Schools Reap The Benefits of Hiring Coach Eddie George, Coach Prime
Nashville, Tenn. Deion Sanders was all over national television, putting Jackson State in the spotlight every time his insurance ads were aired.
The hiring of Eddie George had a similar effect in Tennessee.
Thanks to their two high-profile coaches, Jackson State and Tennessee State are reaping benefits from larger crowds and more interest from senior staff to companies wanting to cash in on all the hype, striking deals with both universities and players under the new name, image, and similarity rules.
Just as university officials hope.
“It’s just re-establishing our soccer brand that’s been dominant for so many decades and just reclaiming that,” Tennessee State Athletic Director Mickey Allen said of George. “It was all I could ask for in a head coach.”
Allen said enrollment in Tennessee is already up, and four- and five-star recruits are looking closely at George and the Tigers. Tennessee hosted 317 recruits in one weekend.
Tennessee has received corporate attention from companies including The General, Best Buy and packaging sponsor Coca-Cola. A six-figure gift from trucking company Western Express has started a new weight room project for the indoor complex.
The Tigers has also partnered with OpenDorse to help athletes who have signed deals with restaurants, vendors, hair salons and cell phones deal with issues of name, image and similarity. Allen said brands that want to tap into George’s star power are passing on to their players.
“There are a lot of brands that want to be in touch, of course, with our head coach,” Allen said. “But then I think a lot of that star power he imparted to our student-athletes in the sport of football.”
The Southwestern Athletic Conference, the home of Jackson State, ranked 17th nationally through October 31 among the NIL Dealing Leagues tracked by OpenDorse. SWAC will also look at audience and television ratings to see how this can translate into new packages and more money.
“Deion Sanders’ training brought him even greater fame from a Jackson State perspective,” said SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland. “Obviously the conference benefits because if they’re looking at the Jackson State playing the role of another institution, that other institution will continue to have that advantage as well.”
Attendance is too. With Sanders, Jackson State has averaged 41,633 in home games this season. That’s a jump of 6,605 per game from 2019, the last full season before the pandemic and a year before Jackson State named Sanders in September 2020.
Jackson State did not respond to letters left by The Associated Press requesting interviews for this story.
Sanders’ son and quarterback, Shedeur, got his own endorsement deal with Beats by Dre. On the field, Sanders plays Jackson State (10-1) in the Southwestern Athletic Conference game on December 4. Tennessee State (5-6) just wrapped up its season.
“This is a massive achievement,” Sanders said on a recent call to SWAC coaches. “People thought we were kidding when I said we believed, but we really believe without a doubt.”
The Professional Football Hall of Fame had a head start on George, going 4-3 earlier this year in the pandemic-delayed spring season.
George is set in mid-April to revive a program with 13 National Championships for Blacks after three consecutive losing seasons, including 2-5 last spring. Guide the tigers home Longest winning streak Since 2016, the Ohio Valley Conference has won four in a row for the first time since 2013 and their best record since 2017 at 5-6.
The enthusiasm around George did not translate into an increased attendance in Tennessee. Her biggest rally was in Memphis as part of the Southern Heritage Classic against the state of Jackson and Sanders. The Tigers have already tied for 8,627 for a homecoming win over Murray State, but average 4,022 for four home games. That’s down from 8,787 on average over seven games in 2019.
“The only way I can get people in the stands is to put a successful product on the field,” said George. “That’s it. I mean, of course, I was disappointed that there were no fans, but that’s because of the lack of success. So I have to do my part.”
That’s why the state of Tennessee is going to hire a recruiting and equipment improvement manager through a deal with Under Armor. George wants offices, meeting rooms, training rooms and a weight room all in one building to simplify operations and save necessary time.
Sanders and George have been successful enough to have their names revealed for other jobs. George, who won a Heisman Trophy in Ohio, has been linked to Akron, while Sanders is reported to have interviewed Texas Christian while recovering from complications after foot surgery.
The man known as Coach Prime said he never believes rumors, especially when he’s in the hospital after complications from foot surgery. Sanders said TCU and others are interested in what they’re doing in Jackson State.
“They’re trying to figure out the formula,” Sanders said. “There is no substitute man. It’s love for these kids, challenging these kids, holding these kids accountable. Making sure they keep themselves up to be smart, strong, fast, and disciplined. That’s the secret. Not everyone has that recipe.”
That’s what George wants to build, and hopefully Sanders will be able to do it quickly — and he’s told his Tigers that changes are coming.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen Game of Thrones, but winter is coming,” said George. “Winter is coming, and it’s time to get busy.”
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