One of the biggest coaching hires in FCS college football history has paid quick dividends.
Jackson State University certainly “believes” in the results under Deion Sanders, who on Tuesday was named the 2021 recipient of the Stats Perform FCS Eddie Robinson Award, which is presented to the national coach of the year in the Division I subdivision.
One of 17 finalists for the award, which is named for legendary Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson and celebrating its 35th anniversary season, Sanders will be honored at the FCS National Awards Banquet on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.
Just over a year after the school made the legendary cornerback a first-time head coach, the Tigers have set a program record with 11 wins and captured the Southwestern Athletic Conference title for the first time since 2007. The Tigers have qualified for the Celebration Bowl for the first time, set to face South Carolina State on Saturday in Atlanta.
“This is a team effort, it’s a valiant effort, it takes a lot, it does not just take me. I know it takes a visionary, but people have to really support the vision. And that’s what we did,” Sanders said.
After Jackson State hired Sanders in September 2020, he quickly instituted an “I Believe” mantra to suggest positive days were ahead for a program that didn’t have a winning season since 2013.
In his first campaign this past spring, the Tigers went 4-3, but one win was a forfeit. This fall, they’ve left no doubt, losing only once by five points to an FBS opponent, even while the 54-year-old Sanders, who’s known as Coach Prime, coached in and around a three-week hospital stay.
With Sanders’ son Shedeur, a freshman quarterback, leading the offense as the 2021 Jerry Rice Award recipient, and the defense ranking as the SWAC’s best, Jackson State has gone 11-1, including 9-0 against conference opponents. While it’s unfolded, an average of 42,293 fans flocked to six home games – a single-season record for an FCS school.