USC’s decision to part ways with Clay Helton—their coach of the past six seasons—earlier this month has been the subject of endless Twitter gossip with fans and media linking the Trojans to Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, embattled Jaguars coach Urban Meyer (whose transition from college to the pros has not gone as hoped) and Penn State’s James Franklin, among other rumored candidates. However, Reggie Bush, who many would identify as the most accomplished player in the program’s storied history, apparently prefers NFL legend Deion Sanders, now in his second year coaching at Jackson State.
Sanders was quick to dismiss that possibility, insisting he’s “right where I want to be.” But if the opportunity presented itself, would “Prime Time” really have the stones to turn down one of the most coveted gigs in college football? Only Sanders knows the answer to that question. While many are understandably skeptical of the 54-year-old making the leap from the relative low stakes of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) to a prestige program in one of the country’s largest media markets, others, including ESPN’s Paul Finebaum, think USC would be lucky to have him.
“What Deion Sanders can do is hire a staff. He can go out and get a great defense and offensive coordinator,” Finebaum argued in support of Sanders during his appearance on Wednesday’s Get Up. “He is the face of the program and is there a city in America that needs a face and glitz more than Los Angeles? I think he would be unbelievable. Go ahead and hire him today.”
Sanders has only coached nine games at the collegiate level, but what the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in star power. And with Southern Cal losing recruits to SEC juggernauts like Georgia and Alabama (local product Bryce Young reneged on his commitment to the Trojans, instead electing to play for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa), a household name like Sanders could be exactly the splashy hire USC needs.
“I’ve seen less qualified coaches get bigger coaching jobs. He brings a name. He brings a brand. He’s able to recruit and he would bring a lot of attention there,” agreed Desmond Howard. While Sanders may not be equipped to handle the day-to-day minutia required of a coach at college football’s highest level, a capable supporting cast of position coaches and coordinators would alleviate that problem, allowing the Hall-of-Fame defensive back to focus on the “big picture” by recruiting local talent and charming the media with his colorful personality. Of course, if Sanders is truly committed to building something at Jackson State, elevating the program to national prominence, the USC discussion is probably a moot point.