Colorado coach Deion Sanders made quite an impression upon his arrival in Boulder Sunday, promising sweeping changes in his first team meeting. Among other topics addressed during his seven-minute monologue, the former Cowboys star encouraged his team to enter the NCAA transfer portal to make room for the players he’ll be bringing with him to Colorado, including his son, Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders.
“We got a few positions already taken care of, because I’m bringing my luggage with me, and it’s Louis [Vuitton],” said Sanders, who received similar interest from South Florida and Cincinnati before accepting the Buffaloes’ offer to replace Karl Dorrell as head coach, ending his three-year stint at Jackson State. “Go ahead and jump in that portal and do whatever you’re going to do, because the more of you who jump in, the more room you make.”
Reaction to Sanders’ comments was predictably mixed with some praising the coach for his blunt honesty and commitment to building lasting success at a down-and-out program that hasn’t experienced much winning in recent years (one bowl appearance in its last six seasons), while others were more critical, finding his remarks disrespectful to the team’s current players, implying they aren’t good enough to play for him. Sanders also ruffled feathers by setting strict ground rules for future meetings, forbidding players from wearing hats, hoodies or earrings in his presence.
While defenders of Sanders would attribute his “tough love” to establishing a culture of professionalism and accountability, detractors would argue he’s in no position to judge a room full of 19 and 20-year-olds, particularly given the arrogance he displayed attending college in the late 80s, wearing fedoras and flashy jewelry while not even pretending to care about academics (he famously finished with a 0.0 GPA during his senior year). Sanders ruling with an iron fist may earn him a few “atta boys” from the coaching community, but it rings especially hollow and hypocritical when you consider he’ll probably be at Colorado for only a year or two before moving onto a better, more lucrative opportunity elsewhere, perhaps at his alma mater, Florida State. Colorado is merely the next stepping stone for Sanders, a rising star in the coaching ranks who has already shown his prowess as a recruiter, signing a five-star talent (Winston Watkins, whose cousin, Sammy, plays receiver for the Green Bay Packers) within 24 hours of being hired.
Love him or hate him (and it’s about an even split), Sanders knows how to play the game, representing a new era of college football by embracing the transfer portal and selling prospects, not on the school itself, but on his own fame and celebrity. Sanders seems to be playing his hand perfectly, biding his time at Jackson State (a historically black college playing in the Southwestern Athletic Conference of FCS) before making his move to the Power Five, albeit with a reclamation project in Colorado, a fixer-upper program that hasn’t been relevant in decades.