Is Bethune-Cookman Ready To Be Under The Microscope?

Is Bethune-Cookman Ready To Be Under The Microscope?

Stephen Holmes 

The second Deion Sanders stepped foot on Jackson State University’s campus, they were immediately thrust into the national spotlight whether they wanted to be or not. Sander’s personality and brand is just that big. For better or worse, JSU received exposure and attention that they could never pay for themselves. The beautiful thing about JSU’s “Prime Era” is that he left it better than he found it. Some could argue that Deion over sold his “purpose” but that’s been argued in the media enough. What was apparent is that while Deion brought a lot of good attention, he also put some uncomfortable light to the school. As the saying goes: Sunlight is the best disinfectant. I tend to agree, but what happens when the sun becomes a little too bright? What happens when the light from the sun is actually light from a magnifying glass?  For those that believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant, I think we ought to understand what that will likely mean for Bethune-Cookman University as they get ready to announce him as their new Head Football Coach.

On December 27th, 2022, Ed Reed and Bethune-Cookman announced that they have agreed in principle to hire him as the new Head Coach of the football team. On December 28th Ed Reed and Bethune- Cookman was a lead story on ESPN News and a topic on Fox Sports talk show, Undisputed with Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless. When you hire perhaps the greatest Safeties in NFL history as a Head Coach, that’s a net positive for the school’s brand or at least it should be. For a few days, BCU made the rounds on the sport shows, blogs, and social media outlets. All positive news. Then things got eerily quiet. No one had heard from the school or Reed for a couple of weeks.  Then out of nowhere, Reed showed up on the local news, on campus wearing BCU gear, opining about Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills who suffered a near fatal injury. His words were direct, sharp, and an omen of things to come. It was the first time we’d see him “on campus”. That interview would be picked up by blogs and news outlets nationally. The discussion had nothing to do with Bethune Cookman itself but because Reed is at the helm (at least that’s what the plan is), that means BCU is indirectly in the news too.

After Reed had been relatively mum on issues regarding his hiring, he took to Instagram live to voice his frustrations with the state of HBCU’s in general and took a few subtle jabs at BCU’s leadership. Like clockwork, his quick 90 second rant made the rounds on social and picked up by almost every major HBCU publication. The responses were mixed. Others praised him for saying things that needed to be said while others were left feeling like it was a bit too much too soon. Unfortunately, many also saw it as a sign of possible trouble on the horizon with BCU and Ed Reed.

Reed once again, took to his IG live. Only this time, he appeared more frustrated and even more vocal about his grievances while taking aim directly at Bethune Cookman. It should be noted that during this Live broadcast, which lasted about 20-30 minutes, he had players participating in an impromptu campus clean up. If you know Ed Reed, you may have seen the viral video of him speaking about doing the small things right like picking up garbage. He pointed out several times that this is “bigger than football”. He’s right. But he also spoke passionately about several issues regarding the condition of several buildings on campus including, the Wendell P. Holmes Business Building, the practice track, intermural football field, and other buildings on campus currently in disrepair. As an alum, that was hard to stomach. I don’t think when Bethune Cookman agreed to hire Ed Reed that they envisioned him ripping the bandages off so soon and so publicly and even without a contract, yet here we are.

Are we ready for this?

Are we ready to be under the microscope?

Are we ready to have think pieces (like this one) written about the BCU every time Ed Reed utters a non-complimentary word about the school? Are we ready for the unfair opinions about the state of the school made by random people who’ve never stepped foot on campus? Are we even ready for Ed Reed? Clearly we're still in the learning phase of this relationship but I am not sure we’ve thoroughly considered these questions.

So, I’ll ask again, are we ready to be under the microscope?

Think fast because we’re about to find out. If you believe that sunlight is indeed the best disinfectant, then you must be ready for what that means. Sure, people may be able to see the issues with the school and that’s not necessarily bad. If things begin to improve, all is fair in love and war, right? However, in the short-term, people will now also be able to weaponize our imperfections for clicks and notoriety. That part won’t be fun.  Ed Reed will bring us a spotlight that we won’t be able to quantify until well after he’s moved on. While Reed may be operating under the best of intentions, one must ask, how does publicly airing out the conditions of the school without providing proper context help the school grow? More directly, how does it help him on the recruiting trail? I didn’t forget, “it’s bigger than football”. I get it. But Reed has won every where he’s gone, and if a guy gets this passionate about picking up garbage, imagine how he’s going to feel if he’s losing games. Which is why his comments today are concerning. Not because he was wrong, but because they could be counterproductive to his goal of helping the institution or getting people in his corner. Ed Reed can’t do it alone. He can certainly try, but even Dr. Bethune needed people in her corner.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this, there is some nervous energy right now surrounding the hiring of Ed Reed, that is apparent. During his IG live, Reed drove to pickup food for the players. During the ride with a few others, the passenger seatbelt alert kept chiming. Reed calmly said to the passenger, “buckle up”. For some odd reason, I think he was talking to us too.