Colorado Football Needs a “Prime Time” Boost

Colorado football was in dire straights, mired in a string of losing seasons. The once proud program was an afterthought on the national stage, except, of course, for fans of the “Bottom Ten”.

The former head coach was long gone. The Buff Nation was in desperate need for a reason for hope, but the “splash” hires were heading elsewhere.

So, the CU athletic director had to trust his judgment, and make a difficult call. He chose an “outside of the box” candidate … one who didn’t have head coaching experience at the highest levels of college football.

He chose Bill McCartney.

It was late May, 1982, hardly the time to be choosing a new head coach for football. The Recruiting Class of 1982 had been signed; spring practices had been conducted. But the embattled head coach for the past three seasons, Chuck Fairbanks, had just bolted to coach the New Jersey Generals of the fledgling USFL, leaving CU athletic director Eddie Crowder in a jam.

Several candidates were considered, including BYU head coach LaVell Edwards, but Crowder ultimately settled on the defensive coordinator at Michigan. Never a head coach past the high school level, McCartney was nonetheless chosen to be CU’s new head coach.

For fans of CU football in 1982, who had no internet, no Google searches, and no twitter accounts, the announcement was met with indifference. The team had gone 7-26 under Fairbanks, so little was expected of the team in 1982 … or anytime in the foreseeable future.

We got what we got – and were lucky it worked out.

Fast forward 40 years … 

Colorado football is in dire straights, mired in a string of losing seasons. The once proud program is an afterthought on the national stage, except, of course, for fans of the “Bottom Ten”.

The former head coach is long gone. The Buff Nation is in desperate need for a reason for hope, but, in the pecking order of top head coaching jobs, Colorado is far down the list.

So, the CU athletic director is trusting his judgment, and is trying to land what may be considered an “outside of the box” candidate … one who doesn’t have head coaching experience at the highest levels of college football.

Rick George has offered the head coaching job at Colorado to Deion Sanders.

And we’ll be damn lucky if it works out.

We could go through the other named potential candidates, but hopefully CU won’t have to turn to Plan B. Quickly, though, here are a few of the names which have been bandied about. They all have strengths; they all have drawbacks:

  • Former BYU and Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall has a history of success at the Power Five level … but does he have the drive (not to mention the cache) to compete for recruits and transfers in the brave new world of the Transfer Portal and NIL?;
  • Former Houston and Texas coach Tom Herman has won at two high profile Texas schools. He has proven he can recruit Texas high school players … to play for Texas schools. Would he be as successful at recruiting Texas high school players to play at Colorado?;
  • Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters has put up good numbers for the Illini, and is a legacy. Would he be able to recruit players to come to Colorado? What would be the selling point for an unknown coming to set up camp in Boulder? It would be a 3-5 year grind – at best – just to get back to mediocrity.

Or … there is the home run hire in Deion Sanders.

Are there concerns about “Neon Deion” bringing “Prime Time” to Boulder?

Sure …

  • He won’t stay long. Sanders went to school at Florida State, and played for the Falcons in the NFL (along with other teams) and the Atlanta Braves (among other teams) at the major league level. Once a good SEC or ACC program opportunity comes up, Sanders would likely be gone;
  • He hasn’t coached at the Power Five level. Sanders only has two years at Jackson State. Two good seasons, to be sure, but there is the legitimate question as to whether he can recruit as well when consistently going up against the big boys of the Power Five conferences for star prospects;
  • There is Sanders’ involvement as a cofounder of Prime Prep, a grouping of charter schools in Texas that closed after three years, a dysfunctional time in which it was at the center of a series of lawsuits. How will that sit with CU administrators, who tend to look for the worst in CU’s athletic department?; and
  • Will Prime Time fit in Boulder, where Black students account for just 2.6% of the undergraduate student body located in a town in which Black residents are just 1.2% of the total population?

Legitimate concerns, but, in my book, none are enough to overcome the positives which Deion Sanders would bring to Colorado …

— Sanders can recruit. He would bring instant credibility to the program, and would be able to bring quality high school recruits – and transfers – to Boulder. There needs to be a massive overhaul of the lineup, and there is a window here for the next year or two, with all of those sixth-year COVID seniors still eligible, to make significant moves. It will be hard to say goodbye to some Buff players who have poured their heart, soul and bodies into the program. The harsh reality is, however, that Colorado’s 85-man roster is not Power Five worthy. Many will be asked to stay, of course, but many others will have to go. That’s the price that must be paid if Colorado is going to move on from being a national joke.

— Sanders can coach. Sanders has emerged as a legitimate FBS coaching candidate after transforming Jackson State into a superpower at the FCS level. The Tigers are 22-2 over the past two seasons, including 16-0 in SWAC play with a trip to the Celebration Bowl in 2021. Prior to Sanders, Jackson State had not won a conference championship since 2007. That’s more than winning the press conference and doing AFLAC commercials – that’s good coaching. No doubt the FBS level is more difficult, but Sanders would also have more resources (read: good assistant coaches) to help him adjust to the new level of play.

— Sanders will bring the CU fan base back. There is no mojo for the program right now, and bringing in someone like Ryan Walters is not going to move the needle. The Buffs finished the season against Utah last weekend. It was as good a day weather-wise as you could hope for in late November – sunny skies; 58-degrees for a 2:00 p.m., kickoff. Attendance for the game? 33,474 – the lowest official attendance for a game at Folsom Field since the 1988 season finale against Kansas State … and most of those who did show up were gone after the Buffs fell behind the Utes 42-0 at halftime.

Colorado football needs an infusion of optimism and dollars, and Sanders can bring both. Many Buff faithful have bailed on the team (and I have openly questioned whether I want to continue with CU at the Game, a “project” I’ve been working on for over a quarter of a century). Sanders has Buff fans excited (one thread on the BuffStampede message board has, in the past week, garnered over 2,700 posts and over 300,000 views), and with excitement brings interest … and the purchase of tickets.

— Sanders will be able to hold onto current stars. No guarantee of this, of course, but he has to have a better shot at keeping CU’s few Power Five quality stars in the fold.

Put yourself in Nikko Reed’s shoes. A star in the making, he was supposed to be part of one of the best defensive backfields in the Pac-12 this year. Instead, he was on an island with a long list of untested players. Christian Gonzalez? Started and starred for Oregon, and is considered a potential first round draft pick, even though he is only a sophomore. Mehki Blackmon (USC) and Mark Perry (TCU)? Both are playing this weekend in conference championships, with national championship aspirations still in tact.

If you were Nikko Reed, wouldn’t you want to look into playing for a better team? What about Jordyn Tyson? Think he might be interested in playing for a team with an offensive line which can block, and a quarterback who can get him the ball?

Again, no guarantees that Sanders can keep these players on the roster, or that someone like Bronco Mendenhall or Tom Herman wouldn’t be able to persuade them to stay with the black-and-gold … but my guess would be that a Deion Sanders coached team would have a better shot at retaining their services.

— Sanders would keep Colorado from being a national joke. In a sense, he already has, with national pundits even having to talk about Colorado and its future. Keyshawn Johnson, who is in the know when it comes to all things Neon Deion, went on ESPN this week to extoll the virtues of CU football. Johnson was asked if Colorado was “an elite enough program” for Sanders. Johnson could have said “No. I am a proud USC alum, and we own Colorado. The Trojans are 16-0 all-time against the Buffs. CU doesn’t even belong in a Power Five conference – Deion could do much better”.

Instead, Johnson said: “Absolutely. It’s a Power Five school. They got nice facilities. They got money … This is a perfect situation, and here’s why: Prime can recruit; he can recruit California, Texas, Arizona, Florida. He can get the best players in Colorado to stay in Colorado … I hope he accepts the job so he can get Colorado back to where it used to be”. 

Sanders would bring instant credibility to the Colorado football program. No other candidate for the job can do that.

Ryan Walters may be a good fit someday. Perhaps after Sanders gets the Buffs back to bowl games and national respectability … and bolts for greener pastures. I have no issue with Sanders using CU as a “stepping stone”. Oregon lost its last two coaches – Willie Taggart to Florida State; Mario Cristobal to Miami – and no one is saying Oregon is a second-rate program. If “Prime Time” gets Colorado back to winning games and going bowling, then leaves for his alma mater at Florida State down the road, I will be happy to shake his hand and wish him well.

Anyone short of Sanders, at this point, will be considered a failure by the national media and the Buff Nation. CU will fall back into the shadows, and return to being considered a back water program with no hope for future success. Colorado can’t afford to be patient, and hope someone can come in and build a program. Hell, Karl Dorrell had more wins in his three years in Boulder than Bill McCartney had in his first three years … and Coach Mac coached in ten more games than Dorrell (Dorrell: 8-15; McCartney 7-25-1).

Anyone short of Sanders, and CU fans will move onto other pursuits, and the decided lack of faith in the program will be evident next September. Picture this: The new head coach runs behind Ralphie for the first time as CU’s coach on September 9th … and looks up to see a sea of red (CU plays Nebraska in its 2023 home opener). If Sanders is the coach, however, it will be a national story – Nebraska’s Matt Rhule v. Colorado’s Deion Sanders – and Buff fans will unite behind the new coach and his new roster. The game will generate national interest … and the interest of the currently despondent Buff Nation.

All of CU’s eggs are now in one basket – It’s Prime Time or bust.

—–

42 Replies to “CU Needs A “Prime Time” Boost”

  1. Stuart, I couldn’t agree with you more, my fingers are crossed that “Coach Prime” accepts our offer. I have never been a Prime fan; I respect his athletic ability in both football and baseball, but he seemed like an arrogant jerk while playing and after. However a few recent things have changed my mind.
    1. With the rules being what they are now, there is no reason to plan for the future for players. Look at what happened today with our “QB of the future” who we sat on the bench for several games this season to preserve his redshirt. Would McCown have won any of those games? Probably not, but at least we might have been more competitive. Now, we gave him an extra year of eligibility (good for him, bad for the team and program). Lesson learned, play for today. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow!
    2. It’s all about recruiting good players. The old model of developing players over a few years doesn’t work anymore. You can train them up, but if you aren’t winning and they don’t have to sit out a year if they transfer and can get NIL money as well, you’ll lose the players you need to turn it around.
    3. Thanks for sharing the Prime Time video Stuart! I watched it last night and what I saw was a different version of Coach Prime. He joked around and had fun, but he really impressed me with what he was instilling in his players.
    URL is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo_NYgK3_1A&t=303s
    Worth the 5 minutes of your time.
    4. Unless we are willing to go back to the wishbone, triple option days of the 1980’s (like Air Force), we need a very good QB. Teams with good QB play do well; others who don’t, struggle. Let’s see, who is the QB at Jackson State? That would be Shedeur Sanders, “Prime Jr.” Here’s his page from the JSU website: https://gojsutigers.com/sports/football/roster/shedeur-sanders/2077
    Can we get a package deal with both a HC and QB? Yes please!

  2. Okay okay I’m on board, so maybe Sanders as coach is a good idea. I’m not an old fart, just so you know. Let me prove it, right after I find my walker, gotta be around here somewhere.

  3. Bring on Deion.

    Hiring is hard. Hiring a football coach is harder.

    Look no further than the last 25+ years of coaches at CU. They’re not all bad coaches. Even Karl. Mostly mediocre. It just didn’t work at CU. For myriad reasons.

    If Deion wants a challenge? CU right now is a great spot. Dude will bring recruits. That’s at least 90% of half the battle. Or something like that.

    Go Buffs

        1. I got sucked into Canzano for a subscription because he is a good writer. It didnt take long to find out he is just even more provincial than wilner meaning 99% Oregon. So I canceled

  4. He hasn’t proven he can coach. Come on. Got some really good recruits in a conference that is so weak it is shocking.

    A real coach is needed. Not sure he isn’t all show and no go in the coaching arena.

    If he is hired, I will be wary and then happy if he succeeds.

    Buffs a gogo

    Note: Must have been some heavy donors showing up to financially support this??

    1. All knowing VK: Enlighten us on who is out there to hire? Who is sooo much better than Deion that’s available that can bring in the type of talent and revenue that he can? Prime is not a coach? Yeah, I’m sure you’ve watched every single JSU gane the past 2yrs to know that! You’ve been in his locker room. You’ve watched him lead. Yeah, uh huh… sure

  5. I was waiting to see the responses here and really wish there was a like button for many of you. Some of you are not seeing today’s college football landscape for what it’s become, and we haven’t seen you post before, but NOW you come out of the wood works to try to keep things as they aren’t?

    Deion & changing the transfer requirements would be the two things that bring life back to the program. So many players would want to be associated with and play for Sanders, CU would be relevant again; and we need that.

    In a world where NIL and transfers rule the world and changes things over night, see USC, we need a “Primetime” coach to bring that.

    NIL: Deion has much access to self branding and endorsement monies and seems to be smart enough to know how to invest in others to invest in himself. What I mean is, you’re a company already working with Deion and he says, I can take a little less this year, if you invest in my kids. Don’t worry he’ll make it back on the back side when he brings CU out of the ashes and gets that really killer offer.

    Why do I think he’ll do something like this?

    He’s donated half his salary back to JSU to help them succeed, he wouldn’t have to do that here, cu already has great facilities. But throwing a few NIL dollars around to get player to win is also a long term investment in himself. And when it comes to making money and promoting himself… He is PRIMETIME!

    How many kids will eat that up?

    So, much more, but Stuart covered most of it.

  6. The last time I followed a CU coaching search closely RG hired Karl Dorrell. So excuse me if I’m a little hesitant to click “refresh” every hour on CU at the Game, Football Scoop and the other websites 🙂

    Just going to have to roll with whomever is hired.

    GO BUFFS

    1. I’m sitting on the edge of my seat. KD and Prime’s personalities are almost completely opposite.
      You will see energy if Prime makes it here.

  7. Shocker. All the old farts commenting on here are butthurt about Deion Sanders coming to Boulder. Well, guess what? He is coming. And he’s bringing a lot of talent with him. You want wins? He’s bringing wins. You wanna complain about his past? Well, Trump was president and some of you probably voted for that p.o.s tyrant l o l… Can’t be worse bringing Primetime in to MCUGA!!! HA!

  8. I suggest Buffs fans to look at Deion Sanders through purely a football lens: (1) proven success as a head coach — FCS success matters (look at K State folks); (2) proven success turning a program around in short order. Rebuilding is a skillset unto itself — one we need desperately; (3) Recruiting. Recruiting. Recruiting. Colorado’s top prospect already told Denver Post he would consider staying if Prime were at CU. THE MAN OUT-RECRUITED ALABAMA FOR TALENT AT JSU. This point alone has me sold but apparently you people look past this and need to be beaten over the head with it; (4) Branding and $$$. Prime would change CU’s image overnight — to potential players, endorsements, and TV networks choosing games to televise; (5) Prime would bring his sons and probably a stable of other ballers from JSU and his recruitment base. Instant talent reload, y’all.

    Then there are other important factors: (6) Does anybody know Prime gave half his salary at JSU to upgrade football facilities there? Tell me a single man in football that has done that. Ever. In any program or era. Ever. This man cares deeply about winning and about his institution; (7) Prime would bring his entire coaching Staff — this won’t be a game of hunting for coordinators and assistants to plug in and hopefully fit (a challenge we’ve had with all our recent coaches). This speaks to the likelihood for early success at CU under Coach Prime.

    We could keep going with why Coach Prime is THE GUY.

    The point is — this needs to be a football decision. Not a decision about “he’s not a good culture fit” whatever the hell that means or some BS about your feelings about his image, attitude, or some other drama you bring to the table. Get real. This is about winning at CU. Lay out a better, feasible alternative and I’ll listen. Until then, all I hear is nonsensical and non-football reasoning.

    1. Couldn’t have said it better myself. I feel like a lot of people commenting against bringing him in are too old school and too hung up on “Boulder’s culture” than the fact Primetime is an absolute gamechanger in today’s version of NCAA football. Let the talent and money flow right in, because it will.

      For a program that is the laughing stock of the FBS, Coach Prime is EXACTLY what CU and the fanbase needs!

  9. Sanders is certainly polarizing. Pretty even split in most comment boards I’ve read.

    I’m thinking it would be a mash-up of Herm Edwards and Mike Leach styles and personalities. Bring some established NFL coaching talent, maybe some disorganization and/or disregard for rules, some fireworks on and off the field, good recruiting, and win some games. For better and worse.

  10. Guys, in the brave new world of pay for play — in which only the most football fanatic rich people are deciding which teams win or lose — the ONLY way CU ever wins again is through amazing coaching. It must be so undeniably valuable that “decent” players come to Colorado despite the lack of pay. And it must be so tactically good that we play above our weight class all the time. I don’t see another road to being a top(-ish) program.

    Is Deion that coach? he probably could be. But he won’t be there for the years necessary to build the “quality place to learn football” reputation we will need, imho. I would love to see the energy and commitment to winning he brings with him, and even a bit of the flash. But Plan A has to have a post-Deion element to it focused on building the longevity of quality football coaching that will be necessary to overcome the black hole of NIL nothingness called Colorado in the brave new (totally east-coast biased just because that’s where people settled first) world of NCAA football.

    my two cents…

  11. Don’t you people know that the reason we aren’t announcing the new coach until Sunday is because Dave Logan is coaching in the 5A State Championship game on Saturday?

    C’mon, try and keep up!

  12. The realities of this program are stark….Bottom of FBS, middling local recruiting base, bad roster, insular focused State University that thinks it’s an Ivy…(Unfortunately, the working public disagrees) and I could go on. We would be lucky to have coach Sanders bring credibility to a program that needs him far more than he needs CU Boulder. If CU gets back to the “middle” of the conference (results, recruiting, FBS standing) then we might have a different conversation.

    Coach Sanders has done nothing to be disqualified from the opportunity!!!!! Let’s hope Rick George is a closer!!!!

  13. I found Keyshawn Johnson’s endorsement of CU as a job Deion Sanders should take both interesting and surprising. Worst case scenario for CU in this high profile pursuit might be Deion opting for South Florida over the Buffs. Rick George appears to have pushed his chips all in so let’s see how this plays out.

  14. Don’t forget, he will bring the Aflac duck to Boulder.
    Seriously, we should ask Saban what he thinks about Deion in Boulder. While he hasn’t coached with Deion, he’s has worked with him. I am sure they discussed coaching.

  15. Don’t forget, he will bring the Aflac duck to Boulder.
    Seriously, we should ask Sanan what he thinks about Deion in Boulder. While he hasn’t coached with Deion, he’s has worked with him. I am sure they discussed coaching.

    1. The rumor I heard is that Saban steered both Sarkisian and another guy whose name I can’t recall who were candidates after MMT bolted. Leaving dour old Karl for poor old CU. So keep Saban the hell of it.

  16. Very well put! I feel it is Deion or bust. If he does decide, it’s a given he will leave for SEC or ACC, but I think we are OK with that. We need a spark, a fire, not a mundane personality, we all experienced that. I would be very excited about a 3 yr stint and a winning season. Honestly I would be excited following it up with Ryan Walters.

  17. Couldn’t disagree more, and the irony is you’ve made most of my arguments. CU is first and foremost a respected public. Research institution, Sanders experience at Prime Prep shows he has no care for education or academics. It’s all about him. He’s a Floridian who knows nothing about Colorado, nor recruiting in Texas or California, nor does he have any intention of making a real commitment to CU. This is “Mel Tucker II” waiting to happen; Sanders will pull in some mercenaries, and make some modest gains, and he’ll be gone in a New York minute once a Big 10 or SEC school comes calling, leaving the Buffs in a shambles – again. Ryan Walters is a budding superstar, a Colorado guy who will make a commitment and build a program the right way if given time – just as another Big Ten defensive coordinator did in the 1980s.

    1. Yeah? Who is Walters going to recruit? He won’t bring an influx of talent. He’ll take this same roster and go 1-11 again… He should probably go prove himself at a lower tier fbs school first. Don’t you remember the Jon Embree nightmare?

    2. You made a case for Deion in your last sentence. This isn’t the 80’s, players have options even after they sign a letter of intent. Unfortunately, CU doesn’t currently have the ability to build from the ground up as Mac did. In today’s NIL environment, you don’t have time to build it the “old” way. Deion is a perfect fit right now and a winner wherever he goes. So he revitalizes the program for a couple of years and bolts for FSU. At that point, you go get a “Walters” to continue what Deion started. We are at the bottom and will always be at the bottom with the “old” way of thinking. He will bring national attention to a dying program, and recruits will want to be a part of it. National attention brings national NIL deals for kids, CU doesn’t have a “Phil Night.” It’s time we think outside the box; what we have been trying hasn’t worked. As for recruiting and prime academy, he put his name on something and didn’t have internal controls. He didn’t manage the business side of it, a mistake for sure. Please look at the graduation rates of his football team and the academic commitment he instills in his players. This guy can recruit anyone and anywhere, that’s the point! The old way …” you need deep ties to high school coaches”, Deion can walk into any high school and they know him. I applaud CU for swinging for the fences regardless of the outcome.

  18. Cu’s success on the fb field will depend on changing admission STDs as much as a good coach will. Look at other schools in PAC12 , example, OSU. WSU ASU etc.

  19. USF? Buffs or someone else?
    Would definitely like to see Sanders here. This program needs a wakeup call and an awakening in the national media as you said Stuart. A manic offense is also desperately needed. As much as it scares me to have another coach’s kid as QB Sanders son has proven himself and as his son you know he has a ton of confidence.

    Walters might work out as long as he doesnt bring another run of the mill, carousel, good ol boy OC that we have been cursed with forever. ……and lets whoever run (and pass) wild.

    Not getting my hopes up though. If we dont get Sanders puleeeeze no carousel guys like Herman or Mendenhall. At least go for a FCS success.

  20. All I know is that I have been more excited and hopeful these last few days that I have been in years. It feels good to see CU relevant and in people’s thoughts. Prime can do that…and he is the only one that can turn it around in 2-3 years. My hope is he comes, my gut says CU can’t have nice things…

  21. Stuart:
    Great essay. Spot on. I’ve owned season tickets 3 separate times. If we get Prime Time, we’ll be looking at season tickets again. Sko Buffs!

  22. Nope, don’t want him and hope he is educated to know Colorado is not for him.

    go Buffs.

    Note: He can recruit……………but will they stay when he jumps or quits

  23. I just don’t think it’s fair to say it’s a failure because a relentless self promoter didn’t get the job. Deion Sanders is about himself. First and foremost. He’s a big name with an electric personality. No question. Will he bring recruits? Yes. However, I’m not sure a ton of evidence exists on coaching acumen. The talent gap he is working with is massive. Of course he’s blowing people out. That won’t be the case here. Tom Herman has won at Division 1. Knows Texas. Led a prominent academic school. Leonhard and Walters are also very promising guys. Sanders could work. He could be a good coach. Absolutely. If it doesn’t work, I know who he’ll blame. And it won’t be him. I’d pass personally. If he takes the job, I’ll hope for the best. But if he doesn’t, the sky didn’t fall.

  24. Spot on. Well put. Don’t forget Prime Time also settled with an executive of his failed academy that he allegedly tried to choke. And, he has made numerous anti-gay statements. He’ll draw protests right away in today’s world. But, McCartney was a religious zealot who rubbed a lot of people the wrong way too but won. If Deion can do the same I’m willing to look the other way for a while to get us back to respectability. Sad to admit it, but I’ll sell my soul.

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