Op-Ed: Deion Sanders’ journey was never about year one at Colorado

Op-Ed: Deion Sanders’ journey was never about year one at Colorado

Coach Prime is building for the future in Boulder

The biggest story in college football has been Deion Sanders and the Colorado Buffaloes. With that has come a fair amount of pushback by those who support the established powers of the NCAA. Colorado being a player in the national landscape is like the Bears being a playoff contender in the NFL. Not saying it’s impossible, just not anticipated by those at the top.

If you’ve been paying any attention to the media coverage from outside of Boulder, this should be obvious. With hype comes excitement and it breeds new expectations. A year ago, the expectations for CU was a low bar of three wins, which they ended up with one. By March of this year, it was closer to four. By the time the CU Buffs notched an undefeated record in non-conference play, the expectations were a bowl game with 8+ wins.

Colorado fans are now looking at a 4-4 record, with Oregon State, Arizona, Washington State and Utah left on the schedule. Going into last night, three of CU’s games were winnable. Now they’re down to a dog fight with two and two. They could get to six wins in the final stretch, but 8-4 would be one hell of an accomplishment following a 1-11 campaign. That is still bowl eligible. If they find a way to go 3-1 or better, this entire conversation is unnecessary.

What was the number one biggest reason the national media discredited Colorado as being relevant in 2023? No one can flip a roster in one season. It’s never happened before. Well, college football has never had a coach like Prime before. As Coach Prime has said, he and losing aren’t friends. The fact that most of the media doubted Prime’s ability to be relevant immediately was a shortcoming on their part.

The day after Prime was announced to take over at Colorado, those that know how Prime operates, knew he wasn’t going to take three years to be relevant. That began with the roster flip but does not end there. Did Coach Prime expect Colorado to be a factor immediately? Yes. Did he hope to win every game they played? Yes. Was Deion Sanders going to be unapologetically HIM? Yes. Does any of that change with losses? Absolutely not. Even the most optimistic Coach Prime fans went into the season hoping for 8+ wins. It’s not undefeated and expecting a loss here and there is not the absence of belief either.

If the flip was all that was needed, Coach Prime would not be recruiting at every chance he finds. He wouldn’t mention recruiting on the Rich Eisen show. He wouldn’t mention recruiting at an awards show or a small business luncheon, but he does. Because Prime knows this roster isn’t the finish line. Recruiting has to be ongoing. Everything that is 2023 is about recruiting. Flipping Travis Hunter two years ago was about future recruiting. So was Cormani McClain. Seven mentions about how Colorado gets cold, but not that cold was about recruiting.

Everyone got caught up in the roster flip. That was just step number one. If you’ve been paying attentions since December, you didn’t need Coach Prime to say, “ya’ll better get me now, because this is the worst we’re ever going to be”. The excitement for 2023 has been real, but it was never the prize. During what felt like the peak of the Colorado hype to this point, after the Colorado State win but before the Oregon loss, a very interesting thing happened with the national networks. ESPN, Fox Sports, and various other known platforms all began to attempt to turn a college story into a pro story.

All the national debate shows ALL realized how big the CU narrative was, but since they don’t really cover college much, they had to change the narrative. “Where does Shedeur project in the draft” was a big one. They didn’t find value in actually covering college football so they tried to change the story. For about 2-3 weeks the national debate shows ran three stories on CU. Where does Shedeur project in the draft, when will Deion Sanders make the jump from coaching college to coaching pro, and will Travis Hunter play both ways in the pros?

Here’s the fun part, even though Coach Prime has no control over what the national debate shows run, this too will end up impacting recruiting. Coach Prime is a different animal when it comes to recruiting. Everyone knows it too when it comes to recruiting, especially the opposing coaches. So it should’ve come as no shock to anyone when Coach Prime shuts down the notion that Shedeur might play on Sundays next year.

This was never about year one. Shedeur will be in Boulder for the 2024 season. Travis Hunter has no choice but to be in Boulder in 2024. Coach Prime’s personal business manager said this week that Coach Prime is not going anywhere anytime soon, he is building something.

In the last week we have begun to hear rumblings of early signings, including a five-star QB Prime hopes to have on campus next season so he can learn under Shedeur. Aaron Butler, a five-star athlete, has not only committed to Coach Prime’s Buffs, but also shut down his senior season so he can graduate and be enrolled at CU prior to the spring practices.

Nothing about this says everything was about this year. Even as recently as the spring of 2023 Coach Prime said, we can’t realistically compete with the likes of Georgia and Alabama until we start pulling five-star dawgs up front. Which was not going to happen in 2023. Everything we’re watching right now is great, but was never about this year. It was about establishing the standard, changing the culture and beginning to win.

Obviously, two things can be true at the same time. So, if this Colorado team was 8-0 or 7-1 at this point in the season, that would be great and they’d be hopeful for a marquee bowl or a playoff appearance, but this was never about 2023. Many good analysts have hinted at the idea of what recruiting would look like based on win totals. Enjoy this ride for what it is.

I hope they go 4-0 the rest of the way. But no matter how they finish, this was never about year one. It’s simply to set up year two. After year two, Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter will be in the NFL Draft. Most likely going as day one picks. Some of the grad transfers and upperclassmen will move on allowing Prime’s younger, higher starred prospects to come in and take over.

Colorado football has been the biggest story and the biggest need in college football, but this was never about year one.

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