Colorado will open its 2023 home football schedule on Saturday, Sept. 9 against Nebraska, and I’m willing to bet ESPN’s “College Game Day” will be camped out at Folsom Field in Boulder for the occasion.
Even at 8 a.m., it will be Prime Time in the Rocky Mountains.
Deion Sanders — known simply as Coach Prime — is the new boss at CU, and he’s the biggest thing to join the program since Ralphie, the real-life 1,200-pound buffalo mascot.
Even Ralphie isn’t likely to have the impact of Sanders, whose energy, brains, reputation, salesmanship, connections, talents, dedication, his big-picture vision and, yes, his mouth, will combine to help elevate a once-powerful football program that has enjoyed just two winning seasons the past 17 years.
Sanders was formally introduced at Colorado on Sunday, when he also met his new team for the first time.
"I'm coming," Sanders told players at his first team meeting. "And when I get here, it's gonna be change.”
He has one more game at Jackson State, where he is 25-7 in three seasons, with back-to-back SWAC titles. The Tigers will play North Carolina Central in the Dec. 17 Celebration Bowl at Atlanta before Coach Prime redirects all of his considerable energy to Colorado.
Jackson State is hoping to finish this season 13-0.
CU was 1-11 this year.
Sanders, known as “Neon Deion” when he lit up every sporting venue he visited during a dual career in the NFL and major league baseball, intends to revamp almost everything at Colorado.
He was direct and blunt in his first conversation with his news players.
"Those of you that we don't run off, we're going to try to make you quit,” he told them. “That’s what our season is going to look like. I want ones that don't want to quit, that want to be here, who want to work, who want to win.
"I don't want to get in the game and then find out I've got Jane, when all offseason I had Tarzan.”
Sanders’ address to his new players was recorded on video tape as he apparently intends to make the Colorado football experience an exercise in social media.
"The kids, they want exposure," Sanders said. "They want to be on television. They want the lights and the action, but they got to understand, the same thing that caused you to shine will show your blemishes as well. So we're going to give them that.
“We're going to give them the followers. We're going to give them the attention. We're going to give them the support, and we need each and every one of you, because the caliber of players that we're getting ready to bring to you, they gonna want something.
“But guess what, I'm going to want something back. I'm not crazy about the NILs, but I understand the NILs. … I'd rather our kids be focused on the NFL, and not just the NIL.”
Coach Prime, who will get a five-year contract worth $5.9 million per season, understands everything else works when a team wins. Yes, he’ll be a so-called players coach, but he will be demanding.
During his team meeting, he already laid down a few team rules, including no earrings, hats or hoodies in meetings.
He also said the results on game days will change.
There "ain't gonna be no more of the mess that these wonderful (Colorado) fans, the student body and some of your parents have put up with for probably two decades now,” he told the players.
"There is not going to be any more mediocrity, period. I’m coming."
Comparing the facilities at Colorado to those at Jackson State, Sanders told his new players they are spoiled.
"We've never had nothing of sort to work out in and to train in," he said to the Colorado players. "Our kids would go absolute crazy to be in the situation that you in, but you don't respect it. I'm coming. You don't want it. I'm coming. Some of y'all don't even think you deserve it.
“I'm coming. And usually when God sent me to a place, he sent me to a place to be a conduit of change. I'm coming.”
Sanders appeared at his news conference accompanied by family, including his son Shedeur Sanders, who runs a lot of Coach Prime’s social media accounts but also was the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year after passing for 3,403 yards and 36 touchdowns and running for five more this season.
Sanders introduced his son as “your next quarterback,” quickly adding Shedeur will have “earn it.”
He won’t be the only Jackson State player relocating to Boulder.
"Yep, about 10 more of them coming," Sanders told players. "And they dogs. And they gonna hunt. And they gonna eat.
"We have a few positions already taken care of because I'm bringing my luggage with me, and it’s Louis (Vuitton).”
The new arrivals could include wide receiver/defensive back Travis Hunter, the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2022, who decommitted from Florida State to sign with Jackson State a year ago, and wide receiver Kevin Coleman, edge rusher Myles Gaddy and running back Sy’veon Wilkerson, all of whom contributed to the Tigers’ undefeated season.
Sanders was careful not to provide a timeline on how quickly he will turn around the program. Given the pathetic state of the program, it’s perhaps too much to expect he will have the immediate impact that Lincoln Riley had at USC.
But he has the backing of CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano, who has introduced a program intended to make it easier for players to qualify out of the transfer portal. In other words, he will be able to sign almost anyone he wants.
“It had to be a redo from top to bottom,” athletic director Rick George said. “That’s why I’m going to give Coach Prime the latitude to do what he needs to do. We’ve talked about resources and what he needs. …
"He’s going to shoot for the sky just like we did in this hire. We shot for the highest point we could and I think we got what we shot for.”
Cover photo of Deion Sanders by Ron Chenoy, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo