JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – As Jackson State University’s (JSU) Sonic Boom marching band performed for city officials, that excitement spilled over from the football field where frenzied fans cheered on the Tigers who would become Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) champions for the first time since 2007.
“This is the best ever, it’s been a long time coming,” said JSU fan Debora Webb-Williams.
The passion was undeniable when Head Coach Deion Sanders and staff took the squad to new heights.
“This is bigger than just football is what he’s doing. He’s getting the culture of our people together,” said JSU fan Bobby Sullivan.
However, changing the culture of JSU began more than a year ago when JSU leaders announced they were hiring Coach Prime.
The decision to hire Coach Prime was a calculated decision by JSU President Thomas Hudson and Athletic Director Ashley Robinson. It was a move to get Tiger football back to its glory days.
“A lot of people didn’t believe Coach Prime was coming to JSU. The story behind that is Coach Prime wanted to be back at JSU. He wanted to make change. He wanted to show people that it could be done at JSU and that changed the mindset,” said Robinson.
Changing the mindset not just with the players, but the student body, the alumni and eventually the Capital City. Robinson said the buy-in has been huge with record attendance.
“The same day we played Alabama State, we had Mississippi State play the University of Alabama. We had 55,000 and they had 53,000. Our people and our alumni came out to support, and that’s the kind of thing we have to market,” said Robinson.
Marketable not only for recruiting players, but to recruit 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 breed more alumni giving. It also breeds giving from those who aren’t alumni. They They might have heard about the university and want to take a second look. It’s led to an increase in giving and excitement. Our annual percentage rate is on the rise. These are only positives for JSU,” said President Hudson.
Fans could not be more excited about the school’s future.
“It’s much bigger than Deion. It’s much bigger than JSU. It’s impacting everybody,” 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 hear JSU. When you open a newspaper, you see JSU. That was my goal when I came here in 2018 and I think we’ve done that now,” said Robinson.
Revenue has increased by about 60% to 70% and alumni giving has almost double after this football season. The university is looking forward to that trend continuing.