Oscar Wilde once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, mediocrity can pay to greatness.” I want to start by saying that I don’t believe the University of Colorado Boulder is mediocre. Nor do I believe that the university or Deion Sanders are intentionally trying to turn themselves into an HBCU. But I do believe that no matter what “HBCU-like” customs are introduced, the greatness of a Historically Black College or University could never be imitated. With that being said, football fans… Colorado is still not an HBCU.

It has been well over a year since Deion Sanders took on the job as head coach at the University of Colorado Boulder. Thus, the dust of shock and outrage of his leaving Jackson State University should be settled. Sanders left Jackson State after only two and a half seasons.

This disappointed many HBCU students and alumni. Some believe that he never cared about helping Jackson. He only used them as a placeholder until he was able to get a job at a Power 5 school, like Colorado. Others understood his desire to change careers. Some saw it as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

But once Sanders got to Colorado, we began to see an influx of social media comments from both college football as well as Deion Sanders fans calling the University of Colorado an HBCU. This is an interesting take since Black students made up less than 3% of the fall 2023 enrollment class. We often forget the things that make an HBCU an HBCU.

It’s not just the fried chicken Wednesdays, the band playing an arrangement of R&B songs during halftime, or lit homecoming games. Those are merely traditions and customs we've created at the institutions that were created for us when we weren't accepted anywhere else.

The talk around Sanders turning Colorado into an HBCU became most prevalent during the 2023 football season. A photo on X went viral last October, of a man wearing a Colorado Buffaloes t-shirt with the letters “HB” added on the “CU” on the side of the buffalo’s body, completing the phrase “HBCU State of Mind.”

Comedian Rickey Smiley, who is also an HBCU graduate, joked on his radio show that Colorado earned HBCU status since they hired Sanders. Most recently a video of Sanders filming the food in the cafeteria at Colorado has gone viral on X. In the video, the cafeteria is shown serving Sanders soul food. The account labeled the video with the caption “They on IG saying Coach Prime turned Colorado into an HBCU.”

While these situations may seem harmless, they can be seen as offensive to those who attend or have attended an HBCU. It can create a narrative that simply reduces HBCUs to soul food days in the cafeteria and lively sporting events. HBCUs were created to provide Black people with the opportunity to receive a higher education when predominantly White institutions would not accept them.

As someone who has graduated from not one but two HBCUs, I can honestly say HBCUs are so much more than what meets the eye. They have a long rich history. They also produce some of the best and brightest professionals the world has ever seen. An HBCU generates a one-of-a-kind energy that no one can replicate. Attending an HBCU is a life-changing experience. Getting a good education is great. It's even better with classmates who resemble you and share your goals. Having people there who genuinely want to see you succeed. It's an unparalleled experience.

The Colorado situation is not the first time I’ve seen a PWI get labeled as an HBCU. I often hear people label Old Dominion University as an HBCU. They do this due to its location in Norfolk, Virginia, and its significant Black student population. The same is true for Towson University. It is minutes away from the Baltimore, Maryland based HBCU, Morgan State University. Black students make up 30% of the student population at Towson.

Being an HBCU is so much more than the songs we play at games, the food we serve in the cafeteria, or who we have as head coach. HBCUs are institutions with a rich history that generate a once-in-a-lifetime experience only a select group of people have the pleasure of experiencing. So, football fans, the next time you want to call the University of Colorado an HBCU, I want you to think about what the H and B in HBCU stand for.