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Report: Deion Sanders Preparing to Accept Colorado HC Job After Jackson State Game

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 3, 2022

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 04: Head coach Deion Sanders of the Jackson State Tigers reacts on the sidelines against the Florida A&M Rattlers during the Orange Blossom Classic Game at Hard Rock Stadium on September 04, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Tigers defeated the Rattlers 59-3. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders has been "preparing his exit in order to take the head coaching job at Colorado," per ESPN's Pete Thamel, who provided more insight Friday evening:

Pete Thamel @PeteThamel

Sources: Deion Sanders and his associates have spent the week recruiting on-field staff, support staff and transfer portal players to Colorado. While a deal isn’t finalized, Sanders has been preparing for his exit to Boulder for after the SWAC title game. <a href="https://t.co/qDxbratFZq">https://t.co/qDxbratFZq</a>

"They're not doing a great job of hiding this," a Colorado staff source told Thamel. "If he backs out of this deal, it would be a huge problem for Colorado."

As Thamel noted, Sanders has publicly stated that Colorado has offered him the job. He added that "all signs point to him accepting it in the next 48 hours, as all the other candidates Colorado has engaged have been stalled after interviewing weeks ago."

The news comes one day before the 11-0 Tigers' SWAC Championship Game against Southern on Saturday. The winner will head to the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17 to face North Carolina Central University, the MEAC champions.

If the deal becomes official, Sanders will inherit a massive rebuilding project. The Buffaloes had made two bowl appearances since 2006 and were arguably the worst Power Five team in the country in 2022. They finished 1-11 and had a point differential of minus-349.

To call Colorado a sleeping giant would be a stretch, but it does have the infrastructure to be a perennial bowl participant and possible threat in a new-look Pac-12 once USC and UCLA bolt.

The Buffaloes are also the kind of test that could help Sanders work his way toward a more prestigious job if he so desires.

The Hall of Fame cornerback has silenced his skeptics so far, and his success with the Tigers meant a step up to the FBS level was more likely than not. He told Jon Wertheim of 60 Minutes in October he was at least open to listening to offers:

CBS Sports @CBSSports

"What happens when a Power 5 school says: Give us a number — we'll make it work?'"<a href="https://twitter.com/DeionSanders?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DeionSanders</a>: "I'm gonna have to entertain it."<br><br>📹 <a href="https://twitter.com/60Minutes?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@60Minutes</a> <a href="https://t.co/n8sn20SuJa">pic.twitter.com/n8sn20SuJa</a>

Many were surprised to see Jackson State hire Sanders in September 2020.

His work as a cornerback is nearly unmatched, but he had never coached at the collegiate level. The highest he got up the coaching ladder was offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian High School.

Jackson State went 4-2 with Sanders at the helm for the abbreviated spring 2021 season. That fall, the team improved to 11-1 in the regular season and reached the Celebration Bowl, where it lost 31-10 to South Carolina State.

The Tigers' biggest development that year came off the field.

5-star cornerback Travis Hunter, the No. 1 overall player in 247Sports' composite rankings for 2022, committed to the program in December 2021. It was a massive coup for Jackson State and showed Sanders could prevail in a hotly contested recruiting battle. Hunter had originally committed to his alma mater, Florida State.

Having the best players doesn't always guarantee success, though, so Jackson State's 11-0 mark represented another answer from Sanders to those who doubted him.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

.<a href="https://twitter.com/DeionSanders?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DeionSanders</a> and Jackson State finish with an undefeated regular season record (11-0) for the first time in school history 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/f2S5ILQoDd">pic.twitter.com/f2S5ILQoDd</a>

Every single coaching candidate carries a level of risk, and plenty of surefire home-run hires—Scott Frost at Nebraska and Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M immediately come to mind—have backfired spectacularly.

When it comes to Sanders, there's still a lot that is unknown.

What amounts to two-and-a-half seasons at FCS isn't enough to draw any definitive judgments about the 55-year-old, and coaching in FBS will present him with a number of new challenges.

But the logic behind this hiring is certainly sound for Colorado.

Everything starts with recruiting. As much as fans love rooting for underdogs and celebrating overlooked prep players who become stars, winning and losing often boils down to having more talent than the other team.

If Sanders could reel in a big fish at Jackson State, then imagine what he might pull off with the resources that would be afforded to him with the Buffaloes.

He has also shown a willingness to seek out advice from coaches with more experience than him and pick their brains. Building the right staff goes a long way toward covering for whatever flaws the head coach might have.

Hiring Sanders might garner the most buzz of any move during the current hiring cycle, which would give the Buffaloes an immediate shot in the arm. It would be on Sanders to carry that momentum through to the 2023 season and beyond.