The Deion Sanders Effect

“I’m bringing my luggage with me,” said Deion Sanders, in a now viral video where he tells CU Buffaloes players to consider entering the transfer portal. 

“And it’s Louis.”

Did we just hear a newly hired college coach tell incumbent student-athletes to leave his program? While referencing Louis Vuitton? It was quite the introduction for Coach Prime. 

In the last month, The Wire has written articles about the transfer portal and the “first-year coach” rule, but never has a coach been this open about it. It’s unprecedented and it’s sure to have an effect on recruiting. At Signing Day Sports, it’s important to us to keep readers informed on current events and how certain things may impact your athletic experience.

What are the ramifications of this stance that Deion Sanders is taking, and how does it affect current college football players or high school prospective student-athletes? 

Background of Deion Sanders

On December 3rd, Colorado announced it was hiring Deion Sanders, or “Coach Prime,” to be the 28th head coach in their program’s history. He arrives in Boulder after a three-year stint in Jackson, Mississippi where he was the head coach at HBCU Jackson State

This season, Jackson State won its second consecutive SWAC championship and they went undefeated. Sanders’ effect was felt all throughout the program. The Tigers turned in six consecutive losing seasons prior to Sanders’ arrival. In his three years, the program’s combined record was 27-5. In the final two seasons alone, they were 23-2. 

“Deion Sanders’ stature transcends sports, and his hiring elevates not only the football program but the universit as a whole,” said CU chancellor Philip DiStefano. “This is an exciting new chapter in the long, storied history of Colorado football and I look forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our students, supporters and fans to cheer on ‘Coach Prime’ and our student-athletes next fall.”

Sanders’ impact wasn’t felt exclusively on the field. Ticket sales and national exposure increased for Jackson State, and also for the SWAC and HBCUs in general. He’s also made a significant impact recruiting for Jackson State. He notably landed the highest-ranked recruit in the 2022 class, Travis Hunter

Once Sanders and co. fill out the rest of his staff, and make their mark on the recruiting world, CU is sure to be far more competitive than their abysmal stretch over the last few seasons. The question remains, however, what kind of impact Sanders’ statements and supposed path forward will impact recruits. 

What Sanders’ Statements Mean For Student-Athletes

There are two angles that we will touch on specifically. First, prospective student-athletes. How can a new coach of Sanders’ stature impact recruits’ willingness to commit to a middling school like CU? And how are Colorado commits affected?

Second, the current Colorado athletes that are being encouraged to enter the transfer portal. Sanders has made it widely known that CU will be filled with what he considers to be “his Louis Vuitton luggage.” 

Deion Sanders

(Photo by Helen H. Richards/The Denver Post)

Lots to consider. 

For high school recruits, this is a dream scenario. Of course, Deion Sanders wields the power, but one can imagine how much more inclined many recruits are to give CU a second look. 

Typically, when FBS level programs hire a new coach, especially one whose name holds so much weight, they experience an immediate boost in recruiting. In Sanders’ case, this was even true at the FCS level with Jackson State. Long story short: there will almost assuredly be a major rise in the rankings for the Colorado’s next couple recruiting classes. 

Ari Wasserman, The Athletic’s senior writer for national recruiting, even suggests that it’s possible for Colorado to sign a top-10 class next year

“We’ve never seen a hire like this before in college football, a person with this much flash and swagger who is an NFL legend doing things his way,” said Wasserman. “He has a film crew following him around like they’re filming an “E! True Hollywood Story.” He’s talking openly about the portal on Instagram Live. He’s opening the doors into the program, and he’s doing things loudly.”

Suffice to say, recruits will be flocking to CU on visits, to attend games, meet with Sanders, and probably to commit. 

On the other hand, current student-athletes with CU are experiencing something that we haven’t seen before. 

Sanders has already declared that his son, Shedeur, would be the Buffaloes’ starting quarterback. He is encouraging players to enter the transfer portal. And he has rescinded offers that CU’s previous regime had extended to recruits around the country. 

All of this makes for an extremely fluid situation. 

If you put yourself in the shoes of a current student-athlete with the Buffaloes’ program, what are you doing? Knowing that the new head coach has no sympathy for your athletic career. Knowing that he has encouraged you to enter the transfer portal. Hearing him declare that there will be no position-battles and his depth chart is already decided. And knowing that he’s bringing in who knows how many transfers that will undoubtedly lessen playing time for incumbents. You would probably feel inclined to transfer. 

It’s early days, but there will probably be a handful of student-athletes who do follow through under the new coaching staff – especially considering their pedigree. But, given what has happened thus far, it’s likely that many leave the program as well. 

Colorado Commits

Prospective student-athletes who were offered by Karl Dorrell have been told their scholarships would no longer be honored. Now, we know college football is cut-throat, but this development is surprising, nonetheless. You have high school seniors who likely have begun making living arrangements being told they’re no longer welcome. 

This is the type of situation all recruits need to be wary of. The college football head coach carousel often leads to chaos of this nature. But for recruits, it can be especially scary. 

More and more often, young high school football players are being extended verbal offers. Obviously, in accordance with NCAA rules and regulations, they cannot sign them until specified dates. However, these “offers” are just that: “offers” with giant air quotes. They can be easily rescinded. 

While you can’t predict the future, it does go to show how important it is to do some research and get some clarification on program’s signing classes prior to making life-altering decisions. 

And as unprecedented as Deion Sanders’ short tenure has been to this point, there are lessons to be learned from all angles of the industry. 

Even if you’ve “committed” someplace, nothing’s a guarantee until the ink dries on the NLI. Even then, the newfound “first year coach” rule makes for further blurring of these lines. 

One thing is for certain: watching how everything shakes out will be entertaining. It will also show where recruits stand on the totem pole in college football. Good luck to all. 

(Top photo: Aron Smith/Jackson State University)

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