Deion Sanders will be the next coach at Colorado, the school announced Saturday night, instantly making him one of the most compelling hires in college football this generation.
Sanders comes with just three years' experience coaching college football, as he went 27-5 at Jackson State. The Tigers (12-0) completed an undefeated regular season Saturday with a 43-24 blowout of Southern for the SWAC championship.
He informed his team of his departure soon after Saturday's win. He is still slated to coach Jackson State in the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17 against North Carolina Central, sources told ESPN.
Sanders' arrival delivers a much-needed adrenaline shot to a Colorado program that has had two winning seasons since 2005 and losing seasons in five of the past six years. Since 2005, Colorado has churned through the forgettable tenures of Karl Dorrell, Mel Tucker, Mike MacIntyre, Jon Embree, Dan Hawkins and Gary Barnett.
With Sanders' arrival, Colorado will become one of the most fascinating programs in the country. He immediately becomes one of the most recognizable coaches in the sport, and Colorado's sudden attention comes at a time when the Pac-12 is on the precipice of losing USC and UCLA to the Big Ten in 2024. Suddenly, Colorado is a buzzy program.
Sanders is an iconic American athlete, a member of both the Pro Football and College Football Halls of Fame. He played in the NFL for 14 seasons, won two Super Bowls and played for several Major League Baseball teams from 1989 through 2001. He brings credibility, charisma and deep ties in the state of Texas -- where he coached in high school for seven years before Jackson State -- to start a recruiting pipeline.
He is a defiant extrovert who has long intentionally avoided humility and sought to be the center of attention. Sanders is known as "Coach Prime," and that outsized persona will be needed, as Colorado is a program with no real identity that is badly lagging in fundraising for NIL for its athletes.
"There were a number of highly qualified and impressive candidates interested in becoming the next head football coach at Colorado, but none of them had the pedigree, the knowledge and the ability to connect with student-athletes like Deion Sanders," Colorado athletic director Rick George said in a statement. "Not only will Coach Prime energize our fanbase, I'm confident that he will lead our program back to national prominence while leading a team of high quality and high character."
To provoke change, Sanders will need to overcome the antiquated infrastructure and significant obstacles that have spiraled Colorado to college football irrelevancy.
Colorado's strict transfer policies and lack of NIL infrastructure have been significant obstacles in recent years. Many of Colorado's best players, including potential first-round cornerback Christian Gonzalez (Oregon), left via the transfer portal after last season.
The hire of Sanders follows a trend that has emerged in college basketball recently, with notable former players like Penny Hardaway (Memphis), Jerry Stackhouse (Vanderbilt) and Juwan Howard (Michigan) earning high-profile positions.
Sanders told his team in a meeting posted online after the game that his decision wasn't about money -- "it's not about a bag" -- but rather the chance to create opportunities for African American coaches.
"I feel like I have to do something about it," he said. "There's been four or more African American coaches at the next level that have been terminated. I haven't heard not one other ... than a candidate like myself to replace them. So to me, that's a problem that many don't think about. But that's a problem, if someone doesn't step up and step out, that's a problem."
Sanders added: "My challenge is still to provoke change, no matter where I am. I'm 55 and don't plan on changing anytime soon. God made me like this, and I think God is pleased with what he created."