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Deion Sanders departure felt in early-season HBCU TV ratings

After trending up for two years with Deion Sanders, the Jackson State-FAMU TV ratings took a big dip.

The impact of Deion Sanders on TV viewership was felt by broadcasts involving both Colorado and Jackson State on opening weekend. 

Sanders and Colorado had over 7 million viewers watching as they took down TCU on Saturday afternoon, according to Sports Media Watch. Meanwhile, Jackson State taking on Florida A&M in the Orange Blossom Classic drew less than half of what it did the previous year with Sanders at the helm.

According to the report, 438,000 fans tuned into the 2023 Orange Blossom Classic as Florida A&M beat Jackson State 28-10 on ESPN. Contrast that with the numbers for the same matchup the same weekend in 2023 when JSU featured Deion Sanders, Shedeur Sanders and debuted Travis Hunter — viewership numbers hit 958,000 despite being on ESPN2. The 2021 matchup between the teams drew better than 715k viewers, outdrawing some Power Five games that year.

Black College Football HOF, HBCU football
Winston-Salem State defensive lineman Trevor Willard looks down during the 2022 Black College Football Hall of Fame game. (Steven J. Gaither)

While it incurred the most significant drop-off, it wasn’t the only HBCU football game played on that day to experience one. The Black College Football Hall of Fame game between Morehouse College and Virginia Union drew 168,000 viewers — down from 200,000 that saw Winston-Salem State take on Central State in 2022.

Other games that showed up in the ratings included Hampton University taking down Grambling State, which saw a viewership of 109k fans. The Red Tails Classic, broadcast on ESPN, had 67,000 fans watching as Fort Valley State took on Tuskegee in the battle of SIAC football powers. 

Deion Sanders departure felt in early-season HBCU TV ratings
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