‘All eyes will be on us:’ SWAC coaches relish increased ESPN television exposure


Alabama A&M football
Photo: Alabama A&M Athletics

The SWAC is starting to bear fruit from its spring football partnership with ESPN.

On the strength of the popularity and intrigue of Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders, another game involving the school will be elevated to the highest tier of the network next month.

The Jackson State- Southern matchup on April 3 and the Jackson State Alabama-A&M matchup on April 10 will be televised on ESPN after originally being slated to air on ESPNU.

They are in a series of games this season that have been flexed to another ESPN tier. The March 14 Jackson State-Mississippi Valley State game was moved from ESPN3 to ESPN2. Last Saturday’s Alabama State-Jackson State game also shifted to ESPN2.

The opportunity for more prominent nationally televised games has coaches around the conference embracing the chance to showcase their programs.

“We will put a good show on for ESPN and the nation,” said Alabama A&M head coach Connell Maynor. “We’ll show them what SWAC football is all about. It is a win-win situation to be playing on national TV. All eyes will be on us.”

Also read: ESPN elevates in-state SWAC East rivalry game up the network totem pole

Alabama State head coach Donald Hill-Ely, whose team won in thrilling 35-28 fashion over Jackson State, explained that the ability to compete on the platform ESPN provides can only enhance the brand of the program.

“It gives us an opportunity to gain a lot of recruits that are out there, and give our fans a chance to see us across the country,” Hill-Ely said.

Sanders himself has embraced the interest around Jackson State football since his arrival and enthusiasm for HBCUs being a conduit for newfound sweeping attention.

“Every time we play on television and people want to see us, what does that do?” Sanders said. “That allows other teams and players and coaches and everyone to be seen and heard and get the notoriety that we all desire. A lot of people didn’t even know Ezra Gray. I’m sure the whole country knows who he is now because the kid balled, and I’m proud of him.

“They had a couple of defensive backs that played some outstanding football and guess what? I’m proud of them because they may get a shot to go to the next level because of the attention and exposure warranted by Jackson State University.”



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