ESPN’s 30 for 30 series has been a huge hit for the network over the years. I remember traveling for baseball and having multiple episodes loaded for viewing in flight. Depending on how long the trip was, I would have several episodes ready for viewing to pass the time and be entertained.
I remember watching the first one that came out in 2009, King’s Ransom, the story of Wayne Gretzky’s trade from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings. I was hooked. From there I’d download many of them. Some of my other favorites were, June 17, 1994, Jordan Rides the Bus, and Four Days in October.
It has been reported that ESPN is working on a 30 for 30 on Bill Walton currently titled The Luckiest Guy in the World. It will focus on Walton’s life in basketball, from UCLA to the Portland Trail Blazers, and then on to the world of announcing. By my calculations, Walton would be the third (or fourth depending on how you count) broadcasting type to be featured. Jimmy ‘The Greek’ Snyder was the focus of Episode 6, which showed his life as a Vegas bookmaker to his time on The NFL Today on CBS. Years later, WFAN’s iconic duo Mike and the Mad Dog got their own 30 for 30 as well.
There should be more announcers featured. There have been so many talented men and women broadcasters that it’s probably too difficult to narrow down the field and then produce the episodes. So, I have compiled a list of announcers/analysts that I’d like to see featured on an upcoming 30 for 30’s. Here we go! (In no ranking order)
Vin Scully, MLB. ‘It’s Time for Dodgers Baseball’
Scully is well known as the best play-by-play announcer in Major League Baseball history. His storytelling ability was second to none. Many have tried to imitate, but nobody will ever duplicate Vin.
FOCUS: The move from NY to LA and his early days working with Red Barber. Also, on his partnership with the late Don Drysdale and why Scully decided to work on his own rather than bring in a new partner.
Pat Summerall and John Madden, NFL.‘Montana…Rice…Touchdown…Whap!…Boom…Doink’
These guys HAVE to be featured together. There’s no other way around it. The two were paired together in 1981 and their partnership lasted 22 seasons between CBS and Fox. They were the perfect duo. Summerall was a minimalist, and Madden, had a lot to say, ALWAYS.
FOCUS: How this unlikely pairing became the most recognized and well-liked duos in the history of the NFL. What did it take to get this pairing off the ground and maintain that tremendous working relationship?
Chick Hearn, NBA. ‘It’s A Slam Dunk’
Ask anyone living in Southern California and they’ll probably tell you that Hearn is the greatest to ever call an NBA game. He called almost 34-hundred consecutive Lakers games starting in 1965. That’s nearly 38 straight seasons.
FOCUS: Hearn was as much a part of ‘Showtime’ as Magic and Kareem were. I’d love to know where he came up with ‘Slam Dunk’, ‘Air Ball’ and ‘No harm, no foul’. The phrases live on today in basketball lingo.
Keith Jackson, ABC, Football, Baseball. ‘Whoa Nellie’
The voice, the unmistakable voice of Keith Jackson will always be remembered. Mainly as a college football announcer for ABC, he became the gold standard. With his ‘Whoa Nellie’ and ‘Fum-BLE!’ He’s also credited with naming Michigan Stadium, ‘The Big House’.
FOCUS: The early days of college football on television, this one could even show the evolving nature of the game through Jackson’s eyes. He saw some of the greatest college football players ever and some of the greatest teams ever.
Brent Musburger, CBS, ABC, studio, play-by-play. ‘You Are Looking Live’
From hosting ‘The NFL Today’, to becoming a broadcast play-by-play voice of football and basketball on CBS/ABC/ESPN, Musburger has been a fixture in the industry for many years.
FOCUS: Where did ‘you are looking live’ come from? It could also focus on the evolution of the NFL studio show. The CBS show had a gambling angle way back when. The early indications that viewers wanted to know this aspect of the game.
Doc Emrick, NBC, NHL play-by-play. ‘Waffle boarded, pitchforked, ladled, SCORRRREE!’
The wordsmith of hockey and voice of many a hockey memory. Emrick is a member of the US Hockey Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. His style is unmatched, with the vocabulary of an English professor, with no descriptions commonly the same.
FOCUS: That vocabulary, how, where, why? This would also be a good time to find out about Emrick the man. He has always had a love for animals and frequently would rather discuss this passion rather than hockey.
Howard Cosell, ABC Commentator, Monday Night Football. ‘I’m Just Telling It Like It Is’
How do you describe Cosell? In his own words in a New York Times piece, ‘I’ve been called arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff. And, of course, I am.’ He had a style all of his own. He was famous for his interactions with Muhammad Ali, watching them interact was incredible.
FOCUS: How would the style of Howard Cosell work in today’s world of sports? Could he have been, ‘himself’ in the current culture? If that wouldn’t work, I’d love to have an account of how Cosell broke the news of the death of John Lennon on Monday Night Football.
Jim Nantz, CBS, Studio, Play-by-play, PGA, NFL, NCAA. ‘Hello Friends’
What else could the title be? His face/voice have become the signature of CBS Sports. Nantz is the lead voice of PGA, NFL and College Basketball coverage on the network. In 2007, he called Super Bowl XLI and joined a group, with Dick Enberg, Curt Gowdy and Kevin Harlan as the only play-by-play announcers to call both a Super Bowl and NCAA Championship game.
FOCUS: I’d like to know more about Nantz and his association with the PGA Tour and more specifically ‘The Masters’. It would be cool to relive some of the greatest finishes and tournaments in his time. The Tiger Woods’ wins in 1997 (#1), and 2019 (#5) could fill 30 minutes easily.
Al Michaels, ABC, NBC, play-by-play, NFL, MLB. ‘It’s No Miracle’
Michaels is such a pro he can do any sport. He proved that during the 1980 Winter Olympics when Michaels called one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports. The Miracle on Ice team will always be tied to him. But Michaels has done so much more, like baseball, basketball and of course now football, including last week’s Super Bowl.
FOCUS: He’s already been featured in ‘The Day the Series Stopped’ the story of the 1989 World Series being interrupted by an earthquake. I’d like to see more of his work with the Cincinnati Reds from 1971-74; and then his early days with UCLA starting in 1974.
Kevin Harlan, CBS, Westwood One, play-by-play, NFL, NCAA. ‘With No Regard For Human Life’
Harlan is the rare breed that knows the ins and outs of calling a game and have the ability to insert some humor into the broadcast. The thing that is great about Harlan is one never gets in the way of the other. His enthusiastic calls resonate and don’t go over the top.
FOCUS: I could watch an entire night of his epic calls of people running on the field, a cat looking to score a touchdown, or Harlan calling two games at once. He’s so good and I still love one of his catchphrases ‘With No Regard for Human Life’, hence the title of his story.
Dick Vitale, ESPN,College Basketball. ‘Awesome With A Capital A’
There probably isn’t anyone who has done more to spread the joy of college basketball than Vitale. It’s hard to imagine telling the story of NCAA basketball without him in it. At present Dickie V is in a battle with cancer. I know he’s been going through some rough times of late but he continues to inspire many, Tweeting about his experiences. All the best to you!
FOCUS: I would love to watch the story of Dick Vitale the coach. Mainly his work at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he went 79-29 and took a Titans team to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1977.
Marv Albert NBC, Turner Sports, NFL, NHL, NCAA, NBA. ‘Yes! And It Counts’
There really isn’t much that Albert hasn’t done. He’s been a party to some of the greatest moments in sports, locally in New York and nationally for NBC. Versatile, enthusiastic and sarcastic, Albert was truly one of a kind.
FOCUS: I’d like to know more about what it was like calling New York Rangers games starting in 1965. He was on the radio call for the Rangers Stanley Cup-clinching victory in 1994. I’m sure there are some stories to tell in there. “Kick save and a beauty”
Jack Buck CBS, ABC, St. Louis Cardinals, MLB, NFL. ‘He’s A Winner!’
The unmistakable voice of Buck assured you that it was going to be a big game no matter the consequence. The longtime voice of the St. Louis Cardinals also lent his talents on the national baseball scene. From his ‘Go crazy folks, go crazy!’ to ‘I don’t believe what I just saw’ he captured the moment as only he could.
FOCUS: One of my first jobs in radio was to ‘run the board’ for Monday Night Football games. The announcing team of Buck and Hank Stram were so good and so smooth together. I’d like to hear more about that tandem as they ‘matriculated’ down the road of CBS Radio’s coverage of MNF.
Gus Johnson, Fox, BTN, CBS, College Football, Basketball, NFL. ‘Hurt My Feelings!’
Johnson’s high-energy style has resulted in a polarized response from sports fans. Catchphrases are his thing along with the upbeat style. ‘Rise and fire…count it’, ‘Cold-blooded’ and ‘Here comes the pain’ are among many he uses. He rose to prominence in the mid 2000’s after getting a shot to call NCAA March Madness games on CBS.
FOCUS: He’s been everywhere. Would be interesting to follow Johnson’s career on its many stops, then focus in on his NCAA Basketball work. Maybe also follow him through a session of doing the voicework for the Madden NFL video games.
Leslie Visser, CBS, ABC, NFL, MLB, NCAA, Tennis, Olympics ‘There’s Nothing She Couldn’t Do’
Lesley Visser was a trailblazer. Visser spent a decade as a reporter with The Boston Globe before making the jump to television work, where she’s the only broadcaster, male or female, to work the Final Four, NBA Finals, World Series, Triple Crown, Monday Night Football, Olympics, Super Bowl, U.S. Open and World Figure Skating Championships.
FOCUS: You could go any number of ways here, just spanning her career achievements would be riveting enough. The struggles she went through to pave the way for future generations of female broadcasters would also be interesting to see.
Others in the mix: Joe Buck, Mike Tirico, Bob Costas, Harry Caray, Dick Enberg, Curt Gowdy, Jim McKay, Jack Brickhouse, Bill Raftery, Beth Mowins, Doris Burke, Hannah Storm, Frank Gifford, and Don Meredith.
There you go ESPN, I’ve done the hard part, now it’s time to get moving on these!
Andy Masur is a columnist for BSM and works for WGN Radio as an anchor and play-by-play announcer. He also teaches broadcasting at the Illinois Media School. During his career he has called games for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. He can be found on Twitter @Andy_Masur1 or you can reach him by email at Andy@Andy-Masur.com.
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 email@example.com.