After three shockingly successful seasons at Jackson State, where he led the Tigers to a 27-5 record overall and a perfect 12-0 record in 2022, Coach Prime – as he likes to be called – is officially heading to the Power 5 as the new head coach of the Colorado Football Buffaloes. Suddenly, the Southwestern Athletic Conference lost its highest-profile member in decades, and Colorado, a once-dominant force that just finished off the 2022 NCAA season with a 1-11 record under the head coaching combination of Karl Dorrell and Mike Sanford, had the hottest name on the market and a whole new lease on life.

Will the pairing work? Will Sanders be able to parlay his incredible connections, Subway money, and infectious personality to pull the sort of five-star recruits who miraculously became part of the Tigers’ recruiting classes over the past few years? Could Sanders become an institution in Boulder on par with the Rockies for years to come, or will he instead jump to a program like Florida State or even the NFL if the opportunity presents itself? Only time will tell, but for Sanders, it’s about the journey, as he detailed to Kyle Newman of the Denver Post.

My calling was not built on a location,” Sanders said “It was built on a destination.”

While Colorado may not be known as one of the premier programs in college football, they do have a passionate fanbase, a picturesque campus, and the sort of local engagement that could draw strong NIL offers for prospective players. If Sanders could do it at Jackson State, there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t at least best his predecessor in Boulder, which, considering the Buffs were 1-11 in 2022, is a pretty low bar to clear.

Mike McCartney explains what Deion Sanders brings to Colorado Football

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While the Buffaloes haven’t been particularly good over the past few years, it wasn’t too long ago that Bill McCartney led the team to their first and only National Championship victory in 1990, when, interestingly enough, Sanders was a second-year pro with the Atlanta Falcons and a member of the New York Yankees. Though his time at the university ended in some mild controversy, as was detailed in the fantastic ESPN 30-for-30 The Gospel According to Mac, the former coach is alive at 82 and beloved in Boulder.

Can Sanders come into a university that hasn’t consistently won in a while and turn them into a contender? Only time will tell, but Bill’s son Mike, an NFL agent and former quarterbacks coach, believes that Prime has everything one needs to be a success in 2023, as he detailed to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic.

“When you hire a head coach in college football, he needs to be excellent in one of these three areas: recruiting, culture or scheme,” McCartney said. “Not to say he wouldn’t be excellent in scheme, but I have great confidence that Deion would be great in recruiting — he’s got this magnetic personality that attracts people to him. I think he’s gonna set a great culture. I’ve watched a lot of the videos from Jackson State of him. It seems clear to me that he cares about the kids, yet he also holds them accountable. He has a good culture and he gets the most out of them and still holds them accountable.”

“Those two things right there is a start to the recipe to turn things around. You have to bring in really good players obviously but today, with NIL and the transfer portal, you can’t sustain without a great culture. I really believe Deion will have a great culture at Colorado, where they’ll work very hard and compete every day. Deion is old school in many respects. You see many of his influences of his playing background. I know he’s been very out front that Mike Zimmer, for one, has been a strong influence on him. There’s an old-school nature to Deion, where he’s going to hold kids accountable, but they’re also going to have fun along the way. He’s so appealing to today’s young athletes.”

On paper, McCartney is dead on about what Sanders brings to the table; he established an impressive culture at Jackson State at a surprising pace despite having no college coaching experience, and he was able to make a small HBCU into a certified destination for players who would typically overlook the school in favor of more, shall we say, nationally established programs like Ohio State or Alabama. Considering the volatility of the Pac-12, with USC, UCLA, and Oregon all dropping shocking games to eliminate any consideration from the college football playoffs, there’s a possibility Colorado could once again find themselves among the top teams in the nation for the foreseeable future.