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Colorado football is great, but it can’t ‘go’ HBCU, RJ Young

What Deion Sanders is doing at Colorado football is incredible. But a state-flagship school hiring an HBCU coach doesn’t make it or its mascot one.


By Steven J. Gaither

A lot of what Deion Sanders is doing at Colorado football is what he did when he was coaching at an HBCU, albeit on a larger platform. The former Jackson State football coach has quickly the Pac-12 program from a has-been program to the epicenter of the college football world.

Never was that more on display than this week as Colorado football prepares to take on rival Colorado. ESPN has been camped out in Boulder since Friday, hosting First Take and the Pat McAfee Show there on Friday and College Football Gameday on Sunday. And it’s not just The World Wide Leader — Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff showed up as well.

Another member of Fox Sports college football media team, R.J. Young, has been covering Sanders since he was coaching at Jackson State. Much of his content has continued to be Coach Prime focused as he’s made the move to Colorado.

Young posted a tweet that has drawn quite a bit of criticism. Young posted a TikTok of Colorado’s mascot, ‘Ralphie The Buffalo’ wearing gold chains with a Louis Vuton-inpired pattern and sunglasses.


His caption read “Ralphie went HBCU and was never the same.”

oung went to the University of Tulsa as an undergraduate and got his masters from Oklahoma. An accomplished journalist, he is the author of ‘Requiem For The Massacre’ which tells the truth about the massacre that occurred on Black Wall Street. He’s obviously a very serious and proud black man.

But his Ralphie/HBCU post was incredibly unserious.

Yes, it is amazing to watch Deion Sanders do what he did at Jackson State at the Power Five level. He has given Colorado football a relevance and swagger it has never had and will never have again. He’s had everyone from Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe (actual HBCU graduates) to Wu-Tang pulling up to Boulder to support he and his team. In a matter of weeks, it has become the casual black fan’s favorite Power Five program. 

But Colorado nor its mascot will never be able to “go” HBCU. CU is a state flagship university in an affluent, white city that had the wherewithal to offer Deion Sanders money and resources that Jackson State — an actual HBCU located in the heart of the poorest state in America — could never dream of. It is being applauded for taking a chance on hiring Deion Sanders when the truth is, he’s running largely off the same blueprint that was in place at Jackson State. He’s got the same quarterback —  who was doubted for his talents because he was playing at an HBCU — and several of the same coaches and support staff.

Social media is made for fun and everyone likes a good joke. But HBCU culture can’t be cosplayed. Jackson State could never compete with Colorado in terms of salary and resources, but Colorado can never have the cultural significance to black people that JSU and other actual HBCUs have.


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