A day after his nationally-ranked Jackson State squad throttled rival Florida A&M in Miami, Deion Sanders was featured on his show’s football schedule during Monday’s Southwestern Athletic Conference coaches’ teleconference.
The Tigers (1-0), winners 59-3 against a Rattlers team that last week scored 24 points against the Atlantic Coast Conference program and the North Carolina Football Bowls Subdivision, are again far from their home stadium this week when they take on Tennessee State in what Sanders touts will be Jackson State’s last appearance in the Southern Heritage Classic at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.
Sanders and the JSU program face a considerable amount of uncertainty as the state of Mississippi, and specifically his hometown of Jackson, grapples with crippling water problems that are receiving state and national attention as a federal disaster.
“Vital. Shoot, we don’t have a home game if we don’t,” Sanders said of playing inside Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. “We’re already giving away three games to these dern Classics, which I don’t like.
“We are going to give away three games, which I don’t like. That could be 3 home games. That’s more revenue for this team, this school, this community, all of us. I don’t even want to get into that. It is vital that we play at home. As Dorothy said in the ‘Wizard of Oz’, there is no place like home. It is not like this? We love playing at home.”
In addition to the opening tilt against FAMU at Miami’s Orange Blossom Classic and this week’s Southern Heritage Classic, the Tigers are also scheduled to face SWAC foe Alabama A&M at the Gulf Coast Challenge in Mobile, Alabama at Ladd- Peebles, home of the university. football’s greatest all-star game, the Senior Bowl.
With Sanders sweeping his show’s brand across all platforms, he believes home games serve the Tigers better than these neutral site contests that cost the entire JSU ecosystem money and deny their players and base fans the opportunity to see each other at home.
“We love it when the kids get off the bus and take that ride and the fans are screaming and adoring and the ‘Sonic Boom’ (band) is playing,” Sanders said. “We can feel everyone. We can feel 60 (thousand fans).
“I’m crazy enough to believe that every time we walk into that stadium we’re going to feel like 60,000 this year. We are not accepting anything less, it should be (capacity crowds). We feel like we have a very good team, a very good staff, a very good fan base and a very good band. … Everything is running flat out right now. We want to take advantage of that. We have to play at home.”
Already declaring publicly that this is his team’s last appearance at the Memphis event, Sanders is not backing down from that stance despite the fact that Summitt Management Corporation, which runs the Southern Heritage Classic, filed a lawsuit in Memphis against the Tigers regarding what the company labels. it’s an attempt to breach a contract that calls for two more games between Tennessee State and Jackson State in the next two seasons.
“We’re there to play football,” Sanders said of this week’s game, calling it a game against his “dear” friend Eddie George, the TSU head coach. “I don’t know how this can be uncomfortable when you come to play football. The purpose is to play football and that is what we come to play.
“As far as the commercial aspect of that, that’s not beneficial to us, it’s not right for us. We love the Clasico, it’s a wonderful Clasico. We just don’t want to play it. It’s a great Clasico, I think they do a wonderful job. We just chose not to have a place in it anymore.”