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Say a Prayer For The Athletic …And Sportswriting

“The struggling sports site should have taken a dynamic editorial direction — more edge, more big names, less beat-writing bulk — for its $139.5 million in raised venture capital.”

Jay Mariotti

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This being San Francisco, there had to be a groovy hangout for venture capitalists. The Four Seasons was the place, and sitting across from me one fine morning in 2016 were Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, ready to launch the startup that purportedly would save sports journalism.

I was all ears, having just escaped a wacky experience in a traditional newsroom, the San Francisco Examiner, that only justified my long-held belief that newspapers were toast. As sports director and columnist, I hoped to have two or three full-time writers, a supply of freelancers, a travel budget when necessary and, most importantly, a reliable digital operation as our dominant platform for coverage of the Warriors, 49ers, Giants, A’s, Raiders and others in a rocking market.

Instead, I got headaches — an accounting lady who didn’t want to pay the freelancers, a site that often broke down without anyone to fix it, a kid writer who tried to ramrod through an Oracle Arena security gate before an NBA Finals game, a cannabis reporter who hated me, a publisher who decorated the sports office with team pennants and bobbleheads because that’s where he thought we’d cover games on a small TV, and a budget that dried up because the Canada-based owner didn’t understand why a title-bound team with a breakout entertainer named Steph Curry required postseason road coverage. My best writer was Rick Barry, the basketball great, and to this day, I’m not sure if Barry or the others ever were paid. I covered the Super Bowl in Santa Clara, went to parties all week, saw Dave Matthews in a pier tent, watched Jim Brown celebrate his 80th birthday and prepared to scram.

But before heading back to Los Angeles, I wanted to hear about The Athletic from two disruption-minded millennials. Their business model, straight out of Silicon Valley, was intriguing: a subscription-based site that circumvented the Facebook-and-Google-created dearth of advertising money in digital media. Also, Mather and Hansmann clearly knew people and understood the art of raising investment money, eagerly pointing out VCs at other tables. They had a dream, and I didn’t care when Mather said, “You’re not going to make the salary you’re used to making,’’ knowing that my days of multiple media jobs taking me near seven figures were long gone in an industry already deep into a death march.

Giants' Baer suspended by MLB until July 1 | Sporting News Canada

I did balk, though, when one of them mentioned “equity.’’ Accepting equity as partial compensation would require firm confidence that the company — say, by 2020 — was surging toward long-term prosperity. I mean, what if a killer pandemic paralyzed Planet Earth and shut down sports? I grew more interested in possibly investing in their company than writing for it, and I’m not sure they wanted me anyway, perhaps fearing a rabble-rouser who would piss off the sports establishment lords they were trying to court. How would I know that? Mather referenced one of his first writing hires, who is more chummy with local franchises than hard-hitting. And Hansmann was eager to meet Larry Baer, CEO of the Giants and a fixture in the city’s power elite. I knew Baer a little, so I made a reluctant call on the co-founders’ behalf because I sensed a now-or-never moment for American sportswriting. We never spoke again.

Which turned out to be a blessing, as they ignored my one piece of advice: Assemble a rich lineup of major sportswriting names and avoid hiring not-so-big names in bulk numbers.  That way, the site would be dependent on premier columnists and writers to power through the early years. Instead, The Athletic hired literally hundreds of writers to cover and analyze almost every imaginable league, team and program — pro, college and even soccer overseas. The beat coverage is comprehensive, almost mind-blowingly so, and was supported until recently by abundant travel resources. But the site noticeably lacks edge and critical muscle, as if the mission statement is to both cover the gnarly sports world and appease sports executives such as Baer. You can’t have it both ways, gents.

I take no told-you-so satisfaction in reporting the inevitable fallout: The Athletic has blown through a sizable portion of $139.5 million in venture capital raised through January, forcing staff layoffs of eight percent last week. I repeat: $139.5 million. Oh, what I could have done with $139.5 million at the Examiner. Hell, what City Hall could do with $139.5 million, starting with the homeless encampments near the Four Seasons.

While some of the writers are superstars — Ken Rosenthal, Jayson Stark and David Aldridge among them — the vast majority are not well-known among the national masses. That isn’t to say many aren’t supreme storytellers and essayists, but in a complicated world, beat coverage and pleasant features alone aren’t going to sell a site. Now more than ever, you need strong, provocative, column-writing watchdogs for a $200-billion industry rife with scandal and, at present, dominated by a rush to resume live games despite coronavirus fears and the outrage of racial inequality.

Rick Reilly

The closest The Athletic came to such a difference-maker was Rick Reilly, who briefly dabbled in golf majors coverage before returning to his Hermosa Beach wet suit. I do see kickass columnists whose views always should be used on national topics — Marcus Thompson and Bob Kravitz shouldn’t be confined to the Bay Area and Indianapolis. And I’m impressed how the site, with its multitude of reporters, does break its share of news, led by Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, who busted open the electronic sign-stealing ruse that brought down the Houston Astros and have been out front on recent labor coverage, no small feat when rival ESPN has a tight business relationship with Major League Baseball.

But Mather, the company CEO, missed the mark in more ways than one when he told the New York Times in 2017, “We will wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing. We will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment. We will make business extremely difficult for them.” The Athletic has not succeeded in sucking local papers dry; many of the nation’s best sportswriters — Bill Plaschke, Sally Jenkins, Jerry Brewer and Dan Shaughnessy included — remain at newspaper sites that remain upright for now. And why would Mather make such a comment to begin with? What if it came back to haunt him for some catastrophic reason?

It was Tom Petty who sang, “Out in the great wide open, a rebel without a clue.’’ There never is a good time for any executive, with the sports media business ravaged and unrecognizable, to spout off like some unhinged UFC fighter. Today, Mather’s cheeky prediction is akin to another wayward pitch from Rick (Wild Thing) Vaughn in the movie “Major League’’ — “JUSSSSSST a bit outside.’’ Along with the layoffs, 10-percent pay reductions were ordered for the rest of the staff, and those making more than $150,000 annually are absorbing larger pay cuts, including the co-founders. Mather and Hansmann have acknowledged the site has yet to turn a profit. And their multi-million-dollar podcasting venture? It’s going nowhere, along with a failed video component that purged one of the staff’s most accomplished members, reporter Armen Keteyian.

Digital Outlet The Athletic Laying Off 8% Of Staff Due To Sports ...

The coronavirus helped wound The Athletic, sure. But it was struggling even before the first cases of COVID-19. In Year Five, it’s safe to assume subscriptions will slip into decline — new subscriber growth has dropped 20 to 30 percent — as long as sports is in limbo and tens of millions are living on unemployment checks. And even if the NBA manages to resume in its Florida bubble, and leagues such as MLB and the NFL somehow conduct seasons, reporters can expect limited or no access to athletes and other team personnel at stadiums and arenas. Meaning, they won’t be much different than bloggers watching games in their basements. A media consumer can read free stuff on a myriad of sites. Why pay $59 a year for The Athletic if it isn’t providing distinguishable content?

What’s sad is that the site had a legitimate chance. Rather than pay hundreds of writers, why not bring in 100 proven traffic magnets, make each hire count and heavily promote the product? If you’re silly and think I’m holding a grudge, know that others agree — Ray Ratto, just the kind of smart ass who’d be a huge hit, has wondered about the lack of dynamic opinionists. Just once, I’d like to call up the site and see three or four writers slinging fire instead of writing to impress each other and/or the sports industry. Rosenthal ripped the owners and players for prioritizing MLB’s money fight amid a pandemic and civil unrest; how about more where that came from? in the site’s infancy, I offered occasional thoughts (positive and negative) in comments sections about the site’s coverage, but if you’ve noticed, a suspicious majority of responses are lovefests that smother writers in praise. Um, if you’re doing your job in this racket, hate mail often comprises at least 50 percent of your feedback bin.

The pandemic has forced every business to adapt. In The Athletic’s case, the question is whether it will survive. As Mather noted last Friday in a memo to the staff, obtained by Axios, the company is prepared “for the strangest six months in sports history.” Forgive me for asking if that is a warning to investors. They want results for their $139.5 million, and while the co-founders claim about a million subscribers, is anyone sure of that number? Or whether it’s enough to stay afloat? It’s still possible sports will be disrupted by a second coronavirus wave and that no league completes what it’s trying to accomplish in 2020. If so, The Athletic likely will fold.

And if it does, sportswriting dies. What’s left out there — The Ringer, partner-promoting ESPN, a few lingering papers and the charred remains of Sports Illustrated? Never has the craft felt so non-essential, and in the future, I fear that writers will be working directly for leagues and teams that want upbeat, controversy-free coverage for low pay. At least Mather and Hansmann made a pledge to respect and showcase competent journalism, unlike the trash sites that appeal to low-brow bros.

E1003: The Athletic CEO & Co-founder Alex Mather is building a ...

It’s unfortunate The Athletic, in what might be its fatal blow, prioritized sprawling quantity over brawling, streamlined quality. Now, rather than blather, Mather is humble. “This is a dark day for the company at one of the darkest moments in recent memory for most of us in the country, in the world,’’ he wrote in the memo. “Not a single person leaving is at fault. They did nothing wrong.

“Adam and I made every decision and we are fully responsible for being in this position today.”

I could applaud them for trying. I could say, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’’ But the sobbing in the sportswriting profession would muffle me.

BSM Writers

Marty Smith Loves The ‘Pinch Me’ Moments

“I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have.”

Demetri Ravanos

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I tell this story all the time. It is told for laughs, but it is absolutely true. Marty Smith once gave me a giant box of beef jerky.

I was in Charlotte visiting him and Ryan McGee on the set of Marty & McGee as part of a larger feature I was doing on the SEC Network. We spent probably 3 hours together that day. It was a lot of fun. The last thing I watched the duo shoot was a promo for Old Trapper Beef Jerky, the presenting sponsor of their show.

As they finished, I shook their hands and told them I had to get on the road. That is when Smith presented me with a box of twelve bags of Old Trapper and told me, in as sincere a voice as you can imagine, that he wanted me to have it.

“I mean, listen, if you give a man beef jerky, by God, you like him,” Smith said to me when I reminded him of that story earlier this week. “That’s redneck currency right there, bud.”

There just aren’t a lot of people in this business like Marty Smith. ESPN definitely knows it too. That is why the network finds every opportunity it can to use him to tell the stories of the events and people it covers.

Last week, he spent Monday and Tuesday with the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. He got a day back home in Charlotte before he headed to Atlanta for the SEC Network’s coverage of the SEC Championship Game on Thursday. Saturday, after his duties for SEC Nation and College GameDay were done, he hit the road for Tuscaloosa to interview Nick Saban and be ready for ESPN’s coverage of the reveal of the final College Football Playoff rankings.

As if that isn’t enough, this week he heads to New York. It will be the second time ESPN will use him to conduct interviews and tell stories during the telecast of the Heisman Trophy presentation. It’s an assignment that Marty Smith still cannot believe is his.

“I’ve had a ton of pinch-me moments, but in the last five, six years, seven years, there are two that kind of stand out above the rest. One was when Mike McQuaid asked me to be part of his team to cover The Masters. The other was last year when my dear longtime friend Kate Jackson, who is the coordinating producer over the Heisman broadcast, asked me to be a part of her Heisman broadcast team and interview the coaches, players and families of the finalists,” Smith says. “You know, brother, I’ve been watching the Heisman Trophy my whole life.”

We talk about what the broadcast around the Heisman Trophy presentation is and how it differs from being on the sideline for a game. He is quick to point out that on a game day, the old adage “brevity is king” is a reality. In New York though, he will have more time to work with. He plans not to just fill it, but to use it.

Marty’s interest in his subjects’ backgrounds and their emotions is sincere. It is part of a larger philosophy. He respects that everyone has a story to tell and appreciates the opportunity to be the one that gets to tell it, so he is going to do all he can to make sure the people he is talking to know it and know that they matter to him. That means putting in the time to be respectful of his subject’s time.

“When I’m interviewing these players or coaches before a game, I want to interview them, and I’m saying not on camera, but when I’m doing the record. I want to get as thorough as I can get. Then you take all of that and you try to pare it down into a very small window. It’s not easy. I mean, look, most of the time you come home with reams of notes that never even sniff air.”

Marty Smith has always been a unique presence. As his profile has grown and he shows up on TV more often and in more places, more people question who this guy really is.

That is par for the course though, right? Someone with a unique presence sees their star rise and out come the naysayers ready to question how authentic the new object of our affections really is.

For me, there is a moment that defines Marty Smith, at least in this aspect. I cannot remember the year or the situation, but he was on The Dan Le Batard Show, back when it was on ESPN Radio. Smith was telling Dan about friends of his that are stars in the country music world and Dan asked what it is like when they are hanging out backstage before one of these guys goes out to perform.

I cannot remember Smith’s exact answer, but a word he used stood out to me. He said it was just buddies having a cold beer and “fellowshippin'”.

I told Marty about this memory of him and said that I am not accusing him of being inauthentic or his persona on television being an act, but I was curious if he was concious of the words he chooses. Even if the version we get of Marty Smith on TV is the same one we would get if we were part of the fellowshippin’, does he think about how he wants people to think about him?

He is quick to note that is isn’t an act at all. What you see when you see Marty Smith isn’t a persona he cooked up when he decided he was going into television. That is just his personality.

“It is a lifelong field from where I’m from to where I am,” he says of what we see on TV. “It is relationships made that pinched my clay and remolded who I was to who I am and reshaped me as a person.”

Anyone from The South can tell you that there is no one monolithic “South”. The gregarious, larger-than-life personalities in Louisiana may not always feel real to people from the more reserved and anglo-influenced South Carolina. The Southern accent I got from growing up in Alabama sounds nothing like the Southern accents I live near now in North Carolina.

Marty Smith is from Pearisburg, Virginia just outside of Blacksburg. Surely that informs who he is, but he is also shaped by the wealth of conversations he has had and the characters he has met from his professional life.

“At our company, you have to work really hard to not only make it, but to sustain it. I try hard to do that every day,” he says. “I’m sure I’ve said it before, man. I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have. You piece all of those different things together, and along with opportunity you can do something special, and I’m trying to do that every day.”

The Marty Smith you see on TV is the guy that will hand you a box of beef jerky just because you had a great conversation. He is the guy you see in that viral video from a few years back giving a young reporter advice and encouragement.

You can be confused by Marty Smith. You can have your questions about him and his motivations. They aren’t going to change him though. It took too long for him to become who he is to start second-guessing it now.

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BSM Writers

Another World Cup Run Ends And There’s Still No Soccer Fever In The USA

“We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.”

Brian Noe

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Soccer fever? Hardly. Not in the United States at least. The US Men’s National Team lost in the round of 16 against the Netherlands 3-1 last Saturday. The ratings are in. And the ratings are revealing.

An average of 12.97 million viewers tuned in to see the Netherlands-United States World Cup match on FOX. Before you say, “Hey, not bad,” consider the fact that the ratings are down from eight years ago when 13.44 million viewers watched the USMNT lose to Belgium in the knockout stage on ESPN.

Even more damning are the ratings of the USMNT’s initial match in the 2022 World Cup against Wales, an unhealthy 8.31 million viewers.

Let me get this straight; fans waited, waited, and waited some more to finally see the USMNT in World Cup action, and the first game in eight years drew 8.31 million viewers? Really?

There were 5.5 million viewers across TV and digital that watched the NFL Network’s telecast of the New York Giants-Green Bay Packers game in London. That was a Week 5 game in the NFL compared to the World freaking Cup. Network television (FOX) compared to cable TV (NFL Network). And the ratings are comparable? Come on, US Soccer. Y’all gotta do better than this.

*Mini rant alert — it drives me crazy when soccer in this country is consistently compared to soccer in this country. The promoters of the sport paint an obnoxiously rosy picture of the growing popularity by comparing US soccer now to US soccer then. It’s a joke.

It would be like comparing Nebraska’s 4-8 record in college football this year, to Nebraska’s 3-9 record last year. “Hey, things are looking up!” Never mind the fact that the Cornhuskers are significantly trailing several teams in its conference and many other teams across the country. That’s US soccer in a nutshell. Don’t compare it to other leagues and sports that are crushing it, just say we’re up 10% from last year. Ridiculous.

*Mini rant continuing alert — the Michigan-Ohio State game drew 17 million viewers last month. The New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving drew 42 million viewers. Those are regular-season matchups compared to the biggest stage soccer has to offer. But go ahead and just compare US soccer to itself.

And no, the edge you might feel in my words isn’t born out of fear that soccer will somehow surpass the popularity of football. That would be like Mike Tyson being scared that the Stanford Tree mascot could beat him up. US soccer isn’t a threat, it’s a light breeze. I just hate a bad argument. And many soccer apologists have been making bad arguments on the behalf of US soccer for years. *Mini rant over

The World Cup didn’t prove that American fans are invested in soccer. It proved that we love a big event. It’s the same recipe every four years with the Olympics.

During the 2016 summer games in Rio, when swimmer Michael Phelps was in the pool for what turned out to be his final outing in an Olympic competition, the ratings peaked at 32.7 million viewers. Phelps helped Team USA win gold in the men’s 100-meter relay and then rode off into the sunset.

We don’t really care about swimming. When’s the last time you asked a friend, “You heading out tonight?” and the response was, “Are you crazy? The Pan Pacific Championships are on.”

Whether it’s the Olympics or World Cup, Americans care about the overall event much more than the individual sport. We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.

Ask yourself this, at the height of US swimming’s popularity, would you have paid $14.99 per month to watch non-Olympic events? Me either. US soccer isn’t exactly on fire following its showing in the 2022 World Cup, so the timing isn’t awesome to introduce a paywall for the sport’s top league in this country.

Apple and Major League Soccer have announced that MLS Season Pass will launch soon. I know you’re excited, but try to stay composed. Yes, MLS Season Pass will launch on February 1, 2023. It’s a 10-year partnership between MLS and Apple that features every live MLS regular-season match, the playoffs, and the League’s Cup.

Have I died and gone to heaven?

How much?

It’ll run you $14.99 per month or $99 per season on the Apple TV app. For Apple TV+ subscribers — make sure you’re sitting down for this, you lucky people — it’s $12.99 per month or $79 per season. If you don’t have US soccer fever right now, I doubt you’re running out to throw down cash on a product you aren’t passionate about.

Now if the USMNT won the 2022 World Cup, cha-ching. The popularity of US soccer would definitely grow in a major way. Even if they had a strong showing while reaching the quarterfinals, the momentum would be much greater. But a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the group of 16? Nope. This isn’t it. I don’t expect much more than some tumbleweed rolling by instead of cash registers heating up for MLS Season Pass.

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Colorado Hiring Deion Sanders Will Be Constant Gift for College Football Media

“If Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers, he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor.”

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Deion Sanders quickly made it clear why the University of Colorado chose him to be its next head football coach.

Coming off a weekend in which the four College Football Playoff teams were announced and all of the other bowl-eligible teams accepted their invitations, Colorado — which went 1-11 this past season — made news for hiring Sanders, the former NFL star who was phenomenally successful at Jackson State.

The media that covers college football and sports as a whole should be thrilled that the Buffaloes program decided to take a big leap for attention and notoriety. Sanders is a bold, risky hire. But he’s also been successful in virtually every venture he’s taken. “Primetime” had a Hall of Fame NFL career and also played Major League Baseball. And he’s a master at drawing attention to himself.

During his first meeting with his new team, Sanders made sure to mention that he has Louis Vuitton luggage to make the point that some of his Jackson State players are coming with him to Boulder — including his son, quarterback Shadeur Sanders. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart probably don’t cite luxury fashion when explaining to their players that they’ll have to compete for starting positions.

Coach Prime will not be boring to cover. (That self-appointed “Coach Prime” title, which was on his name plate at his introductory press conference, is a big clue there.) He never has been. This is a man who said during the 1989 NFL Draft, after being selected No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, that if the Detroit Lions had selected him at No. 3, he “would’ve asked for so much money, they’d have had to put me on layaway.”

Even if he doesn’t win as much as Colorado hopes, Sanders will pursue top talent — players who want to perform on a larger stage than the FCS-level Jackson State allows — and impact athletes will be attracted to him. He got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, cornerback and wide receiver Travis Hunter, to play for him. (Hunter is following his coach to Boulder.) Now that Sanders is at an FBS school in a Power 5 conference, more stars will surely come.

But if Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers — going 27-5 in three seasons, including a 12-0 campaign in 2022 — he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor. And he’ll get the attention that such figures typically draw from media and fans. According to the Denver Post‘s Sean Keeler, at least 400 people attended what felt more like a celebration than a press conference.

Coach Prime wasn’t going to just win the press conference, which is what any school and fanbase want when a new coach is introduced.

If Colorado wanted someone to sit at a podium, and give platitudes like “We want to win the Pac-12 and get to the College Football Playoff,” “We’re going to build a program with young men you’ll be proud of,” or “It’s time to restore Colorado to the football glory we remember,” Sanders isn’t the guy for that.

“Do I look like a man that worries about anything? Did you see the way I walked in here? Did you see the swagger that was with me?” Sanders said during his introductory presser. “Worry? Baby, I am too blessed to be stressed. I have never been one for peer pressure. I put pressure on peers. I never wanted to worry, I make people worry. I don’t get down like that. I am too darn confident. That is my natural odor.”

To no surprise, Sanders announced his presence in Boulder with authority. He had cameras following him as he met with Colorado players for the first time. How many other coaches would have recorded what many would see as a private moment for posterity and post it online?

Sanders caused a stir by putting his players on notice. He warned them he was coming, telling them they’ll be pushed so hard they might quit. He told them to enter the transfer portal and go someplace else if they don’t like what he and his staff are going to do.

That candor, that brutal honesty surprised many fans and media when they saw it Monday morning. For some, that message might have felt too familiar. How many in media — or many other industries — have worried about their job status when a new boss takes over? What may have seemed secure days earlier is now uncertain.

But how do we know other coaches haven’t said something similar when taking over at a new job and addressing their team? We just hadn’t seen it before. But Sanders has been in the media. He knows social media. He understands controlling his own message and telling his story.

Sanders also knows what kind of value he brings to any venture he takes on. How many people would have left an NFL Network gig for Barstool Sports? But Sanders went to where his star would shine, where he was the main show, where he could be Deion Sanders. Maybe he’ll have to turn that down just a bit at Colorado. But athletic director Rick George knows who he hired.

Colorado could have made a safer choice, including previous head coaches Tom Herman, Bronco Mendenhall, or Gary Patterson. A top assistant from one of this year’s Playoff contenders — such as Georgia’s Todd Monken, USC’s Alex Grinch, Alabama’s Bill O’Brien, or Michigan’s Sherrone Moore — could also have been an option.

But what fun would that have been? What kind of tremor would Colorado have created in the college football news cycle? How much attention would a more conventional hire have received? Yes, Sanders has to recruit and win. However, if the objective was to make Colorado football a talking point again, that’s been accomplished.

There could be some friction too. Sanders has already been criticized for being a champion of HBCUs, only to bolt for a mainstream Power 5 program when the opportunity opened. (To be fair, other columnists have defended the move.)

At Jackson State, Sanders tried to control local media when he didn’t like how reporters were addressing him or covering a story. Last year during Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day, he balked at a Clarion-Ledger reporter addressing him as “Deion,” not “Coach,” insisting that Nick Saban would’ve been shown that respect. Earlier this season, Sanders admonished a school broadcaster (and assistant athletic director) for speaking to him more formally on camera than he did off-camera.

Will that fly among Boulder and Denver media, or the national college football press? It’s difficult to imagine. Maybe Sanders will ease back on his efforts to control reporters within a larger university environment, metropolitan area, and media market. But we’re also talking about Deion Sanders here. He doesn’t bend to outside forces. He makes them bend to him.

Sanders’ stint in Boulder — whether it lasts the five years of his contract and beyond, or less than that — will not be dull. There could be no better gift for the media covering Colorado football. Or college football, a sport already full of bold personalities, eccentric to unhinged fanbases, and outsized expectations. Coach Prime will fit right in.

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