate dating up through 2024 and several of those games feature HBCU programs as well as FBS competition, Jackson State is busy filling out future contests against the likes of Tennessee State, ULM and SC State among several others.
There is a very long shot possibility that the two could meet up in the FCS playoffs, but a whole slew of things needs to happen, especially on Jackson State’s end, for that to occur. It isn’t everyday HBCU teams make the playoffs. See our article on last year’s Florida A&M squad for what that entails.
As fun as a matchup between the two programs would be, fans will unfortunately just have to sit tight for the time being. Maybe down the line we’ll get to see it, however, as of right now it isn’t happening.