Prime vs. Shine: A Spectacle in HBCU Sports History

On the eve of Bethune-Cookman University hosting Jackson State at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, FL for a Southwestern Athletic Conference East divisional showdown, I sat down and thought about what a dream scenario could’ve potentially been.

You know the generational conversations; the ones discussed in barbershops, sports bars, and on podcasts. The ones where you debate how things might have turned out if the events could’ve taken place:

  • 1987 Lakers vs 2001 Lakers
  • 1996 Bulls vs. 2016 Warriors
  • 1985 Bears vs. 2007 Patriots
  • 1999 FAMU Rattlers vs. 2002 B-CU Wildcats

As long as I can remember, these conversations have dominated the sports lexicon among fans. If we were to examine this through an HBCU lens, what could this game have been if a few things were different?

Yes folks, I’m talking about the “Brawl for it all in Duval.”

Or more eloquently stated, “Prime vs. Shine.”

For longtime fans and supporters of the university located in “The World’s Most Famous Beach,” the attention, swag, flash, and flair Jackson State head coach Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders has brought to the SWAC is nothing new to the Wildcat faithful. They’ve seen this movie before. In fact, some would argue that B-CU and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Hall of Famer Alvin “Shine” Wyatt is the architect of HBCU flamboyant coaches. Long before it was popular, and quite frankly considered off-putting by his coaching peers, “Shine” as he is affectionately called, traded coach’s polos and khakis for leisure suits and alligator boots. And while he was definitely the epitome of style, there was plenty of substance there as well.

In his 13 years as head coach of Bethune-Cookman, Wyatt became the all-time winningest coach in school history, amassing a record of 90-54, earning wins against legendary coaches such as Joe Taylor, Bill Hayes, Oliver “Buddy” Pough, and his school’s interstate rival Florida A&M and coach William “Billy” Joe. He also captured two MEAC Titles (2002, 2003), one conference coach of the year award (1998), one Heritage Bowl appearance (1998) and two NCAA FCS Playoff appearances (2002, 2003).

He also placed several players in the NFL such as Rashean Mathis, Nick Collins, and Eric Weems. Wyatt would depart the Wildcat program in 2009 as arguably the greatest coach in school history.

11 years later, it appeared HBCU football had found a reincarnation of Wyatt when Jackson State announced it was hiring Deion Sanders as its 21st head coach of their football program. Known for his flashy style both on and off the field as a player, “Prime Time” as he was affectionately called, is widely considered the best defensive back in the history of the NFL and was enshrined into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2011.

In just one calendar year, Coach Prime guided the Tigers to their first SWAC championship since 2007, received the Eddie Robinson Award as the season’s top FCS head coach and currently has his Tigers at a perfect 5-0 and a Top 10 ranking in FCS standings. In the process, he also managed to flip the 2022 #1 high school recruit in Travis Hunter away from his alma mater Florida State to Jackson State, much to the chagrin of several college coaches across the country and watch his son, Shedeur Sanders, win the Jerry Rice Award, given to the best freshman player in FCS football.

So, in a perfect world, what would a matchup between Shine and Prime look like? Well first, aside from the game being played on the field, the pre-game press conferences would be must-see TV. I can only imagine the witty banter between the coaches prior to the game. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing either of them during a media scrum, the quotes that would have been given would have forever been etched in history. Never one to miss a marketing opportunity, Sanders would certainly have his camera crew following him around all week (courtesy of his relationship with Barstool Sports) documenting each step of preparation before the game.

Not to be outdone, Shine would have had the CatEye Network chronicling everything from his team running wind sprints on the beach before dawn to him grabbing some wings from the legendary Bethune Grill near campus (if you know you know).

On gameday, while Prime would likely opt for a JSU hoodie and sweats, you better believe, no matter the weather, Shine would come out of the tunnel donning a mink coat, accompanied by a white leisure suit with oversized gold belt buckle, or an officially licensed B-CU branded one piece jumpsuit. There’s no doubt the following Monday they both would have been featured on ESPN’s Get Up, First Take, Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption amongst other shows on competing networks.

While it is tough to predict the outcome of the game, as Jackson State boasts a potent offense vs the always formidable Wildcat defense during Wyatt’s tenure, the true winners would’ve been the fans and supporters of both schools and HBCU’s in general. The game itself would have been one of those “you had to be there” affairs, where, as the years go by, the legend of the story grows larger and larger.

While that certainly will not be the case on Saturday as current Wildcat head coach Terry Sims is the complete antithesis of Wyatt in more ways than one, sometimes it’s nice to sit back, smile and think about what could have possibly been.

After all, a guy can dream.

Wildcats fall to defending SWAC champions Alabama A&M, 30-27

DAYTONA, FL—Head coach Terry Sims and the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats opened their inaugural season in the Southwestern Athletic Conference against the defending champion Alabama A&M University Bulldogs in search of their first win of the season. Unfortunately, untimely penalties and a failure to get stops on the defensive end in key moments of the game caused the Wildcats to suffer their third loss of the season in as many games 30-27 at Daytona Stadium at Larry Kelly Field.

Sims was particularly perturbed by the number of penalties the Wildcats amassed in the game (14-144), many of which allowed Alabama A&M to sustain scoring drives.

“Way too many penalties in the first half, Sims said. It was something we talked about all week that couldn’t happen. I think we had over 100 yards of penalties in the first half (12-124) and you’re not going to win football games that way.”

Coming into the game, both teams had a healthy respect for each other’s offenses and those units did not disappoint. Preseason SWAC Offensive Player of the Year Aqeel Glass paced the Bulldogs with 243 yards of total offense (234 passing) and two touchdown passes, while Wildcat senior quarterback Shannon Patrick went 17-31 for 221 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

Leading the ground game for the Wildcats was Que’Shaun Byrd rushing for 132 yards and two scores on 21 carries, while AAMU’s Gary Quarles broke the century mark with 101 yards on 27 carries and a score.

Bulldogs treated to Pre-Game Florida Monsoon

The beginning of the game was marred by classic Florida inclement weather. A torrential downpour less than a half hour before kickoff and the presence of lightning strikes in the area forced the game to be delayed by 30 minutes. Once the game was underway, the “electric” play of both Glass and the Bulldog offense was immediately on display.

Alabama A&M got on the board first after a Wildcat miscue. Following a Patrick interception by AAMU safety Trenell Troutman, six plays later, Glass found receiver Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim on a quarterback rollout for an eight-yard touchdown pass to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead over the Wildcats with 8:34 remaining in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs would then add two additional field goals (one in the first and another in the second) by Spencer Corey after scoring drives of 65 yards and 59 yards respectively to increase the AAMU lead to 13-0 with 12:18 remaining in the first half.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats would finally get on the board as sophomore defensive back Darnell Deas caught the ball at the BCU 11-yard line and took the kickoff 89 yards for the first Wildcat touchdown of the evening. The successful PAT attempt cut the Bulldog deficit to 13-7 with 12:04 remaining in the first half.

AAMU immediately came back and engineered a nine play, 64-yard drive, capped by a three-yard touchdown scamper by Quarles to extend the Wildcat deficit to 20-7 with 8:20 remaining in the first half.

The Cats were able to find paydirt again via Byrd as he took a delayed handoff and rushed 14 yards for the second Wildcat score of the half, capping a seven play, 52-yard drive to cut the deficit to 20-13 with 3:04 remaining before halftime after a failed PAT attempt by Dylan Moghaddam.

AAMU head coach Connell Maynor and the Bulldogs would then employ their two-minute offense, largely behind the arm of Glass and finished a 10 play, 65-yard drive with a 12 yard touchdown strike to Ibrahim in the back of the end zone where he was able to toe-tap his way to his second score of the game to give the Bulldogs a commanding 27-13 lead heading into the locker room.

In the third quarter, Byrd would get his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard rush to bring the Cats to within 27-21 after a successful two-point conversion by Patrick and in the fourth both teams traded scores, with Corey notching his third FG of the night to extend the Bulldog lead to 30-21.

Late in the fourth quarter the Cats were finally treated to a Kemari Averett sighting. The senior tight end was largely responsible for BCU’s final touchdown, snagging a 42 yard pass up the seam and capping the six play, 60-yard drive with a seven-yard reception from Patrick to bring the Cats within 30-27 with 8:50 remaining. For the game, Averett led all Wildcat receivers with 64 yards on three receptions and a score.

The Atlanta, GA native, after impressive showings at UTEP and Central Florida, notched his third great outing of the season (11 receptions, 169 yards 2TD’s) something not lost on his head coach as Sims was effusive with praise of his 6’6 tight end, regarding the fact that his size and speed presents huge matchup problems for opposing defenses.

“He means so much to our team. We have two tight ends that are matchup problems for a lot of people. And we have to use him more and that’ll open things up for Byrd and some of our other receivers, so we have to get back to the drawing board get some more things done to get him targeted more.”

Head Scratching PAT Attempt

On the PAT attempt, the Cats failed an attempted two-point conversion, much to the surprise of the fans and supporters of B-CU as well as the AAMU special teams unit considering they were only down three points with a chance to inch closer to a deficit of two, something Sims said was simply a miscommunication.

“I’m never one to blame anything on players, but we were supposed to kick the ball, Sims said. The holder and the kicker got the signals mixed up and they thought we were going for it, but we were supposed to line up and kick the extra point at that time. It was simply a miscommunication.”

What’s Up Next?

With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 2-0 overall (1-0 SWAC East) and will host Division II in-state rival Tuskegee in the friendly confines of Lewis Crews Stadium next weekend. Game time is set for 5pm CST.

With the loss, the Wildcats fall to 0-3 overall (0-1 SWAC East) and will travel to Montgomery, AL to take on Alabama State on September 25th at ASU Stadium. Game time is set for 6pm EST.