Deion Sanders: Nick Saban Implying Travis Hunter Picked HBCU for Money 'Stung'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVMay 20, 2022

JSU football coach Deion "Prime" Sanders prepares his team for the start of the annual spring football game. (William H. Kelly/University Communications/Jackson State University via Getty Images)
William H. Kelly/University Communications/Jackson State University via Getty Images

On Wednesday, Alabama head coach Nick Saban told a Birmingham crowd that "Jackson State paid a guy a million dollars last year that was a really good Division I player to come to school," ostensibly speaking about the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2022, Travis Hunter. 

On Friday, Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders—who already responded to those remarks in a series of tweets—further commented on the situation. 

"The thing that stung was you feel like there's no connectivity for the culture and for our people that the only way we could do that is we paying,” he said on I Am Athlete Tonight (h/t Mike Rodak of AL.com). 

Sanders continued:

"So that's how you feel? So there's no way that I could secure a Power 5-caliber player? ... Like, he chose something less to participate in than what they could offer, and he chose less. Then I started thinking—14 years in the NFL at a certain level don't qualify me? So being in the Hall of Fame don't qualify? So being a father of five—a real there father of five—don't qualify me?
"So being an HBCU football coach and winning don't qualify me? Just being a real person and there for my friends, family members, loved ones and whoever else don’t qualify me? I've coached in the NFL, the Under Armour All-American game for I think 14 years straight. Some of the best players in the nation, so that don't qualify me? I've coached high school football for a plethora of years and won four straight state championships and that don't qualify me?
"I'm disqualified from a guy that looks like me, talks like me, walks like me and kind of wants to be like me? That's a problem for me."

Saban—who also went after Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M, saying the Aggies "bought every player on their team"—apologized for his remarks and said he reached out to Sanders, though he didn't hear back from him. 

Sanders confirmed on I Am Athlete Tonight that Saban reached out to his people, but told Jean-Jacques Taylor of Andscape on Thursday that he preferred to have a public discussion with the Alabama head coach. 

"We need to talk publicly—not privately. What you said was public. That doesn't require a conversation. Let's talk publicly and let everybody hear the conversation," he said. "You can't do that publicly and call privately."

But Sanders added that he still has a great deal of respect for Saban and described him as the "magna cum laude of college football," suggesting that the Alabama head coach's comments were more a message to his program's donors than anything else.

"Coach Saban wasn't talking to me. Coach Saban wasn't talking to Jimbo Fisher. He was talking to his boosters," he said. "He was talking to his alumni. He was talking to his givers. He was trying to get money. That was what he was doing. He was just using us to get to where he was trying to get to."

Saban, in his apology remarks, said he didn't have issue with name, likeness and image rights for college athletes, but more so what he described as collectives that are funneling money directly to players. 

"I think collectives are the issue," he said. I think one of the solutions would be if you have people that are representatives of your school that give money to a collective, and then the collective turns around and gives it to players on the team... then that collective should become a representative of the institution. And they should not be able to give money to the player, just like an alumnus can't give money to a player."