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Deion Sanders & Colorado Football: The Definitive Coach Prime Timeline

Last Updated: November 30, 2023
A lot has happened since Colorado hired Sanders as its head coach. Boardroom breaks it all down with a running timeline of key events.

Believe it or not, it’s still been less than a year since Colorado officially brought Deion Sanders into the program to turn things around. And despite being just over 10 months into his tenure, a lot has happened surrounding Sanders and Co. — both in Boulder and college football nationwide.

From initial interest from the Colorado side to building a new culture and scoring some unlikely upsets that arrested the attention (and/or stole the hearts) of the football world, check out our running timeline of all things Deion Sanders over the course of his tenure in Boulder.

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The Deion Sanders Colorado Timeline: Key Events From Boulder’s Coach Prime Era

NOTE: This timeline will be updated throughout the season.

THE PROLOGUE, 2020-22: Sanders turns around Jackson State

There never would have been a Deion Sanders at Colorado if he hadn’t taken this first step in his collegiate coaching career at Jackson State.

In 2019, Jackson State compiled a 4-8 record. In Year 1 of the Prime Time era, which happened to be the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, Sanders matched that win total by going 4-3.

The following season, Deion led Jackson State to an 11-2 record and a 2021 SWAC Championship. Sanders’ encore came in 2022, leading the Tigers to an undefeated 12-0 regular season en route to defending their SWAC champion title.

For his efforts, Sanders was named the SWAC Coach of the Year in back-to-back seasons (the last time the program had a coach claim this honor was in 2007).

OCT. 2022: Coach Prime entertains Power Five jobs

On an appearance on 60 Minutes, Sanders said he would have to consider a head-coaching gig at a Power Five school if they came calling.

“I’m going to have to entertain it. Straight up. I’d be a fool not to,” Sanders said.

NOV. 2022: Colorado offers Deion head coaching job

Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman reported that Colorado had offered Deion Sanders its open head coach spot. At the time, Feldman did a bit of foreshadowing, reporting that Sanders had “legit interest” in the gig.

Sanders confirmed the report days later while also throwing in that he had received interest from other P5 programs as well.

DEC. 3, 2022: The Coach Prime era officially begins in Boulder

Roughly a week after those reported rumblings, the Colorado Buffaloes football program announced it was bringing Prime Time to Boulder. According to multiple reports, the contract he signed was worth $29.5 million over five years, carrying an average annual value of $5.9 million. Deion will reportedly earn $5.5 million in Year 1, with $200,000 increases kicking in each season.

At the time of hire, Colorado athletic director Rick George admitted that the school didn’t have enough money to pay the contract at the time, but that he wasn’t worried.

“We don’t have the money yet, but I know we’ll have it, so I’m not worried about that piece,” he said.

For reference, the school’s previous head coach made $3.6 million in his final season in Boulder, the most the program ever paid a coach prior to Prime.

DEC. 21-22, 2022: Shedeur Sanders, Travis Hunter follow Deion to Colorado

This wasn’t surprising in the slightest, but shortly after Deion got the job at Colorado, his son — Shedeur Sanders — and former No. 1 overall high school recruit Travis Hunter, who initially committed to Sanders at Jackson State, entered the NCAA transfer portal. Days later, they both confirmed what everyone assumed when they entered: They were following Prime Time to Boulder.

The two-way Hunter was the highest-ranked recruit to ever commit to an HBCU, and fans at the FBS level quickly learned why he was ranked so highly coming out of high school. Shedeur, meanwhile, went on to earn the starting QB job for the Buffs.

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DEC. 29, 2022: Season 3 of Amazon docuseries Coach Prime premieres

The four-episode season tracks Sanders’ final season leading Jackson State, concluding with his decision to leave for Boulder.

JULY 27, 2023: Colorado officially commits to leave Pac-12, return to Big 12

Amid an ongoing crossfire hurricane of conference realignment, Colorado is headed back home. As members of the precursor Big Eight since 1948 before it evolved into the Big 12 in 1995, the Buffaloes are rejoining their former conference in 2024. They are to be joined in the big move by longtime Pac-12 schools Arizona and Arizona State, as well as Utah, which joined the Pac-12 concurrently with Colorado in 2011.

SEPT. 2, 2023: TCU upset puts college football on notice

While Sanders and Colorado were the talk of college football all offseason, having essentially purged the roster to compile a group of players that he felt he could coach, no one actually knew how this experiment was going to turn out. There were many skeptics out there, but the believers were out in full force after the Buffaloes shocked TCU — who played in the national championship last season — on the road with a 45-42 win.

Shedeur balled out in the victory, throwing for 510 yards and four touchdowns.

According to Deion himself, his son had a little extra motivation going into this one.

Just like that, Colorado had already matched its season win total from 2022.

SEPT. 16, 2023: 3-0 start sends Buffs hype train into overdrive

Even after the team’s first win, the hype train was already in full motion. The program was poppin’ and Boulder was buzzin’, with some of college football’s biggest networks and shows making their way to Colorado to take in Prime Time in action. This was amplified after the Buffaloes took care of business at home in consecutive weeks against Nebraska and in-state rival Colorado State, the latter of which was a double-overtime thriller.

SEPT. 18, 2023: Sanders capitalizes with a flurry of trademark filings

As his impact continues to grow in Boulder and the college football space, in general, Sanders is taking advantage as much as he can. Fresh off the team’s win over CSU, attorney Josh Gerben noted to Boardroom that Deion’s Prime Time Enterprises filed for the following trademarks: “Coach Prime,” “Prime Effect,” “Daddy Buck,” and “It’s Personal.”

A few days later, Gerben clarified that Sanders additionally filed for the following trademarks — “AIN’T NOBODY CARE,” “F AROUND AND FIND OUT,” “WE KEEP RECEIPTS,” “PITBULL IN PUMPS,” and “WORKING OR TWERKING.”

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SEPT. 23, 2023: Okay, so the Buffaloes aren’t perfect

After the first few weeks of the season, it seemed as if nothing was going to slow down Deion and Co. The team was ranked and with a huge matchup against top-10 Oregon on the road, giving the Buffs the perfect opportunity to put an exclamation point on an exciting first third of the regular season.

But the more realistic possibility ended up playing out — the Ducks putting the hurt on Colorado, 42-6. With Deion, Sheduer, Hunter, and the rest of the Buffaloes garnering all the attention of the college football universe the first three weeks of the season, Oregon — and its head coach Dan Lanning, who had something to say about Colorado’s move to the Big 12 prior to the season — decided it had enough.

SEPT. 30, 2023: Showing some fight at home

Things didn’t get much easier for Colorado, as they returned to Boulder to host reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams and USC in Week 5. Trailing by 20 points at halftime, the CU magic appeared to have run out. A 14-point fourth quarter suddenly had the Trojans sweating, but Williams and Co. were able to hold off the charging Buffs for a 48-41 victory.

It was far closer than most observers had predicted, with most sportsbooks spotting USC more than three touchdowns.

While the way Sanders went about forming his team at Colorado rubbed some people the wrong way, Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley had nothing but praise for his coaching counterpart following the win.

“Everybody has got different personalities,” Riley said. “When you’re fake and you’re someone you’re not, people see right through that. Regardless of what your characteristics are, of your personality, if you’re yourself, you can be a great leader. He certainly seems to do that, seems to be very genuine, and certainly his guys have responded to that.”

OCT. 3, 2023: Not ready for a lifetime commitment to Colorado

Despite a 0-2 skid after a 3-0 start, it’s safe to say that everyone in the Colorado football family is happy with the early returns from Sanders. So much so that the idea of a potential lifetime contract with the Buffaloes entered the discourse. The head coach threw water on those flames quickly, however.

“That’s a wonderful gesture. I love it. But I’m smart enough to know and old and wise enough to know that that can flip on you instantaneously,” Sanders told members of the media. “The fan only blows when you’re hot. My mama said that, not me. So, if y’all want to get mad, get mad at my mama.” 

OCT. 13, 2023: Fall to Stanford in 2OT, record drops to 4-3

Losing to top-ranked Oregon and USC is one thing, but falling to one of the Pac-12 basement dwellers? That wasn’t on Coach Prime’s bingo card heading into the season.

After building a 29-0 lead, it seemed as if Deion and Co. were going to cruise to their fifth win of the season, but a massive second-half comeback saw the Cardinal walk away from Folsom Field as the victors, 46-43. Let’s just say Sanders was not happy with his team’s effort following the collapse.

“What we just did today was pathetic,” Sanders said. “All the love that you received and all the love that we were receiving, oh, you be getting ready to see that flip. And don’t get beside yourself on social media and start responding to the foolishness because [the critics] are right. They’re right. … And we are practicing tomorrow [on Saturday].”

Let’s just say Colorado’s bye week comes at a good time.

OCT. 17, 2023: Prime to spread wisdom in new book

In addition to many, many trademarks filed, Sanders is taking advantage of all the new hype he’s generated this season with the announcement of a new book — Elevate and Dominate: 21 Ways to Win On and Off the Field. The motivational book is set to be released in March 2024.

This isn’t the first book that Sanders has authored, with the first coming in 1999 — Power, Money & Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life.

OCT. 13 – NOV. 25, 2023: Buffaloes lose final six games of 2023

Despite kicking off the campaign with a 3-0 start, things came crashing down to earth for Sanders and Co. real quick. After defeating Arizona State on Oct. 7, Colorado wouldn’t find the win column for the rest of the season, losing its final six games to fall out of bowl contention.

Sanders has already had his eye on the transfer portal, and we can expect a decent bit of roster turnover in the Buffaloes’ locker room over the offseason.

NOV. 30, 2023: Sports Illustrated names Deion as 2023 Sportsperson of the Year

As previously mentioned, the season didn’t end the way it started, but Sanders did enough at Colorado to earn the title of Sports Illustrated’s 2023 Sportsperson of the Year. For a time, he made Boulder THE place to be in college football, with SI Editor-in-chief Stephen Cannella citing his overall impact as the main reason behind SI’s selection: “On and off the field, he represents a new model for the modern college coach.”

Coach Prime has now appeared on the SI cover seven times, five times as a player and one other time during his coaching career at Jackson State.

Welcome to the “Coach Prime Economy”

It isn’t hyperbole to say that Colorado has never had this much buzz surrounding its program. It’s been building well before the team’s 3-0 start to the 2023 season and has only carried over. Consider the following:

  • The school sold a record number of season tickets, selling nearly 22,500, selling out in April for the first time in 27 years. This number doesn’t include the 11,600 student sports packages that were sold and populate the student section every week.
  • The program issued a record 892 media credentials for Week 5 vs. USC (after issuing a then-record 847 for Nebraska in Week 2).
  • The game against CSU garnered 9.3 million viewers on ESPN, the network’s No. 5 most-watched college football game on record and the most-watched late-window game ever.
  • The Nebraska game was the most-watched Pac-12 regular season game in Fox history and the 10th most-watched regular season college football game ever broadcast on Fox.
  • Colorado-Nebraska brought in an estimated total of $17 million in “combined direct and indirect impacts to the area,” per Visit Boulder.
  • Sales at Colorado Athletics’ official online store increased by 505% in December after Coach Prime was hired last year.
  • In 2023, the team store revenue is pacing 892% ahead of 2022 and 153% ahead of 2021.
  • Blenders, the eyewear company responsible for Sanders’ trademark sunglasses, reportedly brought in $4.5 million from selling at least 70,000 pairs of the Deion-inspired shades.
  • The CU Football Instagram account eclipsed 1 million followers. At the time of Sanders’ hire, the team account had 58,000 followers.

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Griffin Adams

Griffin Adams is an Editor at Boardroom. He's had previous stints with The Athletic and Catena Media, and has also seen his work appear in publications such as USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and MLB.com. A University of Utah graduate, he can be seen obnoxiously cheering on the Utes on Saturdays and is known to Trust The Process as a loyal Philadelphia 76ers fan.