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The Whole World is Watching

The Pac-12 Networks, at least in terms of live programming, signed off this past week. The lame duck Network aired its last live coverage with the end of the Pac-12 baseball and softball tournaments.

Few tears were shed with the demise of the once grand experiment. The wholly-owned Pac-12 Network was supposed to be the Pac-12’s path to maintaining national relevance, both in terms of exposure and income. Instead, it became one of the major contributors to the demise 108-year old conference.

Over the past decade-plus, the Pac-12 Network became a national punchline … and the University of Colorado was its posterchild.

In the last five full seasons before Coach Prime came to Boulder, the Buffs appeared on the Pac-12 Networks a whopping 31 times. That total represents over half of the games CU played over that span … more appearances than any other Pac-12 team.

Compare … In 2023, CU’s first season under Coach Prime, the Buffs were on network television nine times, on the Pac-12 Networks only three.

Not bad for a team which finished 4-8, 1-8 in Pac-12 play.

While the television partners for only four of CU’s games for the upcoming season have been announced, we now know that all four are going to be nationally televised on major networks:

  • Thursday, August 29th v. North Dakota State … 6:00 p.m., MT, ESPN
  • Saturday, September 7th at Nebraska … 5:30 p.m., MT, NBC
  • Saturday, September 14th at Colorado State … 5:30 p.m., MT, CBS
  • Friday, November 29th v. Oklahoma State … 10:00 a.m., MT, ABC

The anticipated exposure is not really surprising, considering how things played out in Coach Prime’s first season. Last fall, the Buffs played in five of the 20-most watched college football games:

  • No. 3 – Colorado at Oregon … 10.03 million viewers
  • No. 7 – Colorado v. Colorado State … 9.3 million
  • No. 14 – Colorado v. Nebraska … 8.73 million
  • No. 18 – Colorado at TCU … 7.26 million
  • No. 19 – Colorado v. USC … 7.24 million

Compare … In 2022, 4.5 million viewers watched Colorado … play 12 games.

Will CU generate large numbers in 2024? Well, if CU goes 4-8 again, perhaps not. But the table is certainly set for the Buffs to be high on the eyeball charts this fall:

  • Yes, the home opener is against an FCS team, but North Dakota State a quality FCS team. Plus, the only Power Four matchup on the Week One Thursday schedule is North Carolina at Minnesota on Fox. A decent game, but with little other competition, and the ESPN promotion machine with little else to talk about in the days leading up to the season opener … I’ll say it now: The CU/North Dakota State game will be the most-watched game involving an FCS team this season this side of the FCS national championship game next January;
  • The Nebraska game will be a blockbuster. Not only is it a Saturday night game at Memorial Stadium, but NBC will have the coverage (look for plenty of promotions during the summer Olympics). Plus, there won’t be a great deal of competition that night. The ESPN Saturday night game that weekend? South Florida at Alabama. On ABC? Tennessee at NC State. ESPN2? Virginia at Wake Forest. The Cornhuskers will be out for revenge, while the Buffs will be looking for their fourth-straight win over Nebraska;
  • Colorado at Colorado State on September 14th may not generate the absurd ratings numbers as last fall, even with the more attractive kickoff time. A 5:30 start on CBS, though, will be well promoted (the lead in game will be Notre Dame at Purdue), and the well-watched double-overtime game from last season will not be forgotten (the CSU game, despite kicking off at 10:30 p.m., ET, had more viewers than the Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC championship games. Hell, CU/CSU outdrew both Oregon/Washington games last season. Oh, and if Ram fans try and claim anyone was tuning in to watch Colorado State, tell them this: No other game involving a G-5 program made it into the Top 50 of most-watched college football games last season);
  • Oklahoma State at Colorado. It’s way too early to project how important this game will be come Black Friday. The Cowboys are one of the three teams most often listed as favorites to win the Big 12 (joining Utah and Kansas State), so the game may have Big 12 title game implications for Oklahoma State (and yes, potentially for CU as well, though bowl eligibility may be more likely to be the storyline for the Buffs on Senior Day). The CU/Oklahoma State ABC game will be pitted against Nebraska at Iowa (Fox) that morning (kind of nostalgic for CU and Nebraska to be both playing an early game on the Friday after Thanksgiving), but will also be well promoted. ABC has a triple-header on Black Friday, with CU/Oklahoma State leading into the Egg Bowl (Mississippi State/Mississippi) and Georgia Tech/Georgia.

It’s still kind of hard to believe that CU’s average audience last season was 50% greater than the total number of viewers the Buffs drew for all of 2022. The Prime Effect was real, and shows no signs of slowing down. While the pundits are still having their say, downplaying CU’s chances of even getting to bowl-eligibility, the networks are still true believers. This fall, the Buffs viewership will again surpass the total viewership for all of 2022 … before Labor Day.

But … with the notoriety comes those who are more than happy to try and knock the Buffs and Coach Prime down a peg.

Easiest bar bet winners of the off-season:

  • Which stat will the preseason magazines cite more often: That CU finished the 2023 season on a six-game losing streak? Or … That Nebraska finished the season on a four-game losing streak, failing on four straight opportunities to pick up a sixth win and bowl-eligibility after a 5-3 start;
  • Which coaching history will the preseason magazines cite more often: That Nebraska’s Matt Rhule has a history (at Temple and at Baylor) of turning things around in his second year at a school (ignoring his NFL coaching debacle – 11-27), while conveniently forgetting that Coach Prime went from 4-3 in his first season at Jackson State to 11-2 in his second season (and 12-1 in his third season).

What’s the old saying – If you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all? That doesn’t apply to those who want nothing more than to see Coach Prime fail.

Two recent stories are a good example of how the vultures are always circling.

CSU-Pueblo coach Philip Vigil posted two screenshots of alleged text messages between one of his current players and Colorado assistant director of player personnel Devin Rispress. He attached a caption calling out the NCAA, Big 12 Conference, CU, and Coach Prime.

Looking past an obvious error (the alleged poster called himself the director of Player Personnel at “Colorado University” … no one who has ever gotten within 50 miles of Boulder has ever called CU “Colorado University”), or the fact that it would be strange for CU to be recruiting a player – a Division II player, no less – seven months before the Transfer Portal reopens, but the CSU-Pueblo coach never bothered to try and confirm the text.

Devin Rispress, for his part, was quick to deny the allegation: “Nice try y’all been catfished wrong guy brother. You could’ve hit me up before tweeting this and embarrassing your program.” He later reaffirmed the messages were “1000%” fake.

But that didn’t stop Sports Illustrated, “Colorado accused of tampering by CSU-Pueblo head coach Philip Vigil“, Athlon Sports, “Deion Sanders and Colorado Accused of Tampering By In-State Program“, and Fox News, “DII football coach accuses Colorado of tampering” from running the story.

The more significant – and factual – story has to do with Shilo Sanders filing bankruptcy after having a multi-million judgment entered against him for an assault against a security guard in 2015, when Shilo was 15 years old.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2016, and drug on for years. In 2020, Sanders’ attorneys asked to withdraw from the case when it became clear their client, who was a redshirt freshman at South Carolina, could no longer financially afford their services. Trial dates were constantly delayed until 2022 when the court decided to convene and hear Darjene’s case.

According to USA Today, the Dallas County-based court attached to Sanders’ trial noted that it had “no updated mailing address for defendant Shilo Sanders.” It attempted to send notice to Sanders in February 2022 of a trial date set for March, though it used an address listed in South Carolina, where he hadn’t resided on a permanent basis since 2020.

Sanders did not attend the trial since he didn’t receive notice, and no attorneys were present to represent him. As a result, the court entered a default judgment in March 2022 in favor of Darjean ordering Sanders to pay $11.89 million.

Last October, Sanders filed for bankruptcy protection. While Sanders will be able to discharge most of the debt, debtors in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy must surrender to the bankruptcy non-exempt assets, so the haggling over the value of Sanders’ assets, including the LLC’s which handle his NIL deals, will go on for some time, and will be expensive for Sanders (why Sanders didn’t file bankruptcy much earlier in the process, when he had much less in the way of assets, is hard for me to understand).

Still, the bankruptcy was filed on October 23, 2023 (just days before CU’s game against UCLA, a game in which Sanders was ejected on a questionable targeting call) … but is headline news now, when there is little else going on in college football.

Solid investigative journalism? Or an opportunity to get maximum value out of a story which embarrasses the Sanders’ family?

The pluses and minuses of for CU … when the whole world is watching.


3 Replies to “The Whole World is Watching”

  1. I am hoping all the media attack is extremely effective bulletin board stuff. It has to hurt recruiting. I’m worried that if Prime doesnt deliver at least a bowl game this year, and the way the structure of college football is dissolving. CU’s return to relevance may be terminally delayed in my lifetime. (10 more years?)

    1. 10 more years is a bit poignant, my friend. Ain’t none of us gettin out alive, but I have two wishes for you. First, that your mind and body fail at the same time and you go peacefully in the night. After enjoying as much time as you can enjoy. Second, that you see our Buffs back in the realm of relevancy, due to wins, not just the exposure Deion has brought. Peace.

      Go Buffs

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