Deion Sanders Is Like Any Other College Football Coach
1:09 PM EST on December 4, 2022
After three seasons and a 27-5 record as head coach at Jackson State, Deion Sanders will take the same position at Colorado. The school announced the news on Saturday. Did anyone expect him to be the first college football coach not to put himself first?
Sanders will begin his new gig after the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17, when the 12-0 Tigers play North Carolina Central. Jackson State was Sanders's first collegiate coaching job, and he did well there. Under his tenure, the school gained national attention, although a lot of that attention came because Deion Sanders was the head coach. But the Tigers achieved actual success, too: The team won back-to-back SWAC titles in 2021 and this year, lured in legitimate recruits like top-rated prospect Travis Hunter, and upgraded its football facilities.
When Sanders arrived at Jackson State, it felt like an experiment. When he started winning games and built an impressive roster of players, there was a conversation about how the move could possibly lead to structural change within the sport. What if other coaches and players followed his lead and, instead of going to the biggest schools, brought their talents to historically black colleges and universities? What if this were the start of a new day in college football? Sanders wasn't afraid to lean into this, saying his mission was to provoke change and show athletes that it wasn't about fancy locker rooms, but about which school would help them develop their skills. This sounds inspiring in theory; in reality, this would have only changed the names and faces of the overseers. Sanders's tenure at Jackson State was good for the school and good for the players, but it was best for himself.
Sanders will now be in charge of rebuilding the Colorado Buffaloes, a program that went 1-11 this season and finished at the very bottom of the Pac-12. They might suck, but they're still an FBS school with all the resources that come with being in a Power 5 conference. It's an opportunity for a bigger stage, even if that bigger stage means he'll start off the 2023 season against a much tougher opponent in TCU. Surely he'll coax some of those Jackson State recruits to hop in the transfer portal. There's already one report that his son, Tigers quarterback Shedeur Sanders, could head to Colorado and convince others to join him.
"In coaching, you get elevated, or you get terminated," Sanders said as he informed Jackson State players and staff that he would be leaving. No arguing that. Sanders is just doing what any other college football coach would do. The job demands self-interest and awkward December meetings with all your players and staff. Why would it have been different for him?