The Rock was part of the pregame speech. Lil Wayne took care of his Folsom Field walk out. Key Glock performed in the postgame locker room.
Offset, Master P, Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry were among the sellout crowd of on-lookers. So were a slew of former NFL players, including Jake Plummer, who is a legend at Arizona State, yet sported CU Buffs gear on the sidelines Saturday.
Both ESPN and Fox’s pregame shows broadcast live from Boulder. “60 Minutes” was in town for the second time in a calendar year. The national television audience was expected to be the highest of the day in all of college football, despite a 10:20 p.m. ET kickoff.
Ten months ago no Power Five program would hire Deion Sanders. His style was deemed unorthodox. His success at HBCU Jackson State was dismissed. He not only didn’t fit in the box, he had no desire to even know what the box was. Auburn, ASU, Nebraska, Purdue — among others — weren’t interested. Same as the year before.
Regrets? No doubt there are a few.
Three games and a frenzy unseen in the sport later, the proof of concept has flipped considerably. There are Alabama fans on social media right now pining for Sanders to come to Tuscaloosa when his Aflac commercial partner Nick Saban retires.
Prime is, in Prime parlance, not “hard to find” these days, which is just how he likes it. The question is where does he want to be found in the future?
The conventional wisdom has been that Colorado would be a pit stop in his coaching career. Either his unique approach to coaching would fail or it would succeed and he’d jump to a more traditional power. Win in Boulder, the thinking went, and then the SEC might be interested.
In truth, they might have missed their chance.
Colorado has been a dormant program for decades now but that doesn’t mean it can’t be the long-term stage for Deion Sanders. The man rewrites every script, every expectation. The idea that he has to leave CU to win a national title should be the latest.
He once, after all, landed the No. 1 recruit in the country (two-way star Travis Hunter) at Jackson State. He doesn’t need a school to make him. He doesn’t need tradition or conference or much of anything to prop him up.
Sanders is the Show. Full Stop. If in a matter of three weeks he can bring all of the aforementioned celebrities and media to Boulder for a game against a Mountain West opponent, then why does he have to leave for a supposedly “bigger” program?
What school is bigger than him?
Generally speaking, a coach needs to get to a place that is rich in funds, fans and tradition to win a national title. Saban went 34-24-1, with a single bowl victory, in his five seasons at Michigan State. He won seven national titles once he got to LSU and Alabama.
Prime is different, though. He doesn’t need a proximity to recruits to land five-stars. He doesn’t need a SEC or Big Ten membership card. He doesn’t even recruit like other coaches.
On Saturday, CU hosted at least eight top-100 recruits in their respective classes, including a current Alabama commit, a current Tennessee commit, a current Oregon commit and the No. 1 junior quarterback in the nation. Each scrambled to visit following the Buffaloes' season-opening victory over TCU.
The Colorado flip-factor will be the story of recruiting as signing day for the Class of 2024 approaches in December. Meanwhile, the transfer portal, where Prime says he is most focused, will be more about plucking quality than just quantity like a year ago. No roster is safe.
Straight up, talent is not going to be a problem. It never would’ve been. This is the savior who elevates programs far above past performance. It’s why a lot of schools blew it by ignoring him.
As for everything else, well, what does he need? A bigger budget? CU is secure with over $30 million in Big 12 media revenue, and while that isn’t Big Ten or SEC money, the program is awash in cash right now. AD Rick George famously noted he didn’t have the funds to afford Sanders when he hired him, but knew that he soon would.
George likely has more now than he ever dreamed of thanks to sellouts, merch sales, donations, etc.
Media exposure? Colorado is the biggest show in the sport, outdrawing everyone. As long as Sanders is on the sideline, every single CU game will be broadcast nationally, likely to huge ratings. He transcends conference affiliation.
How about a path to the College Football Playoff? Well, the Big 12 (which Colorado will join next year) will have a likely automatic bid in the upcoming 12-team format. If Colorado is good, it’s getting in. And with Sanders in charge, CU will be the hottest, most promoted, most resourced and almost assuredly talent-rich team in the Big 12, offering a far easier route to the postseason than if he coached in the SEC.
Deion Sanders is going to do what is best for Deion Sanders. Always. He follows no one else’s playbook.
Which might mean he stays in Boulder, because there isn’t anywhere he needs to go other than wherever he is.