You Can’t Spell “Christmas Presents” without “P-R-I-M-E”

From the depths of despair to the quiet peace of hope … From being the brunt of jokes to being sniped at by jealous rivals … From college football obscurity to the front page.

It’s been an interesting three weeks.

On December 4, 2022, after two months of wondering, followed by two weeks of stressful anticipation, Deion Sanders was named as the 28th head football coach at the University of Colorado. Since then, it’s been a rollercoaster ride of emotion, as the Buff Nation was reminded what it was like to be talked about nationally in a positive manner. High marks were given for the hire, even from those who expressed doubt that Coach Prime could translate his recruiting and coaching prowess from the SWAC to the PAC.

CU’s first game under Deion Sanders is still over eight months away, but there has already been time to get excited – perhaps overly excited – about what Coach Prime could bring to Boulder.

And the haters have jumped on every opportunity to negate the positives the hire has brought to the Colorado football program …

Losing the Celebration Bowl

There were those in the Buff Nation who were disappointed the Coach Sanders opted to stay with Jackson State through the Celebration Bowl on December 17th … Just four days before Signing Day. Most though, appreciated (or at least understood) the loyalty Sanders was showing to his former team. The CU Recruiting Class of 2023 was certainly important, but it was more important that Sanders finish his season.

Then Jackson State lost in the Celebration Bowl to North Carolina Central, just giving added fodder to the naysayers. “If he can’t beat a team from MEAC, with a roster of superior talent, how is he ever going to win in the Pac-12?“. Lost in this sentiment, of course, was the fact that it was a 41-34 overtime loss – the first loss of the season for Jackson State – with a Tiger tight end dropping the ball in the end zone in Jackson State’s overtime possession. Also ignored was the performance by Jackson State quarterback – and future CU quarterback – Shedeur Sanders, who completed 30-of-40 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns. Shedeur’s performance in the game was enough by itself to give Buff fans optimism for the future of their program. (Point of reference: The last time CU had a quarterback throw for over 300 yards in a game? Steven Montez … in 2019).

Coach Prime dismissing Buffs on the current roster

Everything Coach Prime does is filmed – Buff fans are just going to have to get used to that. Sanders was blunt with the current roster when he met them for the first time, telling them that many would not have a seat at the table when the CU roster was set for 2023. Similar conversations were held between other new coaches and their new teams … but Coach Prime’s speech was recorded for all to see.

There was also fallout from over half (12 of 20) of the committed players from CU’s Recruiting Class being told they needed to look elsewhere. The move prompted an article by The Athletic entitled, “Deion Sanders’ unwanted Colorado commits searching for a new home“, quoting frustrated and angry recruits who felt that they had been promised a scholarship, regardless of who would be the next head coach.

“When Coach Dorrell was fired, (George) had said we were going to have our scholarship offers honored,” said three-star linebacker C.J. Turner, who reportedly pushed away interest from Florida State because he was set on playing at Colorado. “I was surprised when I got the call. It was so late in the recruiting process. I wish I was told earlier.”

The article did acknowledge that rescinding scholarship offers by a new coaching staff was not uncommon: A Power 5 recruiting coordinator said it is not uncommon for a new coach such as Sanders to pull scholarship offers from previously committed prospects.

But, as with everything else having to do with CU’s larger-than-life head coach, everything will be magnified when it comes to Coach Prime’s tenure in Boulder.

Not living up to the hype of recruiting 

Pick your favorite analogy … A kid set loose in a candy store … A man dying of thirst in the desert finding an oasis … The nerd getting the prom queen to go out on a date …

After Coach Prime was hired, Buff fans were all of the above when it came to recruiting.

Four- and five-star prospects who couldn’t have located Boulder on a map a month ago were scheduling visits to CU. Recruiting rankings, a source of shame and embarrassment for over a decade, were now being scrutinized and debated by Buff fans on a daily (if not hourly) basis. Every morsel of information about potential signees was devoured, with hungry Buff fans immediately demanding more.

Perhaps the best analogy for CU fans these past few weeks would be the mental picture of a ten-year old ripping through presents on Christmas morning. I personally summon up the Christmas morning scene in A Christmas Story. There is Ralphie and his little brother, tearing through present after present, as quickly as humanly possible, as if the next present would be the best present … ever. There is no time to appreciate at the moment of how great the new gift is … it’s on to the next one!

And that’s how it has been for the Buff faithful the past two weeks.

  • A commitment from a four-star running back (Dylan Edwards), who had previously committed to Notre Dame? That commitment alone would have been a banner headline for any of the previous 15 Recruiting Classes, but at CU in the new age of Coach Prime, the reaction has been: Great … but who’s next?;
  • A commitment from a five-star wide receiver from the Class of 2025? Nice, but who knows if that commitment – or CU’s coach – will be around then?;
  • The hiring of an existing FBS head coach (Sean Lewis, from Kent State), willing to take on the offensive coordinator position? Sounds good, but who else is Coach Prime going to hire?;
  • Bringing in one of the best quarterbacks in the FCS, a four-star recruit who had over two dozen Power Five conference offers out of high school? Okay, but will he bring Travis Hunter and Kevin Coleman with him?;
  • A commitment from the University to redo its transfer rules, by way of a “pilot program”? While this was arguably a move almost as important as the Sanders hire, the fan base reaction was pretty much: “It’s about time“.

Throw in record merchandise sales and season ticket requests on a level never seen before by the CU ticket office, and you begin to understand how big this all is to the future of the program.

Now, I do have to admit that I’ve been caught up in the rush to rebuild the roster as well. As unrealistic as it objectively sounds, I wanted Coach Prime to makeover the entire lineup in three weeks. It didn’t matter that most of the best players from the Recruiting Class of 2023 were already solid commits elsewhere. It didn’t matter that other coaching staffs have been working the phones for potential transfer – either inside or outside the rules – for months, while Coach Sanders hadn’t had time to fill out a coaching staff, much less evaluate the over 1,500 names in the Portal. When I read that a four-star had expressed an interest in Colorado … I just assumed that Coach Prime would get him.

Now that the early signing date has passed, CU fans can catch their collective breath, and actually appreciate the presents they have already received. We should take the time to savor what we have already been given, remembering that much of what we have received wasn’t even on our radar a month ago.

Going back to A Christmas Story … Remember the scene in the movie just after the opening of presents frenzy, with Ralphie sitting on the couch with his parents, (with little brother Randy passed out on the floor)?

The father asks Ralphie if he got all he wanted for Christmas, and Ralphie mumbles, “pretty much”.

But … Christmas is not over.

What Ralphie really wanted for Christmas was the “official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time”. The gun wasn’t under the tree … but his old Dad did get him the gun, hiding the present behind a desk, so Ralphie would be surprised at the final gift.

In the end, Ralphie got what he always wanted.

In the end, Buff fans may also receive the gifts they have been longing for – begging for – for years:

  • A competitive team, one which wins more games than it loses, earning bowl bids most seasons;
  • A team which can put together title runs on a regular basis. The 2010s were the first decade since the 1950s in which CU didn’t win at least one conference championship. Colorado has been a Top 25 program for most of its history … it deserves to be one again; and
  • Once or twice in a generation, a run at a national title. In the brave new world of college football, where teams can buy recruiting Classes (see: Texas A&M last year; Oregon this year), it’s unrealistic hope that CU will be a national player on a regular basis … but every once in awhile, Buff fans have earned the right to be a part of the conversation.

For now, Buff fans, we should be content with the gifts we have been given. There will be plenty of time this offseason to dream the bigger dreams. But let’s take a few moments this holiday season to be grateful for where the program is today … compared to where it was less than a month ago.

Hope has been restored; loyalty has been rewarded. We’ve been ripping through our new presents so quickly that we haven’t taken the time to reveal in each one as they come.

It’s hard, but I’m going to take next week or two to savor what we’ve been given, and not spend all of my time wondering what’s in the next box.

It’s been a great holiday season. My thanks to Rick George and Coach Prime for taking a chance on each other, and for giving our beloved CU program a future.

After all … you can’t spell “Christmas Presents” without “P-R-I-M-E” …


28 Replies to “You Can’t Spell “Christmas Presents” without “P-R-I-M-E””

  1. My Christmas present thank you list for 2022:
    1. Thanks for “CU At the Game” Stuart and all the work you do for us CU Buff fans, much appreciated!
    2. Thanks also to Rick George for having the courage to step outside the box and fix big things for football, both the transfer restriction changes and also grabbing Coach Prime and his staff!
    3. Thanks also to Coach Prime! In the space of a few weeks, you have brought hope to CU fans and relevancy to our Football program at the PAC-12 and national levels.
    4. Next up – Coach Prime has to finish up recruiting and the staff now has to take the talent and form a winning team! So far, the more I learn about Coach Prime and his staff, the more excited I get, really looking forward to the rest of recruiting season and spring practice!

    1. Well stated (especially the kind words about the website!)
      The question for the next eight months will be whether Coach Prime can take the team he has assembled and get to a bowl game. CU will have six teams on the schedule which won at least nine games last year (and, if UCLA and Oregon win their bowl games, it will be six games against teams with at least ten wins). Unless the Buffs pull off an upset against one of those six teams, Coach Prime will have to be 6-0 v. Nebraska, CSU, both the Arizona schools, Washington State and Cal in order to get to six wins and a bowl bid.
      With each new recruit and transfer, though, it’s looking more and more like a real possibility …

  2. Stuart, thank you for the ongoing gift of this website, your dedication to CU, and the long hours updating us on the recent very positive news. Best wishes for safe and enjoyable (and restful) holidays.

    1. Thank you for your support and kind words.
      I hope you and yours are having a great holiday season – it’s (finally) fun to be a Buff again!

  3. Yo Stuart,
    Another gift that keeps on giving is you and your loving work to bring us CU at the Game… Day after day and year after year. We thank you for your time and dedication to our Buffs.

    I’ve been restocking my Buffs gear some Coach Prime came aboard, but I would like to share the good will by donating to the CU at the Game website which has given me thousands of hours enjoyment and information over the years.

    I also encourage everyone else who comes to your CU at the Game site day after day to do the same. I’m in for $100 to ring in the New Year of Colorado being relevant on the national stage once again.

    Can you post a PO Box or Go Fund Me so that we can help support all the great work you do?

    Thanks! Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! Super Solstice! Happy Festivus! Happy Kwanzaa!

    Mark / boulderdevil

    1. Mark,
      Very kind of you and your offer of support.
      Hang onto your $100, though, as there will be a second round of CU at the Game NIL interviews this spring. I’m thinking of launching the GoFundMe campaign in late January ($10K raised in three days last year – you guys were AMAZING!), so I can do interviews between the second signing day and the start of spring ball.

  4. Great write-up Stuart…..and to think, you almost wanted to quit for good after the Minnesota game in 2021…..cheers to the future !

    1. Thanks!
      Can’t quit now … too many good things happening. Taking the chance on Coach Prime has already paid off for CU ten fold … and he’s been on the job for three weeks!
      Looking forward to what comes next.

      Best to you and yours this holiday season!

  5. Dont remember too much about the incoming portal players last year (mind is protecting itself from trauma) but it seems we plucked a few players from high profile programs that were riding the bench.
    On the other hand Prime has been selecting transfers from FCS and in at least one case a lower level that have been , for the most part, all conference stars. All the twitter QBs and coaches will be making a big deal out of the increased level of talent they will have to face at the Group 5 level but at least they have been on the field and winners.
    No doubt the miserable performance by the team at year can blame miserable coaching to an extent but I am expecting that situation to turn around as well. If nothing else Prime’s swagger and energy should rub off. AND WE ACTUALLY HAVE A QB who is going to have a number of O linemen and WRs to choose from.
    Next year’s pre con schedule is brutal. We open with one of the playoff teams and then face a pressure packed game with the cobs. I checked the TCU roster to see if Duggan is coming back. He is listed as a senior but these days that could mean anything. I am actually a fan of his. He will claw and scratch and do anything it takes to win. A lot like how I remember Kellen Moore. Another thing I noticed was they are hogging 5 other QBs on the roster. One soph and 4 freshmen.

    On to the schollies. Why cant these players who have been booted continue to enjoy the benefits of their schollies if they wish to stay here and study? It cant cost the school that much compared to the money being burned already. I doubt if that many would stay anyway out of spite but what the heck? Is there some rule their schollie would count against the 85 still on the team? that would really suck.

    1. I read somewhere that NCAA rules say a player cut from the team can keep their scholarship and finish their degree. They just can’t play football. So there is at least an option.

    2. Yeah, it couldn’t be an athletic scholarship, but would need to be converted to an academic one (which no one else probably wants to pay for)

  6. I am thankful for the o line he is bringing in. I am really excited about Lewis’s offense.

    I agree with your sentiments that I had a what next attitude, breathlessly waiting for a class of entire 4*’s every recruit that came to visit to sign….

    Instead we got the best class we have had in a long long time, with only 3 weeks, a lousy previous year, and limited staff. Let’s try and be just a bit realistic. It’s hard I know, I struggle with it myself.

    I am trying to turn away from expectations and just enjoy the ride and Enjoy the unprecedented access we get now. We’ll see how long that lasts before I start making wild predictions based on hope and a couple of glimpses of things.

  7. Still pinching myself. I can’t believe how quickly Coach Prime has, quite literally, brought this program back from the dead at the most critical of junctures (facing NIL, changing transfer rules, impending conference realignment). Kudos upon kudos to Rick George for bringing him here. And to Todd Saliman, Phil DiStefano, and the Regents for providing the support that made it possible.

  8. Well done and balanced perspective…yes we are in unfamiliar territory and loving it. Could we be playing in a bowl this time next year ? Sure would be great.
    Yes we are relevant again, at least conversationally for now…
    Thanks for bring up the issue about honoring scholarships, my brother mentioned that yesterday from Husky territory in Seattle. I was not surprised as NCAAF has changed so much from the days of old. Yet it would have sucked to be on the receiving end of being told your offer had been rescinded. Again I am not surprised and with all the coaching changes (NIL$, transfer portal etc) am fairly sure it is not isolated.
    There was an article here in the Boston Globe about the CU hire, and I was surprised to see that my commnet out of a dozen was the only positive one…maybe I shouldn’t have been. What is clearly evident is that a lot of people have negative takes with larger than life sports personailities and will pick them apart. The haters will hate. Or if he is on your team, all is easily forgiven. What struck me about Deion is that he genuinely talked about using his success in helping out others and working towards having more black coaches in college football.
    So happy the Buffs are on their way to becoming competitive again. A lot of us have been through the wringer and almost walked away.
    Welcome coach, and go Buffs !

  9. Stuart:Fantastic article…spot on as always. We are all “Ralphie” in this story, and we are eagerly awaiting our real Ralphie to take the field. Thank you for great work, and Merry Christmas.

    1. Thanks, Patrick, for the kind words.
      Happy holidays to you and yours. Looking forward to seeing you next fall (still sorry I missed the reunion).

  10. To add to the collection I wishing and waiting for:
    Windham Weaponry AR-15 7.62×39 Semi Auto Rifle 16″ Barrel 30 Rounds Mil-Spec Furniture Fixed Front Sight Matte Black


    Yup Pretty impressive change in personnel. Players and coaches. So far.

    And on to a Happy New Year on the way.

    So Mr. Prime welcome to high level college football. Coaches and players lined up against you are at a much higher level than you are use to. Belief is you will handle it like all issues you have faced in the past. Like it.

    So now the anticipated “GRADES BY VKB”

    Player gathering: First year attempt/results. Compared to previous 15 years. Unimaginable.
    Grade B+++ (note: After a successful 2023 season I would expect it to be 4 start loaded)

    Coaching staff acquisition: So there are some good/nice/limited resumes in this group.
    Grade: B- (note: I gotta see it afore i can support it)

    Colorado Hype Simply A+. I can see it and it is amazing. Note: ( not gonna get caught in the “flimflamman” fantasy and especially the wackymacky slight of hand.)

    Prime is a legend in his own mind……………………………… it is in ours

    Bottom line. BUFFS WIN

    1. Not sure why you felt the need to mention it in here but that is an interesting caliber choice. Are you volunteering for the Ukraine and need the ability to use captured ammo?
      Prime is already a legitimate legend regardless of the “mind.” Lets hope that it gets even better.

      1. I mentioned it cause Ralphie wanted an air gun

        7.62 is available everywhere and also manufactured in the us.
        more stopping power than the 5.56 when IRS with there 78,000 gun totting agents show up.
        30 round mag. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

        Go Big Legitimate Prime……….you too ep

      2. Also, like you I am a peace-loving hippy that adopts dogs, supports veterans, volunteers at the food bank, is suffering from various older age maladies, does a little handywork now and then, grows a few veggies, trims roses, walks 1.5 to 2.5 miles a day with the dog, has some titanium in him, salutes the American (did you know Stanford says you cannot say that word anymore because it’s divisive)Flag and does a bunch of other stuff too. Just like you ep and certainly az!! Earwax? who knows.

        Go Buffs.
        Go Prime.

        Note: Prime ain’t gonna retire here.
        Players aren’t coming here cause it’s Colorado
        They coming cause of Prime. Fact
        What happens after Prime?
        Don’t care


  11. Terrific piece, Stuart. I was freshman at CU fall of 1985. CU had just been voted “the most beautiful place in the country to watch awful football” by Sports Illustrated in its college football preview issue coming off a 1-10 season. It was the first year that Coach Mac installed the wishbone (or flex bone or whatever he, Coach Barnett, and Coach DiNardo called it). In ‘85, Buffs went 7-4 and played in Freedom Bowl vs Washington. It was that season that Mickey Pruitt came off the edge to sack Chris Miller of Oregon on game’s last play to preserve a Buff win. The next year, CU beat Nebraska at Folsom for first time since Eisenhower was President.

    In 1984 Buffs were a laughingstock. In 1985, they didn’t change coaches but changed schemes and approach instead and the program took off on a journey that culminated in a National Championship and a decade in the upper echelons of the sport.

    From afar, here in the great Garden State, I’m picking up the same vibe now that I felt up close and personal way back when. How will it play out? I’ve no idea. All I know is the great Andy DuFresne was right. Hope is a good thing, maybe even the best thing…and nothing good ever truly dies.

    Merry Christmas!

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