The Deion Sanders Saga continues to intrigue
While there are plenty people out there voicing their displeasure about Sanders leaving an HBCU for the big time Pac 12, there are others who understand his decision. Here are five things we really learned from the Deion Sanders decision to become head coach at the University of Colorado.
Colorado Buffaloes new head coach Deion Sanders has been on the job less than a month he’s already engineered a stunning reversal of fortunes for Colorado football, at least on paper and in the recruiting department. The nations #1 recruit, cornerback Travis Hunter, announced he would transfer to Colorado from Jackson State in Mississippi. He follows several other Jackson State players and coaches after Sanders left his job as Jackson State's head coach this month to take the same position with the Buffaloes. Sanders is serving notice that he means business.
Hunter’s decision catapulted the Buffaloes to a No. 7 national ranking in the transfer portal rankings, according to 247 Sports as of Wednesday night (12-21-22.) That’s a massive turnaround from Colorado’s last transfer portal class, which ranked 78th nationally after losing many of its top players to other schools, including two top cornerbacks who earned first-team all-conference honors for Pac-12 conference rivals this season – Christian Gonzalez (Oregon) and Mekhi Blackmon (Southern California).
5 Things we learned thus far in the Deion Sanders Saga
1. It's a business
Let's not be naïve about this, sports is a business. Football is a business. From kids playing in elementary and middle school and high school to young adults or student athletes playing in college, this is a business. It has moving parts, functional responsibilities and roles, budgets, systems and hierarchy. It's a business that feeds a larger business like a pipeline. Decisions are made not by emotion but by business sense. Deion Sanders understands this as a super bowl winning player who has not only played at the top level in college becoming one of the premier athletes on the field, but also as an NFL superstar who played with a number of teams and who has gone through significant structural contracts, negotiations and deals.
After being in "the business" as a star at FSU then the NFL as well as Major League Baseball, Sanders knew what the business was made of. After the NFL. Sanders went to Jackson State on contract. He fulfilled his contract, exceeded expectations of his deal. To be perfectly honest, he left the school and HBCU's and a better position then they were in before he came.
2. North Carolina Central University showed that teams can be beat
Yes, if they are prepared and ready to play, a team has a shot at winning. In the case of the HBCU championship, The Mid Eastern Athletic Conference had North Carolina Central University as its representative and the South West Athletic Conference had Deion Sanders this Jackson State representing its conference. Conventional wisdom would have you assume the Jackson State would make mincemeat out of NCCU. But Deion Sanders is a smart man having played that long and having seen how upsets can totally throw everything out of whack. He knew that North Carolina Central was bigger, as fast, and as well coached. In fact both of these teams were playing at a division one top 20 level. Either team could have won but at the end of the day it was NCCU that won the championship in overtime in what was one of the best game of the year. Sanders knew this and he was clear that the chances were stacked against him again.
3. Sanders paid his debt.
Sanders came to Jackson State with a simple goal of having them win the South West Athletic Conference championship and possibly the HBCU title while elevating the status and visibility of Jackson State and HBCU's in general. He achieved that objective. Jackson State sold out or packed stadiums everywhere they went. They generated television interest and highlight reels across social media. Deion Sanders elevated his own visibility which led to more hype and excitement around the team and it made it a lot easier for HBCU's to recruit. In fact, Deion Sanders was one of the most effective recruiting tools for Jackson State but also for HBCU's in general. He did what he came to do and we all should congratulate him on that.
4. Going to Colorado is a huge step that won't be easy
Look at the team logos in the image above. There are no slouches in the PAC 12. Its going to be tough to get wins in that conference. Yes Sanders knows how to recruit and he now has the arsenal behind him to recruit the best players in the country. At Colorado, Sander's team will go head to head against USC, UCLA, California, Arizona, Arizona State and the rest of the incredible PAC 12 rivals. These things make him a great fit for Colorado. Sander has proven how effective he is as a college recruiter.
The jump to the big time is exactly what Deion Sanders is made for. He knows he needs a larger stage to get to the biggest results. Colorado is a team in shambles but the structure and system is there. There's also the larger audiences and TV viewers. Take a look at the size of the stadiums (below) illustrate a simple measurement of how different the systems are. A major Division 1 program is not only big business, but big money and a big stage.
Jackson State University Football Stadium (40,000 capacity)
University of Colorado Football Stadium (60,000 capacity)
On the other hand, the pac-12 is no longer a soft conference. It's stacked! USC is back. UCLA never left. Stanford is always strong. Utah is a beast. There's the University of Washington who finished at 7-2, Oregon State who finished at 6- 3. And then there's always the formidable California, Oregon, Oregon state, and other Giants on the west making a name for themselves. The pack what 12 will be no cakewalk for Sanders, but he's the kind of personality that would embrace such a competitive environment.
An inspiring message from Baptist Health
5. Sanders has set up a template for HBCU's for success and NFL potential
Sanders has created a new template for HBCU's and coaches as well as recruiters and programs alike on ways to elevate the football program and develop a pipeline again to the NFL. Yes that includes coaches. Once Sanders hits Colorado and if he is capable of winning in such a competitive conference, he's all but guaranteed a head coaching job in the NFL. He's also likely to stimulate discussion about bringing others along, even if not in a head coaching role. Sanders demeanor on the sidelines was absolutely NFL worthy.
Here's what we do know. Deion Sanders can coach. He kept his emotions in check and avoided scandals. He made sure that he kept his emphasis on the team. He had two sons on the field, both of which played at a high level of competitiveness. Both of them can have a shot at the NFL because of the exposure they'll get at the more competitive division one pac-12 competition.