They actually think this is a game, don’t they? Not that it speaks well for their world purview, but the NFL and three remaining college power leagues see the coronavirus as some sort of extreme manhood test instead of what it really is: an unshakeable, unforgiving, invincible fiend with no interest in curtailing its all-points spiking mayhem.
“Next man up,’’ they shout, as they would on a sideline, dismissing the Big Ten and Pac-12 as hobbled weaklings in a survivalist gauntlet.
Truth be told, we need to jolt the remaining resisters from their delusional daze. The same medical concerns that prompted two-fifths of major college football to postpone seasons in a close-contact, saliva-fraught sport also apply to the arrogant holdouts. NFL players are just as vulnerable to contracting and spreading COVID-19 throughout a season of potential outbreak tsunamis. So are players in the Southeastern, Atlantic Coast and Big 12 conferences. Yet where are the announcements that they, too, are cancelling seasons in the name of health and humanity?
I’m still expecting the three college holdouts to fold at some point, based on the disclaimers they keep issuing. Take the Big 12, which still intends to start a season, with a caveat from the conference’s board leader, Texas Christian chancellor Victor Boschini: “If at any point our scientists and doctors conclude that our institutions cannot provide a safe and appropriate environment for our participants, we will change course.” But the NFL? Roger Goodell and the billionaire owners are smelling blood and seeing a sweet opportunity. Know the staggering advertising sums — well over $1 billion — that ESPN, Fox and CBS stand to lose from the college football shutdown?
The networks would shift much of that investment, or all, to the NFL.
So a $15 billion season, as even Dan Snyder can tabulate, becomes a $16.5 billion season.
Damn right we’re playing, shrieks Jerry Jones, who vows to have spectators at every Cowboys game, too!
Stunning and heartbreaking as any football shutdown is for families, college communities and an increasingly battered American psyche, it’s non-sensical that the NFL and, for now, other college teams would even ponder carrying on. What leaves me alarmed — outraged, actually — is how those leagues conveniently ignore medical research gathered by the Big Ten and Pac-12, as if to say, “Our doctors are better, our kids are stronger, our administrators are smarter’’ — and, in the NFL’s case, “We’re just too big and rich to fail.’’
Virology doesn’t play favorites. As soon as prudent, sensible decisions were made to protect lives instead of quarterbacks, the other three college dominoes should have fallen, followed by the NFL, which remains obstinate as a regular season preposterously nears. There isn’t a responsible person in the industry who shouldn’t be alarmed about myocarditis, the heart condition that can prove fatal without care — and linked directly to even mild cases of COVID-19, including at least 10 infected players in Big Ten programs.
“There has been a lot of discussion about myocarditis,” said the first-year Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren, who was fearless in ignoring the lobbying of Jim Harbaugh, Ryan Day and other high-profile league figures. “Any time you’re talking about the heart of anyone — but especially a young person — you have to be concerned. We want to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to keep our student-athletes safe. … As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.’’
Yet when powerful, wealthy people want something desperately enough, they don’t care much about heart muscle inflammation. They hunker down and demand football anyway. After all, Robert Kraft and Nick Saban need something to do on fall weekends, as do the millions of zealots who feed off football cults. This is an offshoot of what we’re dealing with so tragically in America: a cultural divide about masks and the virus, which many COVID-iots still think is a conspiracy, including Southern folks living in the very geographic regions of the holdout conferences. The Big 12 does much of its business in Texas, where case numbers and hospitalizations won’t allow the state to reopen. But shut down football, even when the conference could have won some much-needed intellectual cred?
No chance. Hook ‘em, Horns. “Our student-athletes want to compete, and it is the board’s collective opinion that sports can be conducted safely and in concert with the best interests of their well-being,” said Boschini, whose coach at TCU, Gary Patterson, recently dropped the n-word in a wretched attempt to make a teaching point to a Black player. The Big 12 still plans a start date of Sept. 26, same as the SEC, which at least allows monitoring time — unlike the ACC, which insists on starting … in three weeks? Go get ‘em, Dabo!
Our country is beyond repair. As long as we’re split on football, face coverings and how to proceed through a killer pandemic, the virus will continue its extended residency, leaving almighty sports as part-casualty, part-dangerous contradiction.
Without apologies, the NFL conducted a conference call with reporters in the very week of college football’s reckoning. The health message was vastly different. “We’re very confident in our protocols, and focused on a season that ends on Feb. 7, and starts and ends as scheduled,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president for club business and league events. “We’ll learn a lot in the months ahead, and we’re confident in our protocols and laser-focused on Feb. 7.”
Yep, the NFL is “laser-focused’’ on Super Bowl Sunday in Florida, where COVID-19 is the new lurking swamp alligator. Never mind that every metric known to medicine indicates the virus infects those in their 20s and 30s in sizable numbers, and that just one infection can trigger an outbreak that sidelines a sports team — see: St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins. And never mind the words of University of Oregon president Michael H. Schill, who said of the Pac-12’s decision: “Ultimately, our decision was guided by science and a deep commitment to the health and welfare of student-athletes.’’ There’s always a blubbering voice to drown out common sense and try to play doctor.
“These football players are very young, strong people, and physically, I mean they’re physically in extraordinary shape,” President Trump said in a Fox Sports Radio interview. “So they’re not going to have a problem, you’re not going to see people, you know, could there be? Could it happen? But I doubt it. … So I think football is making a tragic mistake.’’
Even Trump hedged a bit there. Could there be a problem on a line of scrimmage, a transmission inside a confined locker room? Could players get sick? The thought entered his brainstream, which is enough to confirm the obvious. But just as the anti-maskers fight on, so does the football-is-safe mob. Said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who three weeks ago was worried about the efficacy of a season: “I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes. We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day.”
The ACC went so far to trot out the chairman of its medical advisory group, Duke infectious disease expert Dr. Cameron Wolfe, who told Sports Business Daily, “”We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe. Can we safely have two teams meet on the field? I would say yes. Will it be tough? Yes. Will it be expensive and hard and lots of work? For sure. But I do believe you can sufficiently mitigate the risk of bringing COVID onto the football field or into the training room at a level that’s no different than living as a student on campus.’’ Note that Wolfe is paid by the conference. Also note his acknowledgment that safety will be a challenge.
We’re starting to see cracks throughout the pandemic version of sports. Adam Plutko tore into Cleveland pitching mates Zach Plesac and Mike Clevenger for breaking virus protocol to go out in Chicago, saying, “They hurt us bad. They lied to us. They sat here in front of (media) and publicly said things that they didn’t follow through on. So those `grown-ass men’ can sit here and tell you guys what happened and tell you guys what they’re gonna do to fix it.’’ NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, lacking the wisdom of a champion, lost his cool and head-butted the inconsequential Moritz Wagner. Social media wars are beyond stupid, especially when they fire up Damian Lillard to drop 61 points after scoring 51 for a Portland team that might upset the troubled Lakers in the first playoff round. The NBA is requiring that players prove “long-standing relationships’’ with non-family members to gain permission into the Bubble later this month, meaning one-night stands and casual flings are out. The NHL allowed a postseason game to extend six hours and five overtimes when the idea of a restrictive environment, I thought, was to get athletes in and out of a Bubble quickly (next time, postpone it until the next day).
But when we venture into amateur-hour debates about whose doctors are right or wrong, the familiar nausea returns: Money, of course, is driving the play-or-not debate. The NFL can’t fathom losing media billions, instead force-feeding players through protocol-dominated training camps. I cringed while watching the season’s first episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,’’ blown away by the elaborate layers of safety measures and details required of Rams and Chargers personnel. The virus was the overriding theme for coaches Sean McVay and Anthony Lynn, who barely talked football with players — though Lynn did reveal he had COVID-19. When a fascinating but very bizarre and boring show ended, I just sat there, wondering why the NFL was even attempting a season.
And then I remembered the billions, waved frantically by desperate TV executives who realize the future of their sports divisions depends mostly on a complete NFL season. Rather than ponder a shutdown, the league is envisioning eventual postponements by the SEC, Big 12 and ACC — and figuring it can play on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays as well as Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays, COVID-19 and player safety be damned. Am I kidding? I’m not sure. I still haven’t heard Goodell explain how the league can avoid an outbreak when respected virologists say it’s inevitable during a long football season. “We’re essentially going into a contact season asking them right now to disregard a lot of the guidelines, both federally and locally,’’ said Dr. Doug Aukerman of the Pac-12, telling the New York Times that football is a Petri dish for the virus. “Playing contact sports, we know there’s going to be a higher risk of spread.”
In good conscience, the entire sport should pause until next autumn. Play college football in the spring? Sounds like more abuse and exploitation of athletes who, again, wouldn’t be paid for TWO seasons within a calendar year. Said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott: “We’re going to exhaust every opportunity to leave open that opportunity for our student-athletes,’’ a scenario that wouldn’t allow much time to be student-athletes. A rogue program such as Nebraska is considering a break from Big Ten ranks and barnstorming. Really? If I didn’t care about Nebraska when it was playing Ohio State, why would i care about a program-in-denial that still thinks Tom Osborne is coaching national title teams?
My “laser-focus’’ is on the NFL, the colossus, the closest semblance to “normalcy’’ sports can offer. In the media Zoom call, league officials spoke excitedly about sponsors, parties, the usual Super Bowl festivities. How many times was “COVID-19’’ or “coronavirus’’ mentioned?
Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes a weekly media column for Barrett Sports Media and regular sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts in production today. He’s an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio talk host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects. Compensation for this column is donated to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust.
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.”
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.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
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.”
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?
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.
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.”
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.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.