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.