UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – Neon Deion comes to CU: a ‘Prime Time’ preview

In the biggest move since Russell Wilson came to Broncos Country last spring, Deion Sanders has agreed to be the University of Colorado’s next head football coach.

Here we go again in the Anticipation/Expectation Department.

Neon Deion—as he was known before Prime Time became his moniker—ascended to college football’s “hottest coaching commodity” status by winning 23 games the past two seasons at Jackson State, coaching the Tigers to their first undefeated season in school history (12-0 this year), growing home attendance to more than 30,000 per game, running away with back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference championships (JSU’s first since 2007), and in the process proving to be a magnetic attraction for young players.

Based on his meteoric rise, it’s assumed he can work similar magic in the shadow of The Flatirons, which haven’t seen sunshine in the form of a winning record in 15 of the last 16 full autumns.

Sanders—co-star of the current Aflac commercials with Alabama living legend Nick Saban and an established pitchman and television personality—earned his nicknames by doing things on both the gridiron and ball diamond that no other mortal has matched—and by being flamboyant, colorful and charismatic.

He is the only athlete to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series; the only athlete to suit up for both a National Football League game and a regular-season Major League Baseball game the same day; and the only athlete to hit a home run in a Big League baseball game and score a touchdown in a pro football game the same week. 

He played 14 seasons in the NFL and nine in MLB—leading the NFL in three categories (longest interception return, 82 yards, in 1990; and 303 total interception return yards and three return touchdowns in 1994), and the National League in two (14 triples in 1992, when he finished with a career-high .304 batting average, and 16 times caught stealing in ’94 while setting a career high with 38 stolen bases).

He’s been inducted into both the college and pro football Halls of Fame and has received the Football Championship Series (FCS) Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award. In addition, he was named the 2021 SWAC Coach of the Year and deserves it again after Jackson State capped an unbeaten 2022 by routing Southern in the conference championship game last weekend.

Thus, having shown that Prime Time is capable of almost unimaginable feats of derring-do AND showmanship, here’s a timeline of how his next few years might play out here in the Rocky Mountains:

A record 36 starters in other major college football programs pass through the NCAA Transfer Portal and flock to CU to play for Coach Prime in his first season.

The coach’s sons, quarterback Shedeur, who wins the Heisman Trophy in his senior season, and Shilo, a defensive back who settles for All-America honors, follow their dad from Jackson State.

In Year One, Prime’s Buffs post their first winning record in the last six full seasons (abbreviated Covid season excluded) and second in the last 16. At the same time, hoping there’s still some neon left in the baseball version of Deion, the Rockies sign him to hit leadoff and play center field, even though he’s 30 years past that time when he was a .300 hitter and tripled 14 times for the Braves.

His return to baseball a marvel in itself, Deion is hired to take Dealin’ Doug’s place in those baseball-oriented TV commercials. Coach Prime also finds a way to expand the spots to extend NIL deals to Shedeur and Shilo.

In Year Two, the Primes are the talk of college football, making the first 12-team College Football Playoff field and facing Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide in a first-round game—in the inaugural Aflac Bowl.

In Year Three, Colorado wins the national championship but loses its coach to the Broncos, who just stumbled through their eighth straight losing season—their second under hapless Nathaniel Hackett’s ill-fated successor. Shedeur Sanders is in line to follow Russell Wilson, who is retiring after a fourth disappointing season since Denver acquired him from the Seahawks.

All jokes aside, this hire should, at least, restore the Buffs to respectability. Overnight, CU will be an ATTRACTION across the PAC 12. Look for CU to suddenly be popular with the TV networks, too.

And they’ll win some games, maybe more than they lose.

The question is:  How long will it be “Prime Time” in these parts?

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 14 books, eight of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at dennydressman@comcast.net.