NCAA Football

Column | Deion Sanders highlights the worst parts of modern college football

AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

Deion Sanders speaks after being introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Colorado during a press conference Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Boulder, Colorado.

Just a few months ago, Deion Sanders was one of the most beloved figures in college football. From dominating at Florida State to reaching the top of the NFL and MLB, “Prime Time” solidified itself as one of the most iconic athletes of all time.

Then Sanders moved into a new profession – coaching. In 2020, Sanders accepted a job as the head coach of Jackson State. During his tenure, “Coach Prime” took a small, relatively unknown HBCU and turned it into a national powerhouse. With his energetic personality, Sanders won the hearts and minds of both his players and the nation.

But his status as college football’s most admired coach was short-lived.

At the end of last year, Sanders announced his decision to leave Jackson State for Colorado. In the weeks that followed, Sanders took heat for his transfer to Colorado.

But the problem with Sanders’ move is not that he left Jackson State, as he has no commitment to stay at the HBCU. Rather, the problem is what Sanders did in his first weeks with the Buffalos.

In a busy team meeting with returning players, Sanders made his intentions for the program clear.

“I’m coming,” Sander said in the video. “And when I get there, it’s going to be changed. So I want you guys to get ready to go ahead and jump into that (transfer) portal and do what you get, because the more you jump into the portal , the more space you get. Because we bring kids who are smart, cool.”

After encouraging his new team to leave the program, Sanders then introduced his son, Shedeur Sanders, as the team’s new quarterback, despite the fact that Shedeur was still on Jackson State’s roster and had not yet entered the transfer portal.

Speaking of the transfer portal, Sanders made significant use of the tool in his first few weeks with the Buffs. As of December 28, 14 players announced their intention to transfer to Colorado. Former No. 1 recruit and Jackson State standout Travis Hunter became Sanders’ biggest pickup in the portal. The first-year cornerback originally committed to Jackson State because of Sanders, so the move to Colorado was expected.

Given Sanders’ blatant nepotism and brutal honesty with his new players, it’s easy to see why the nation changes its mind on Coach Prime. But does Sanders really deserve the hate?

Not necessarily.

Here’s an uncomfortable truth – college football faces an image problem. Between massive NIL deals and cross-border manipulation in the transfer portal, the realm of college football looks more and more corrupt as time goes on. But this problem started long before Sanders moved to Boulder, Colorado. Sanders merely highlights the worst parts of the current state of college football.

Take, for example, the rampant use of the transfer portal in recent seasons. Over 3000 players entered the transfer portal after the 2021 season. Critics lament the unregulated and often shady deals behind the portal.

Is Sanders taking advantage of the dire state of the NCAA transfer portal? Absolutely. Colorado collected one of the best transfer of recruiting classes in the nation this season. Many recruits, including Hunter, were drawn to Sanders’ big personality and star status. Sanders should not take the blame for taking advantage of an already flawed system. But he draws attention to what needs to be corrected.

In addition to his use of the transfer portal, Sanders received hate for leaving Jackson State in favor of Colorado. While this case involves more than just a job change, it brings attention to an overall loyalty problem in the NCAA. From Lincoln Riley to Brian Kelly, there is a serious problem with coaches leaving schools early. Gone are the days when coaches like Alabama’s ‘Bear’ Bryant would spend decades at the same university.

Still, Sanders is not to blame for the volatile nature of college coaching changes, or any other problem plaguing college football. Nevertheless, Sanders’ latest move in Colorado points to one conclusion — college football is broken.

We are no longer in the golden days of college football. Instead, the NIL, the transfer portal and large coaching contracts will continue to dominate the new landscape. Deion Sanders is ultimately just one piece in college football’s larger downfall.

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