Huckster vibe is strong in Deion Sanders, meaning Colorado could be in for reality check


Deion Sanders is introduced last week as Colorado’s head coach after leaving Jackson State, the FCS school where he went 27-5 over three seasons.

David Zalubowski/AP

Something unexpected popped into my mind last week when Deion Sanders was named the new Colorado football coach:

Donald Trump.

Not that Sanders shares any of the former president’s political or philosophical views — who knows anything about that?  

It’s just that here was another man springboarding into a realm where he had never trod (Division I football coaching for Sanders), where he might be utterly clueless or inept, where his fame and sizzle clearly out-trumped (pardon me) genuine accomplishment, and the voting populace said, giddily: Wow! How about this guy? What could go wrong?

Think of the parallels. Trump was a reality star, a millionaire never before in politics, a gabby, self-loving salesman who started a school (Trump University) that was a con job, was always involved in lawsuits or divorces, promoted his children into positions of power, promised everybody everything, put his name on whatever he could and claimed nobody could do anything better than he.

Sanders has been the star of two reality shows himself (“Deion’s Family Playbook” and “Deion & Pilar: Prime Time Love”), worked for years as an NFL Network analyst and had a group of charter schools, Prime Prep Academy in Texas, which was called “infamous’’ by the Dallas Morning News. It was a slipshod institution that received an “F” in academics from a review board and closed its two campuses with less than an hour’s notice, leaving students, teachers and administrators high and dry, with lawsuits materializing.  

Sanders, an NFL Hall of Fame cornerback who also played major-league baseball, then used his notoriety to get hired as the football coach at Jackson State University, a small, historically Black school. He brought along his son, Shedeur, gave him the quarterback job and left after three years for the much-higher-profile, way-higher-paying Colorado job.

How happy was Jackson State about this? 

“I want him 2 fail,” Jackson State president Kevin W. Cosby tweeted, pointing out how upset he was about the wealth at poaching “white institutions.”

Sanders explained to his stunned JSU players that “in coaching, you either get elevated or get terminated. Ain’t no other way.” So away he went.

One other parallel between Trump and Sanders strikes me: Each apparently has the divine word on his side. You’ll recall Trump holding up a Bible like a trophy scalp in front of St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., after threatening military action against Black Lives Matter protesters. Sanders told “60 Minutes” he took the Jackson State job because “God called me collect, and I accepted the charges.”

The self-referential “Coach Prime” now will make something above $4 million a year (up from $300,000 at Jackson State), and he told current Buffaloes players that a lot of them had better leave school or hit the transfer portal because he’s all about winning and changing the culture from the constant losing and 1-11 season Colorado had this season.

No problem with the hellfire, typical-new-coach speech, except that Neon Deion was talking to a bunch of unpaid workers in what’s supposed to be an extracurricular activity but is actually professionalized, prime-time (excuse me), money-driven entertainment for the masses.

The coming 12-team championship playoff, according to some media experts, could be worth as much as $2 billion annually to invested parties. Of course, the actual players, the labor force, aren’t invested. USA Today sportswriter Dan Wolken has calculated that if they were invested, and got just 10% of the revenue, each active player across the dozen teams would receive a check for $135,000.

Fat chance.

Consequently, more and more star players are skipping postseason play. For instance, Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer, a projected NFL first-round draft pick, isn’t playing in his team’s Gator Bowl appearance against South Carolina on Dec. 30. Why risk an injury for Touchdown Jesus when a pot of good ol’ secular American money could be lost?

I remember asking Sanders back when he was a player at Florida State, a gold “Prime Time” pendant dangling above a jewel-encrusted dollar sign on his chest, what motivated him. 

“Money,” he promptly replied.

An honest man back then, Coach Prime is now a D-I football leader, charged with instructing players to be winners but also to go to school and study. Still, perversely, it is all about money.

I’ll bet a lot of new Colorado players respond to Coach Prime’s clarion cash call. You just wonder how long until something blows up at Colorado. The losing might be ending, but the mayhem might just be starting for the Buffs.

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