Colorado made the biggest splash of the 2022-23 college football coaching carousel by hiring Deion Sanders from Jackson State as its next head coach. Coach Prime went 27-5 with the Tigers from 2020-22 and succeeded at raising the profile (and talent) of Jackson State. But going from the FCS to the Pac-12 is a significant jump for any coach. Also, it's a gamble for a Colorado program that has struggled to find its footing in the Pac-12.
Sanders' hire is unquestionably one of the most polarizing coaching moves in recent years. Is Coach Prime the right hire in Boulder? Or did the Buffaloes make a big mistake by picking "Prime Time" over some of the other interested candidates?
Athlon Sports debates whether or not Colorado made a good or bad hire with Deion Sanders.
Colorado Football: Is Deion Sanders a Good or Bad Hire for the Buffaloes?
Coach Prime is exactly who the Buffaloes need
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Colorado is 48-94 overall and 27-76 in conference action. The Buffaloes have just one winning record ('16) in a full season of games in that span. In other words, if you are Colorado, what do you have to lose by hiring Coach Prime? Yes, it's fair to wonder how any head coach will adapt as they move up the ladder, especially going from FCS to FBS. It's one thing to win at Jackson State with superior talent over your opponents. It's another thing to match X's and O's with Lincoln Riley, Kyle Whittingham and Chip Kelly in the Pac-12.
However, Coach Prime is already off to a good start in Boulder. He's assembling a quality staff expected to include former Kent State head coach Sean Lewis as offensive coordinator and Tim Brewster and Willie Taggart as assistants. Also, Deion excels at one of the biggest keys to coaching and winning: Talent acquisition. With high school and transfers expected to follow him to Boulder, Colorado's roster could be flipped into a competitive one right away. With Sanders improving the talent and a solid staff to build schemes and develop players, the Buffaloes suddenly have something good in the works.
Also, there's a buzz factor here. No, publicity and buzz don't win games, but Colorado is already significantly more interesting (and nationally relevant) than it has been in recent years.
Will it work? We've had plenty of evidence of big names moving to other jobs and garnering high grades for the hire, only to fail after a couple of years. There's no guarantee any coaching hire will work and the same holds true in this case with Sanders. With an ability to attract talent and bring some much-needed buzz to Boulder, I'm buying Coach Prime as a good hire for the Buffaloes.
Name recognition and reputation will only carry Sanders and the Buffaloes so far
J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott)
I like Deion Sanders the person, the player, and as the head coach of Jackson State. He was able to recruit talent to Jackson State during his tenure there based on his name. He was also in a talent-rich recruiting region.
Colorado is a different animal.
There's no evidence that Sanders can run a program like Colorado, where the goal is eventual College Football Playoff contention. I believe he'll recruit players to Boulder who want to play for Deion Sanders. I just don't think he can consistently recruit the type of talent he'll need to finish at the top of the Pac-12, compete for a playoff berth, and subsequently keep his job. Regionally, he'll be competing on the recruiting trail with an established program and head coach in Utah and a program in Nebraska going through a similar rebuild with a coaching staff who has experience with such projects.
I'd feel better about the Sanders hire if he were stepping into a role at a program that was already winning and near contention, and his recruiting prowess and NIL potential were the factors that could put that program over the top. That's just not the case at Colorado. This is a total overhaul, as Colorado has won more than five games just once in the last 15 seasons. It's a tall order for anyone, let alone a coach whose only experience is less than three full seasons at the FCS level.
If he succeeds, I'll be happy for him and a Colorado program that deserves better than what has transpired over the last two decades. But if I'm a betting man, my money is on Colorado looking for a new head coach again in 3-4 years.