How NIL deals could keep HBCUs in running to land top recruits

A collective shift in mindset from a deep pool of successful HBCU alumni may go a long way toward balancing the recruiting landscape.

To hear Nick Saban tell it, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are thriving in the NIL era by shelling out million-dollar paydays to the country’s top athletes and closing the talent gap between Power 5s and mid-majors in one fell swoop.

“I don’t even make a million!” Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders tweeted in response to Saban’s unsubstantiated claim that Sanders paid Travis Hunter, the No. 1 prospect in the SI99 recruiting rankings, the inordinate amount.

Saban’s knee-jerk reaction is part sour grapes and likely, part shock; Hunter is the first five-star football recruit to pick an HBCU in the modern recruiting era. This comes two years after Makur Maker became the first five-star basketball recruit to pick an HBCU when he committed to Howard in 2020.

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