Fireworks are brewing in the capital city with Jackson State set to host Alabama State this Saturday following last year’s altercation between the two teams’ coaches.
What is normally a quick handshake after the game turned into a physical resistance by an emotional Eddie Robinson, Jr. after the Alabama State head coach felt like then-Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders had disrespected him and his program.
Just over a year later, the Tigers and Hornets will be back on the gridiron but without Sanders in the picture, one is led to wonder how bad the blood might still be between the two programs.
After Jackson State defeated Alabama State 26-12 in last year’s game in Montgomery, the two coaches met at the center of the field and that’s when Sanders tried to go in for a “bro hug,” which was met with a swift shove from Robinson.
It’s Safe To Say That Alabama State HC Eddie Robinson Jr. & Jackson State HC Deion Sanders Didn’t Have The Friendliest Post-Game Handshake. pic.twitter.com/wKCGT10NYG
— LIGHT ON COLLEGE SPORTS (@LightOnSports) October 8, 2022
In his postgame interview, Robinson explained to the press that Coach Prime’s “antics” leading into the game was the source of the altercation.
“To be upfront, I thought it was a lot of disrespect the whole week,” Robinson said. “We didn’t talk pregame. I was out there the whole time at the 50-yard line. He walked through our huddle in our end zone, came the long way around to get to his side of the field in the pregame. Thought that wasn’t classy at all.”
Robinson, who was a player at Alabama State before returning to his alma mater as a coach in 2021, went on to call Sanders’ behavior disrespectful not only to ASU but to the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) as a whole.
“He ain’t SWAC. I’m SWAC. He ain’t SWAC. He’s in the conference, doing a great job…but you’re not going to come here and disrespect me and my team and my school and then want a bro hug. Shake my hand and get the hell off,” Robinson continued.
In response to Robinson’s comments, Sanders showed up to a team meeting the next week donning a hoodie that read “Who is SWAC?” on the front and “I am SWAC!” on the back.
Why homecoming matters more this year
During his tirade against Sanders, Robinson made it clear that he wanted to face off against the NFL Hall of Famer once more. He even challenged Jackson State to schedule them for their homecoming game.
“I hope he comes back next year. I pray he don’t get a power five job, so we can play them next year in Jackson,” Robinson said. “I pray they put us for their damn homecoming.”
And that’s exactly what Jackson State did, but this time around, Coach Prime will not be on the Tigers’ sideline as he has since bounced for Colorado University.
What Jackson State’s new coach is saying
Former Tigers player and assistant coach T.C. Taylor is now the frontman in Jackson after being endorsed by Sanders during his announcement to leave for a new job.
While reporters tried to bait Taylor into expanding on Robinson’s comments from a year ago, the first-year head coach wisely passed on jumping into the drama during his weekly press conference on Monday.
“No matter who it is, homecoming is homecoming,” Taylor said, acknowledging that he remembered the dispute between his former boss and Robinson. “You talk about all the people that will be in town. Me being an alum here, I know what homecoming means to Jackson State no matter who we’re playing. Our team is excited about it. It’s another conference game for us.”
Jackson State (4-2, 2-1 SWAC) and Alabama State (2-3, 1-2) will kick off Saturday at 2 p.m. CT. The game can be watched on ESPN+.