Jackson State football head coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders said during SWAC Media Day (h/t Mike Rodak of al.com) that his team is not ready to play Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide, although he appears open to it down the road as his program develops.
"He's not gonna play us right now," Sanders said at SWAC media day in Birmingham. "We're not ready to that. We're not into sacrificing our kids to get a check. He got to give me another year."
The question to Sanders regarding Alabama was in response to Saban fielding a question at SEC media days regarding whether he'd be open to playing in-state HBCUs Alabama State and Alabama A&M, per Touchdown Alabama.
"I think I certainly can see," Saban said. "We've tried to be very supportive. Miss Terry is on the Board of Trustees at Stillman College. I've always been an advocate of playing in-state schools because I think it sort of helps them raise their level and their ability to compete, which obviously if you do that, you also contribute to how successful the players in those organizations can be, So I would be very much in favor of that."
Sanders' Jackson State Tigers were one of the best HBCU football teams in 2021. They went 11-2, won the SWAC and made the Celebration Bowl, where the Tigers fell to South Carolina State.
Sanders has done tremendous work at Jackson State in his two seasons there, but he noted that a size differential on the lines of scrimmage is preventing meetings with Power Five schools right now.
"I got to beef up in the front," he said, per Rodak. "The difference in Power 5s and HBCUs right now is those big guys in the middle. It's not the quarterbacks, it's not the receivers and DBs or the skill positions. It's those big dogs in the middle. We've got to beef up that to be able to compete with something like that."
Sanders has already made recruiting waves, notably adding 5-star athlete Travis Hunter to the mix. Saban claimed he read that Hunter signed a million-dollar NIL deal with Jackson State. Hunter denied that report, and Sanders made his own remarks.
COACH PRIME @DeionSanders
You best believe I will address that LIE Coach SABAN told tomorrow. I was & awakened by my son <a href="https://twitter.com/ShedeurSanders?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ShedeurSanders</a> that sent me the article stating that WE PAYED <a href="https://twitter.com/TravisHunterJr?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TravisHunterJr</a> a Million to play at <a href="https://twitter.com/GoJSUTigersFB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GoJSUTigersFB</a> ! We as a PEOPLE don’t have to pay our PEOPLE to play with our PEOPLE.
Ultimately, Sanders has his team riding a massive wave of momentum, and it's conceivable to see them reach greater heights and compete well against Division I-FBS programs today. That day is not imminent, but it appears to be a possibility under Sanders' leadership.