Deion Sanders attends the Pepsi NFL anthems kick off at Hard Rock Cafe on September 4, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Dario Cantatore/Invision/AP) ORG XMIT: CAENT102

At 3-2, it remains to be seen if Deion Sanders will succeed as Coach Prime. His first Tigers team won its first three games and climbed inside the top-25, but since then they’ve dropped two straight, the latest by 20 points.

“I told them a story about back in the day, we didn’t have swimming lessons,” Sanders said following Saturday’s 34-14 loss to Southern. “They went and threw us in the pool. And we had to believe that we could swim and we was going to make it back to the side. Back in the day, we didn’t have an opportunity to get in nobody’s DMs (direct messages). We had to shoot our game. We had to believe that that woman was going to have love for us, just by the game we spat. We had to believe.”

But as a brand ambassador for the university and HBCUs in general, Deion Sanders has (so far) absolutely been worth the investment and then some.

For starters, five of Jackson State’s regular season games are set for ESPN telecasts. That’s real, on-your-actual TV ESPN — one on ESPNU, two on The Duce, and two on the Mothership.

Beyond that, there’s the ancillary exposure his presence brings to Jackson State. The Under Armour deal, the tie-ins with Barstool Sports and, now, this.

On Monday, Pepsi announced it is now the official soft drink supplier of all SWAC football and basketball events through 2023.

As part of the deal — which will see PepsiCo hire at least one graduate from each SWAC school — Sanders will serve as a conduit between the company and the conference. Deion has endorsed Pepsi for multiple decades, a relationship that continues today.

“I think we’ve done a wonderful job of getting the attention, but now that we’ve gotten the attention and focus, we’ve got to make something happen,” Sanders said. “We’ve got to put pen to paper and not only be in the spotlight but we’ve got to make it happen. That’s what Pepsi’s done—they’ve taken the initiative to truly make it happen not just here at Jackson State but a multitude of HBCUs across the country.

“I’m happy to be the conduit, to be the ambassador of the SWAC and this wonderful partnership. I can’t even tell you how wonderful and how large this is for us.”

Prime Time bringing in a new sponsor with global reach is great for the SWAC and great for Jackson State. Now, can Coach Sanders slow down Alabama A&M’s offense on Saturday? Because as great as sponsors and deals are, none of this works if Deion doesn’t win. That’s what makes this whole arrangement so fascinating in the first place.


National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.