But questions remain about fit, culture, and whether Colorado would actually give Sanders full control of the football operation that he enjoys at Jackson State.
HBCU Sports reached out to Denver Post columnist Sean Keeler to get insight on the Colorado job and how it makes sense — or not — for Sanders.
HBCU Sports: What made Deion Sanders a candidate for the Colorado job?
Keeler: His record. His recruiting. His reputation. His resume. He’s everything the CU Buffs football program isn’t right now and largely hasn’t been for a generation: Exciting, energizing and nationally relevant.
HBCU Sports: Why did CU make him an offer?
Keeler: Because Buffs football needs a kick up the backside if it’s going to stop getting kicked in the teeth week-in and week-out. Because just about everything CU has tried over the last 15 years has blown up in the faces of the athletic department. Dan Hawkins was a hot Group of 5 coach. Didn’t work. Jon Embree was a Buffs alum. Didn’t work. Mike MacIntyre was the fallback after Butch Jones turned them down, the coach’s son who proved he could do more with less at San Jose State. Sort of worked (CU won the Pac-12 South in ’16), but really only when Jim Leavitt was running the defense. Mel Tucker was the hot assistant at a national-championship-level program (Georgia at the time). Could’ve worked, but the combination of CU’s academic quirks, administrative culture and an insanely large paycheck from Michigan State persuaded him to jump ship after just 14 months. Karl Dorrell was the local guy, a trusted old friend of the program whose two biggest selling points were that he’d already started setting up his post-coaching retirement home about 20 minutes from campus when the job happened to come open and he’d never use CU as a stepping stone for another, “sexier” college job. As it turns out, that was because no other Power 5 program would seriously consider him as a head coaching candidate. So that didn’t work, either.
HBCU Sports: Why do you think Deion Sanders would be interested, as reported, in the CU job? Why would this be a fit?
Keeler: Why the interest? Bigger everything. Bigger budgets, bigger facilities, bigger stage, bigger market, bigger challenges. And bigger money. Why would it be a fit? As noted in the prior answer, nothing else the Buffs have tried has ever quite landed. Sanders’ credibility as a generational sports icon, a serial winner as a player and coach, and his NFL cache means there isn’t a door in this state that wouldn’t open for him. Over the last 20 years, as Denver’s population soared, the market added a ton of transplants from other places and added pro sports franchises (MLB’s Rockies, NHL’s Avalanche, MLS’ Rapids), factors that helped to push the Buffs farther and farther down the local entertainment pecking order. Deion in Boulder could make CU football unmissable, because of name recognition and curiosity as much as anything else.
HBCU Sports:Do you think, if hired, CU would allow Deion to operate in the same fashion as he does at Jackson State with respect to how visible he and the football team is on social media and other media?
Keeler: Yes and no. The Buffs have network obligations and league obligations that will dictate how some of the messages get delivered, as well as the what and the when. But I’d have a hard believing Coach Prime would come to Boulder unless he was assured of as wide and as comfortable a berth as possible.
HBCU Sports:How much control would CU allow him to have over the football program? How much support and resources will CU invest in that program with Deion? Would he get everything he wants?
Keeler: Tricky one to answer succinctly. Let’s just say the CU faculty has held a lot of power within the campus infrastructure over the last decade-plus. And let’s also just say that the faculty, the fan base and the CU regents aren’t always singing from the same hymnal. Or from the same pew. The Buffs, to be blunt, has been a step behind when it comes to coaches’ salaries (Boulder County is extremely expensive as far a real estate/raising a family), NIL opportunities and the realities of the transfer portal. As for the juice on the latter, Google “CU Buffs, transfer, Denver Post” for more details.
HBCU Sports:With Deion, would 4 and 5-star players consider CU an attractive destination?
Keeler: Without a doubt. For all its costs and quirks, Boulder is also drop-dead gorgeous. Boulder plus Deion? Recruiting gold.
HBCU Sports: With respect to the current state of the CU program, how long would it take for Deion to realistically transform the Buffs into contenders in the Pac-12?
Keeler: Realistically? If CU’s policy on transfer credits is softened and Coach Prime gets two full recruiting cycles under his belt, this could be a team competing for a bowl (but maybe falling just short) by the end of Year 1 and contending for a top-5 position within the league by the end of Year 2 or Year 3. Key word in that first sentence? If.