Jackson State University football coach Deion Sanders said Black college football programs need more exposure. 

“We need to do better on all fronts,” he said in his latest appearance at the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Football Media Day this week. “In the last five years, we’ve only had 12 guys get drafted to the NFL…Exposure has to play a part.”

Sanders acknowledged the coverage by ESPN, but also called out the formerly Black-owned network BET and current Black-owned station TV One. 

“We have TV One and we have BET. Where they at?” he said. 

For around 20 years, BET aired HBCU football. It was one of the foundational aspects of the company’s programming and integral in the station’s success, until founder Robert Johnson sold the station in the early 2000s. BET gave not only HBCU football a platform, airing games from the CIAA, SIAC, MEAC, and SWAC to more than 20 million viewers, but also spotlighted halftime battles of the bands. Its coverage ceased following the Viacom acquisition. 

Sanders was not wrong about exposure playing a role in recruitment. During the years that BET broadcasted live HBCU football games, they also proved to be a recruiting tool. According to a 1989 article in the Winston-Salem Chronicle, the New York Jets called the station weekly to find out which games were airing and scout players. 

This year, ESPN is airing 39 HBCU football games, including eight of the 10 that Sanders’ team has scheduled this season. The Undefeated tweeted the SWAC’s ESPN schedule Tuesday.

Sanders has been vocal about HBCU programs. Earlier this year, as all 259 picks of the NFL draft went by, Coach Prime posted about HBCU players being “neglected and rejected."

This year marked the ninth time since 2000 that no HBCU players were selected. According to HBCU Gameday, only five out of the 460 NFL prospects for 2021 came from an HBCU.

"I witnessed a multitude of kids that we played against that were more than qualified to be drafted. My prayers are that This won’t EVER happen again,” he posted on Instagram.