Unpacking “Coach Prime” Deion Sanders’s impact on the Colorado Buffaloes

Unpacking “Coach Prime” Deion Sanders’s impact on the Colorado Buffaloes

NPR’s Ayesha Rascoe asks David Ubben of “The Athletic” about Deion Sanders and his tenure as head football coach at the University of Colorado Boulder

One man is captivating the college football world, and he’s not a player – Deion Sanders, aka Coach Prime. The legendary football player is in his first season as head coach at the University of Colorado, Boulder, a team that won just one game last year. This year, the Buffaloes are undefeated. Last night, they defeated bitter in-state rival Colorado State in a thriller.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Into the end zone. In the crowd. No good. Picked off by Woods, and it’s over. Buffaloes win it.

RASCOE: That’s from last night’s broadcast of the game on ESPN. David Ubben has been following Deion Sanders closely. He’s a senior writer for The Athletic, where he covers college football. Welcome to the program.

DAVID UBBEN: Thanks for having me.

RASCOE: So Deion Sanders, coach of the University of Colorado football team, but he’s also one of the most gifted athletes we’ve seen in American sports. Remind us, though, who is Deion Sanders

UBBEN: He is a guy that a lot of people consider the best cornerback, defensive back to ever play the sport of football.

RASCOE: He’s a Hall of Famer. He’s, you know, won two Super Bowls. He even played baseball and made a World Series appearance. Like, so he’s done a lot. So he’s that type of athlete that is very well-known.

UBBEN: Yeah. So the fact that they’re off to the kind of start that they’re off to has turned Boulder into the center of the college football universe and has turned Colorado from irrelevant and bad to a good football team but the most relevant football team pretty much overnight.

RASCOE: The Coloradoteam was pretty bad last year. I mean, can you talk a little bit about where things stood when he took over? He didn’t take over, like, a winning team, right?

UBBEN: They were the worst Power Five team in the country last year. They played five or six games where pretty much the other team could’ve scored as many points as they wanted to. I think they had 1,800 – something like that – people show up for the spring game last year. And this year, you had a packed house of almost 50,000 despite a huge snowstorm, and that’s only carried over to the season.

RASCOE: So let’s talk about how the start of the season has gone for them. And, like, why are people showing out like this?

UBBEN: Well, there’s an excitement there. I think there’s a swagger. There’s a cool factor to all of this. And, you know, there’s a lot of people in the coaching community and in the world of college football that don’t like Deion, that are rooting against Deion, and he’s winning in spite of them and let them hear about it on the way. And there’s not a lot of people that operate and conduct themselves that way. And I think he causes a lot of people to gravitate toward him. And it looks and sounds a lot like Deion the player, who had the same effect on people.

RASCOE: Let’s talk about that. What is Deion Sanders as the coach? What is his philosophy? And why does it rub some people the wrong way?

UBBEN: Well, the biggest thing is cutting players and flipping the roster and using rule changes that were basically meant so that coaches could have 85 scholarship players and not have to play three, four, five years where they were down a few scholarships. He used those rule changes to flip his roster, and he did it by the rules but not by the spirit of the rule. And that infuriated a lot of coaches. But then the way that he conducts himself and the swagger and the big talk and all that stuff, I think fans – that doesn’t really rub them the right way. So you’re gaining all of this notoriety within the sport, and then you win on top of that, and then you let people hear about it. It’s sort of a perfect storm of something that we literally have never seen in this sport before.

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