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Column: Honeymoon Ends With Coach Prime, Media Doing Battle

Coach Prime
© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It took just over a year for the honeymoon stage between Colorado coach Deion Sanders and some members of the media to come to an end. Sanders, of late, has come under fire by some members of the media for some of the moves he has made or things he has said. Sanders handles facing the media criticism like he's done his whole career. He stood strong, took their fire and fired right back at them. Sanders has spent his time lately defending not only himself but the actions of one of his sons. What has turned into a battle between some members of the media and the Sanders family is playing out in real-time and "Coach Prime" looks to have no problem standing his ground and facing the critics.  

Sanders—with his larger-than-life personality—is great for football and the media world as well. At first, it seemed like Sanders could do no wrong in the media, but that has now changed to scrutiny and criticism because of some of the moves he has made and things he said. The question is, is all the criticism that Sanders has faced justified? Or is it overblown by some members of the media looking for clicks?

Recently, now former Colorado defensive back Xavier Smith turned the spotlight on Sanders and his experiences in Boulder in an article in the Athletic where he stated that "he felt more like an extra" and that Sanders was "destroying guy's confidence and belief in themselves." Smith, who eventually ended up at Austin Peay after being encouraged to enter the transfer portal, said his situation "could have been done with a little more compassion."

To make the situation even worse Colorado quarterback and Coach Prime's son Shedeur, decided to chime in about the situation through X, saying that Smith was "mid at best."

The problem is that Sanders inherited a roster filled with players who didn’t fit his system. To fix the problem he asked them to transfer. If your criticism of that is you shouldn’t be able to ask a player to transfer then your criticism is nothing but nonsense. Players lost the right of not being asked to transfer when they received the right to transfer when a coach left. If players don’t have to honor their commitment to the school when a coach leaves why should a new coach need to honor the commitment made by the past coach?  

How are you expected to tell a player to transfer without destroying their confidence in a way? How do people want him to say it? "You're an outstanding football player, and you have a bright future, but hey, would you mind just jumping in the portal for me? "

Not everything in life is roses, sometimes tough things happen. You might not like how it was done but unfortunately, that’s your problem. 

Escalating the Situation

Shedeur is a PSA for football coaches everywhere on why their players should stay off social media because—like Shedeur—it’s probably going to get them in trouble at some point. There was no need for Shedeur to come after Smith after the article was published. I understand it’s his father and his coach, but last time I checked, Coach Prime is a grown adult who is capable of fighting his own battles.  

Instead of proving a point, Shedeur escalated the situation. A situation that would have been over if not for his response. The only thing the post accomplished was turning fans against him. Shedeur, who has the talent to be a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft, should be focused on perfecting his craft and less focused on what former teammates have to say.

Sanders should be criticized by the media for giving a fan the attention and the reaction he wanted after he took a shot at his son on social media. At no point should Sanders be reacting to criticism from a fan on social media. In the end, he’s never going to win and it's not worth his time to do so. Sanders should also be criticized for missing a teaching moment where he could have shown his players how not to react when people take shots at them. 

Keyboard warriors are always looking to get a reaction for their 15 minutes of fame and Sanders fell for it. For someone who has been in the spotlight for so long, he should have known better. 

Family Business

Sanders was also hit with speculation that he may leave Colorado because of his sons heading to the NFL and his daughter transferring to Alabama A&M. He even faced criticism about the way he handled his daughter's decision to transfer and leave home. 

If I’m being honest, if my child never came to me to ask permission when transferring from one school to another, it would rub me the wrong way too. Every year in America, thousands of fathers have the same conversation with their children about leaving home and heading away to school. Some say yes and some say no. Should the ones that say no be called control freaks too?

If Sanders leaves Boulder to retire, that would be surprising. If he leaves for a better job elsewhere, that would be understandable. JSU was a stepping stone, as is Colorado. If Sanders gets a better opportunity at a bigger program he should be criticized if he doesn’t take it.

Coach Prime
© Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Would it be riding off into the sunset if he leaves Boulder for a bigger program with more resources? If a team like Florida fired Billy Napier or USC fired Lincoln Riley and came calling, why would he not take the job? Did anyone criticize Kalen DeBoer for leaving Washington for Alabama weeks after playing for a national championship? 

Coach Prime's Recruiting Woes

Recruiting young talent out of high school is one area in which Sanders should receive a lot of criticism. According to some reports, Sanders has yet to go on a recruiting trip as Colorado's coach. How do you compete with other top programs when you're unwilling to leave Boulder to convince top targets Colorado is where they should be?  

Former Alabama coach Nick Saban even headed on the road to visit high school players. The seven-time National Championship-winning coach would have to eat bad lasagna and tell the player's mother it was good all to convince parents and the player that Tuscaloosa was the best place for them to be.  

Sanders's refusal to leave Boulder is reflected in the 247Sports recruiting rankings, as Colorado's 2024 class comes in ranked 81st in the country. Some of the teams beating the Buffaloes on the recruiting trail are Vanderbilt (No. 40), Colorado State (No. 69), UNLV (No. 76) and FAU (No. 79). With the media attention Colorado has garnered since Coach Prime's arrival, these teams should never have a better class than the Buffaloes. The 2025 class is not off to a great start either coming in ranked No. 63 at this point. If  Sanders wants to be taken seriously and show his teams will compete with the best in the country he needs to hit the road now.  

One of the reasons for Sanders's possibility of not recruiting well is he looks to be more focused on building through the transfer portal than on the development of high school players. Sanders brought in 38 players from the portal heading into the 2024 season. In comparison to some of the top teams like Ohio State (6), Texas (10), Georgia (9) and Oregon (14), the question is why are Colorado's numbers so different? No coach in college football has been successful in building a team mostly through the portal and it's highly unlikely to work in football like it has in some of the other collegiate sports. 

At the end of the day whether you love Coach Prime or hate him, he is great for college football and great for the media. Sanders is trying to do it in a different way and, in the end, if it works, we will all praise him. And if it doesn't, we will tear him down faster than we built him up. 


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