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Deion Sanders draws eyes to college football with the ‘prime effect’

Deion Sanders’ role as head coach of University of Colorado football ignites conversations on race and culture.

Deion Sanders previewing Colorado’s matchup with Nebraska in a press conference ahead of the game. (Photo courtesy of Denver7 News)

The University of Colorado football team was at the back of every college football fan’s mind last season.

That was until Hall of Fame defensive back Deion Sanders became the head coach. After three seasons with the Jackson State University Tigers, Coach “Prime Time” Sanders eventually went to the Colorado Buffaloes at the end of 2022.

Sanders boasted a 27-6 record with Jackson State, including an 8-0 conference record in 2021 and 2022. He eventually left the Tigers, leaving many feeling he was “abandoning” HBCUs. Among those expressing this discontent was activist and social media figure Umar Johnson, who discussed his feelings during one of his social media rants. 

Although he wanted Sanders to succeed, Johnson believed his position at Colorado “ultimately benefits the white power structure.” “At the end of the day, the University of Colorado, a racist institution with less than two percent Black students, is benefitting from all of this,” Johnson said.

Howard student and avid sports fanatic George Hamilton III defends Sanders’ departure.

“Coach Prime wasn’t supposed to be the savior of HBCU football, but people dubbed him the savior because of his name,” Hamilton said. “He was the one who could change it for the better, and he did.”

Sanders’ charisma and mentality show he isn’t deserting the culture in his transition to Boulder. His old-school winning mentality, paired with his unapologetic personality, make the Buffaloes the hot conversation topic across sports and culture. Colorado nearly has as many wins this season as the previous two years combined. 

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People tune in every Saturday to see superstar Buffaloes Shaudeur Sanders and Travis Hunter shine on the collegiate battlegrounds. Musical artists, social justice advocates, and those who don’t even watch college football are tuning in to see Colorado’s team. Marcus Matthews, a Howard University alum and senior editor at Andscape, says Sanders has “clearly been the star” of the season.

“Nobody was really paying attention to Colorado,” Matthews said. “Colorado hasn’t really been good since they had Kordell Stewart and their national championship days. Black folks weren’t checking for Colorado, but now you see people like Lil Wayne and Wu-Tang coming out. It’s kind of like the hip place to be. A lot of people are comparing it to the 80s and early 90s Georgetown teams that were like ‘Black America’s Team.’”

Even at a white institution, many historically Black colleges watch in admiration of his character and coaching. Gregory Coleman, a senior Howard student and college football fan, recognizes Sanders’ impact despite initial criticism of his Jackson State departure.

“I really want to see Howard replicate this level of excellence,” Coleman said. “Not only will it be great for our brand as a top-tier HBCU, but it will allow us to establish a winning culture alongside our Jordan Brand.”

Coleman, however, did emphasize his desire to see the culture reserved at Black institutions.

“Even though I still want him to be at Jackson State and lead the Tigers, I like seeing what he’s done with the players at Colorado,” Coleman said. “I just wished he didn’t try to replicate HBCU culture at a PWI because it’s not their culture, and the ignorance of many supporters can be disrespectful to HBCUs.”

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But that’s what makes Sanders so unique. He is attracting all audiences across different ages and races. “He still resonates with my parents, myself, and the younger generation,” Matthews said. “Deion is such a singular individual.”

Colorado’s upcoming matchups will test the sustainability of their success. But win, lose or draw, people will be watching.

Copy edited by Alana Matthew


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