Charles Barkley wants Auburn football to hire Deion Sanders as coach – USA TODAY

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Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders’ name has been mentioned for almost every vacancy. Now his good friend Charles Barkley has weighed in.

Barkley appeared on “The Next Round” podcast Thursday with co-hosts Lance Taylor, Ryan Brown and Jim Dunaway, and commented on college football job openings and where Sanders might end up.

Barkley said Auburn has to make the right choice in the coach it hires to replace Bryan Harsin or else the football program could be irrelevant for the next 10 years. With what Brian Kelly is doing at LSU, what Josh Heupel is doing at Tennessee and with Oklahoma and Texas joining the SEC in 2025, the conference is only going to get crazier in the next 10-15 years, according to Barkley.

“I am going to support whoever is hired,” said Barkley, a former Auburn basketball star who went on to play 16 seasons in the NBA and currently works as an analyst for TNT. “I personally want Deion Sanders, because No. 1 he is going to recruit like hell. … Deion is going to win wherever he goes.”

The two men have known each other since college, and Barkley said he loves that Sanders is a motivator.

“Deion wants to make men men,” Barkley said. “That’s what I want from a coach, but also … his personality is that he is going to recruit and he won’t be afraid of Coach (Nick) Saban, because you have to have some star power to go against Coach Saban.”

Barkley said he thinks another rumored candidate, Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin, is a good coach, but that Auburn needs a coach with star power and Barkley would love to see Auburn hire Sanders.

“He just has that ‘It’ factor, ” Barkley said of Sanders.

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Barkley said he has had a “nice conversation” with recently hired Auburn athletic director John Cohen but is not part of the committee searching for the replacement of Harsin, who was fired Oct. 31.

“Whoever we get is really important, because if we don’t get it right now, clearly we are behind Alabama and Georgia, we are behind Tennessee and now LSU,” Barkley said. “As I say, when Texas and Oklahoma come, their brands are powerful and big, so this is a really big deal this next coaching hire.”

When asked if he thought Sanders would take the job if offered, Barkley did not hesitate and said, “Yes, he would.”

Barkley said Auburn must act quickly or there will be a surprise team that hires Sanders.

“Hey, man, if we wait and don’t snatch this dude up right now, he’s gonna go somewhere else in the next year or two,” Barkley said. “Do not be shocked if there is not a surprise coming out of the SEC soon.”

Barkley didn’t come straight out and say “Texas A&M,” but the seat there is getting increasingly hotter under Jimbo Fisher, who is 37-21 in 4 1/2 seasons and only 11-11 since signing a 10-year, $95 million contract extension just before the 2021 season. The Aggies are 3-7 in 2022 and have lost six consecutive games. Many college football analysts have speculated that A&M wouldn’t fire Fisher because there is an $86 million buyout on his contract, but Barkley sounds like he may know something the rest of us don’t.

“What I am telling you is that there will be a shocking firing in the SEC, and that school goes after Deion Sanders,” Barkley said.

Jackson State (10-0, 7-0 SWAC) closes its regular season at Alcorn State (5-5, 4-3) on Saturday (2 p.m., ESPN+) and is looking to become the first team in school history to finish a regular season unbeaten. The Tigers have clinched a berth in the SWAC championship at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Dec. 3.