What the #$@* happened last weekend?
Take a man who has had a total of three years head coaching experience at the college football level—in the FCS, mind you—and hire him to guide your football team (1-11 last year) in a Power 5 conference that is self-imploding. Oh, and dare him to somewhat match his offseason bravado and predictions without embarrassing himself.
Colorado 45 TCU 42.
You have to understand what a dumpster fire Colorado football had been. Remember when teams looked to playing the Buffaloes as a bye week? When teams saw Colorado on their schedule and prepared by watching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”?
Colorado stunk. They were the Pepe Le Pew of the Pac-12.
After an 0-5 start in his second year, head coach Karl Dorrell was fired. How bad were things in Boulder? Dorrell, who is known as a mild-mannered Mr. Nice Guy, once shoved a journalist’s camera as he left the field.
Instead of going with another “safe” hire, the school went all in on Jackson State’s Deion Sanders. Neon Deion. Prime Time. Coach Prime.
Prime* was a legend in the NFL with his high-stepping touchdown antics, mega-watt smile and bandana-wearing mug entertaining fans for 14 years.
He was F-U-N.
Hiring him was a risk. Big boy football experience is generally required for admission to the Power 5 coaching carousel. But Colorado had literally nothing to lose—OK, except maybe a 12th game—and instead of whiffing on a former coordinator or coaching retread, it hit a home run with Prime Time.
Colorado turned college football’s heads. Actually, it was more like a whiplash. If things work out this year—translation: six wins and bowl berth—a new algorithm may be in the works for hiring college football coaches.
Prime is still green but his ability to recruit has never been questioned. Shocking all the traditional football programs and its warlords, Prime landed the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of ’22, defensive back Travis Hunter.
Remember that name.
And having nothing to lose.
Because that is what has been missing in college football.
The vibe, culture and aura of college football is on a different level in Boulder, Colorado right now. And that’s not just the smell of weed causing that Rocky Mountain high.
At Alabama, fans are wringing their hands over A- not scoring 60 points on Middle Tennessee State, B- can more than one SEC school get into the College Football Playoffs?, C- does the country have Alabama fatigue?, D- if we lose one game shouldn’t we get into the CFP because of strength of schedule? or E- did LSU’s loss to Florida State mess up our SOS and… our season?
Waiting eight months for the season to start and then perform this mental exorcism is not fun. This is not a rip on Tide fans. But this is what happens to traditional fanbases who expect to win every year and do not take seriously fundamental changes in a sport.
Some are probably laughing at Colorado, challenging them to play their conference schedule “week in and week out” and to learn to respect their foes. There is a process a school must follow to join the elites.
Colorado is not playing by the rules.
It is so unfair, right?
Alabama has had to endure sanctions, a decade of rebuilding, questionable coaching hires and black-and-blue conference play to earn respect. Colorado lost a bunch of games and hired an enigma instead.
Alabama has had to play Games of the Century to garner respect. Colorado only had to beat TCU, the team that got walloped by defending National Champion Georgia, in week 1.
One student section is seething green while the other, well… is smoking it.
Not just because they beat last season’s No. 2 TCU on the road. Not just because Colorado won with a team that has only been playing together for a few months. Not just because no one believed in them.
They are celebrating because they have forged a new path to success. And because Colorado made college football fun again.
Not one other program in the Power 5 conferences can say that.
The Buffaloes are playing like their hair is on fire and loving every second of it. They aren’t worried about losing because no one pegged them as winners, including yours truly.
They are playing with 100 percent freedom under their wings and damn it, isn’t that refreshing to watch? Don’t tell me other players aren’t jealous.
College football has become a business. In all aspects. Heck, even the players are getting paid. And while that is something that needed to happen, the ‘amateur’ optics of college football were at risk.
The zaniness of the plays, the wild, unpredictability of players (can you say #collegekickers without a smile?) and the youthfulness of the sport are important factors that separate college football from the N.F.L.
Prime has returned that ambience to its rightful place on the sidelines.
Prime is making us appreciate the beauty of the game from a different perspective. He is making us watch a group of young men grow in confidence, believe in defying the odds and overcome fears. Playing like they have nothing to lose.
Prime is the ultimate mentor.
Now watch Alabama coach Nick Saban on the sidelines.
Does he look like he is having fun? Do his players?
There is a difference in smiling due to relief of getting the job done and smiling out of sheer joy.
Am I comparing Saban v Prime? Yes, yes I am.
Saban is the G.O.A.T., after all.
After the TCU upset, Prime did not hold back on his emotions. He gushed about how proud he was of his son and quarterback, Shedeur Sanders.
Most coaches tamp back those emotions. Prime cut them loose.
Unlike Saban—and recently, LSU head coach Brian Kelly—Prime did not publicly vocalize on what his team needed to work on, nor what the players did wrong.
He focused on living in the moment. That sweet, unforgettable moment of proving the doubters were wrong.
[cue singing angels]
He is a Christian and nowadays, that does not always translate to acceptance among the media. In fact, the media and Prime have an acrimonious relationship.
Despite his decorated athletic achievements at Florida State University, Prime graduated from Talladega College, an HBCU, in 2020. He considers himself a TC alum. And that has riled up some folks.
“Wow,” former FSU quarterback and sports broadcaster Danny Kannell posted on X.
“The lack of respect for the school that gave him his start is wild. The same school that retired his jersey. The same school that let him be ‘Prime.’ There is a way to handle this question and this ain’t it.”
Florida State wants to claim Prime as one of their own. He’s having none of that.
Coach Prime also refused to answer a reporter’s question in the TCU post-game presser because the reporter would not admit he was a doubter. Prime told that reporter he had “receipts,” referring to proof of his negative media coverage, and moved on to the next reporter.
You have to admire his convictions.
And his hutzpah. But back to Saban.
Last year, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher had a kerfuffle with Saban. Saban accused the Aggies of paying their recruits to sign with the school. Fisher called Saban a “narcissist.”
Saban reportedly also went after Prime, implying Jackson State paid $1 million for Hunter to sign.
“Coach Saban wasn’t talking to me,” Prime said.
“Coach Saban wasn’t talking to Jimbo Fisher. He was talking to his boosters. He was talking to his alumni. He was talking to his givers. He was trying to get money. That was what he was doing. He was just using us to get to where he was trying to get to.”
Saban appears to be threatened by the NIL advantages that schools in larger media markets may have. He also appears to not be a fan of the Prime Time way of rebuilding a program, all legal by the way.
Blow it all up. Hit the transfer portals. Wear a thick sweatshirt in a heatwave without sweating. Wear some swaggy accessories and treat the players like young men. The exact opposite of how the G.O.A.T. operates in Tuscaloosa.
The jealousy of Colorado’s brand of football, simmering in the SEC, will soon boil over to the rest of the elites.
Saban is now that guy, sitting on his porch, yelling at kids, “get off my lawn!”
All eyes on Saturday appeared to be on Colorado and its wild brand of football, if X (formerly Twitter) is any indication of interest.
We are still in week 1, but Alabama is not on everyone’s lips. And that is just so weird. It is like we all woke up in a foreign country without GPS.
Maybe Alabama v Texas will restore the universe and realign the planets. A victory by the Tide would return status quo. But if Texas wins, could it not make that same claim? If Alabama loses, the SEC may experience the brutal and cyclical nature of college football, like so many before it have.
Nothing lasts forever. Change is inevitable.
It’s Labor Day. Shorts, tanks, flip flops and some Bud Light [insert tongue in cheek] bid a final farewell to summer.
Colorado is wearing 6-inch Louboutin stilettos on the Red Carpet. Alabama is wearing Dr. Martens sitting in the bleachers. The Dr. Martens are more sensible, of course. And they last longer.
But the stilettos scream sexy, dangerous and fun. A wild night out on the town.
*Per head coach Deion Sanders’s request, he will be referred to as Coach Prime or Coach.