Deion Sanders has proven in just over a year that he is much more than a football legend—he is a one-of-a-kind coaching phenomenon capable of taking a middling Power 5 program and turning it into the hottest ticket in the country. Since being hired by Colorado last December, Sanders has completely revitalized the Buffaloes football brand through his unmatched star power, charisma and recruiting prowess.
Sanders Draws Record TV Ratings in Close Win over CSU
In just his first season in Boulder, Sanders has already delivered Colorado’s biggest regular season game in decades. Last Saturday’s double overtime win over in-state rival Colorado State drew an eye-popping 11.1 million viewers according to ESPN, making it the most-watched non-conference game of the season so far.
The late kickoff time of 10:30pm ET is usually a graveyard hour for networks, yet the intrigue surrounding Sanders and his Buffs program was enough to keep a record audience engaged all the way to the final whistle. Compared to the typical 2-3 million viewers Colorado football usually draws, Sanders’ star power has clearly supersized the Buffaloes fanbase almost overnight.
Sanders Brings Unmatched Fame from Pro Career
But why is Sanders able to generate buzz and viewership far beyond what any other college coach has ever accomplished? As Dan Wolken argues, it’s because Sanders’ fame was constructed in a way that allows everyone to see what they want to see.
For decades prior to becoming a coach, Sanders was a household name thanks to his Hall of Fame careers in both the NFL and MLB. He starred in commercials, films, television shows and more, penetrating pop culture in a way few athletes ever have. This level of crossover celebrity is unlike anything any other college coach can match.
Sanders Brings Colorado Revenue and National Attention
The proof is in the unprecedented viewership numbers and revenue Colorado football is now generating. Sanders’ “Prime Time” persona has put the Buffaloes “in our lives for decades,” according to Wolken. And it’s this iconic brand that is now bringing record crowds, donations and national attention to CU.
Along with the record TV ratings, Colorado’s first three homes games under Sanders have averaged over 49,000 fans, shattering the school’s previous record. Donations are pouring in from high-profile supporters like Koch Industries, raising $535 million for facilities upgrades.
And prominent figures from across sports and entertainment are making the pilgrimage to Folsom Field just to be a part of the Prime Time Show. Stars in attendance have included Charles Barkley, Barry Sanders, Terrell Owens and more.
Sanders’ Swagger Resonates Across Demographics
Perhaps most remarkably, Sanders’ message and coaching style seem to resonate across racial, political and generational lines according to Wolken. By maintaining decades of cultural ubiquity without revealing much about his personal views, Sanders remains an enigma that different groups can project their own beliefs onto.
As Axios reported, he is turning Colorado into “Black America’s Team” through viewership in African American households. Yet the typically conservative sports sites backing “Coach Prime” shows his appeal spans ideologies.
Sanders’ confident bravado energizes students and alumni in Boulder, while his faith journey connects with Christian audiences nationwide. Simply put, there is no one in sports quite like “Coach Prime,” and his undeniable star power has made Colorado football “Black America’s team.”
In just over a year, Deion Sanders has single-handedly transformed Colorado from an afterthought into the hottest story in college football. Through his magnetic personality and Hall of Fame pedigree, “Coach Prime” is living up to his self-proclaimed title as the most famous coach ever—and ushering in a new golden age of Buffs football.