It’s a comedic style we’ve seen in Hollywood plenty over the years. The fish-out-of-water mentality. Pluck the main character from their established world and place them into a weird situation where any semblance of normality is gone. Legally Blonde nails it. So does The Jerk. My favorite of that genre is Coming To America, the Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall classic, where Murphy plays an African prince looking for true love away from his kingdom in Queens, New York. There are hookers and criminals too. But Murphy never loses his journey as a fish out of water.
If there’s smoke where there’s fire, and in college football, smoke usually means an inferno within hours, Deion Sanders will be trading out the SWAC for the Pac-12, the FCS for a Power Five Conference school. Colorado has offered Sanders its head-coaching job, per the Athletic, with both sides having a vested interest in making this unique marriage a reality. Prime Time was never going to be at Jackson State long-term. His bombastic nature, combined with gains in NIL and recruiting, with a dash of on-field accomplishments, made Sanders the most intriguing head-coaching candidate in college football this millennium. But Colorado? A team that’s been in gridiron purgatory for most of the last two decades?
I thought Auburn would’ve loved to hand its program to Sanders, instead, it looks like Hugh Freeze will go to The Plains. Nebraska went with Matt Rhule. Georgia Tech could’ve been a phenomenal fit. Instead, Sanders is headed to the Rockies. Not exactly the land of Maseratis and Dom Pérignon, but you can find the beauty in anything. His flashy nature makes Boulder so much more attractive in an area of the country where the recruiting ground is far from fertile. Persuading a top-level high schooler with Denver’s suburbs for four years isn’t a strong pitch. It’s all about the culture, and NIL money, that Sanders will cultivate.
Those who’ve paid better attention to HBCU programs than I have said it better than I could: Sanders was only using Jackson State as a stepping stone instead of truly digging himself in and setting up roots to help a program that won’t get the press he’s used to from the NFL and Florida State. He’s interviewed at South Florida, Colorado State, and TCU over the last few years, but this is the first track record of a long-established high-level program showering Sanders with interest. Barring a massive backtrack, he’ll be moving on, just as many expected him to do. Jumping from the SWAC to the FBS is rare and it’s unheard of to go to the Power Five level, especially after three years as a college coach. Jay Hopson, a white man, was the only HBCU head coach poached by an FBS school for the same position over the last 60 years, jumping from Alcorn State to Southern Miss. That divide between HBCU success and breaking into the highest levels of the sport is one reason why Sanders is unique. Hopefully, he’s not the last to buck the trend.
One underrated part of giving Sanders the keys to the kingdom is who he’ll bring with him to Boulder. Shedeur Sanders, Deion’s son, has looked great as Jackson State’s quarterback this season, passing for more than 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns with only six interceptions. It’s hard to argue with winning, and the Sanders duo went 11-0 in the regular season. Travis Hunter, who Prime Time flipped from his alma mater to Jackson State, was the No. 1 overall recruit in the country last year. An athlete with that much potential at the Power Five level would be incredible. There’d also be fun and ridiculous speculation as to the staff he’d put together. Most college football fans don’t understand the inner workings of an FBS school and how important the 10 full-time assistant coach spots are. Sanders’ acquisitions going to Boulder may change that.
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When Sanders didn’t publicly condemn the reporting of his move away from Jackson State, that’s as much of a confirmation as to his interests as you’ll get. Look at what Lane Kiffin did when he got heavily linked to the Auburn job earlier this week. The alleged academic and financial issues from Sanders’ now-closed Prime Prep Academy should be an obstacle for any Power Five Conference school to hire him. But why would grades and a little irresponsibility with money stop winning football games? It wouldn’t be the equivalent of hiring Will Wade or Jeremy Pruitt, not close. Sanders’ past isn’t squeaky clean too. That’s the package you get with him and to be fair, most high-level coaches have some baggage. You don’t get to the top without ruffling a lot of feathers along the way.
Sanders going to Colorado is the fish-out-of-water comedy that’d be appointment television every Saturday. Hearing whatever comes out of Boulder from press availabilities will spread like wildfire on social media. A program was going to bite on the boom-or-bust nature of hiring Sanders. Seeing as how Colorado has been one of the worst Power Five teams in the country in recent years, doing worse really isn’t an option. It could be the perfect storm for Sanders, or prove non-traditional candidates can’t cut it without more experience. I do imagine him peering out at Folsom Field saying “Good morning my neighbors!” I hope someone is there to respond “Hey, fuck you!” But why would you yell that at the new football coach?