JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — When the Sonic Boom marching band of Jackson State University (JSU) performed in front of city officials, that excitement overflowed from the football field where frantic fans cheered for the Tigers to become Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) champions for the first since 2007.
“This is the best ever, it took a long time,” said JSU fan Debora Webb-Williams.
The passion was undeniable as Head Coach Deion Sanders and the staff took the team to new heights.
“This is bigger than just football is what he does. He brings the culture of our people together,” said JSU fan Bobby Sullivan.
However, changing JSU’s culture began more than a year ago when JSU leaders announced they were hiring Coach Prime.
The decision to hire Coach Prime was an informed decision by JSU President Thomas Hudson and Athletic Director Ashley Robinson. It was a move to bring Tiger Football back to its glory days.
“A lot of people didn’t believe that Coach Prime would come to JSU. The story behind that is that Coach Prime wanted to be back at JSU. He wanted to make a change. He wanted to show people that it is possible at JSU and that has changed the mentality,” says Robinson.
The mentality is changing, not only among the players, but also among the students, the alumni and ultimately the capital. Robinson said the buy-in was huge with record attendance.
“On the same day we played Alabama State, we had Mississippi State play at the University of Alabama. We had 55,000 and they had 53,000. Our people and our alumni came to us to support, and that’s the kind of thing we need to bring to the market,” Robinson said.
Marketable not only for recruiting players but also for recruiting students to look at a historically black college/university (HBCU) like JSU as an option. President Hudson said the excitement over JSU is far-reaching.
“What excitement does is give more alumni. It also grows donations from people who are not alumni. They Maybe they’ve heard of the university and want to take another look. It has led to an increase in giving and arousal. Our annual percentage is increasing. These are just positives for JSU,” President Hudson said.
Fans couldn’t be more excited about the school’s future.
“It’s much bigger than Deion. It is much bigger than JSU. It affects everyone,” said JSU fan Jonovan Smith.
That was Robinson’s goal. She wanted to make sure everyone knew about JSU and HBCUs.
“My goal was that when you turn on the television, you see JSU. When you turn on the radio, you will hear JSU. If you open a newspaper, you will see JSU. That was my goal when I came here in 2018 and I think we have now,” said Robinson.
Turnover has increased by about 60% to 70% and alumni education has almost doubled after this football season. The university looks set to continue this trend.