Deion Sanders will leave Jackson State University once the season is completed and become the head coach at the University of Colorado, news that was confirmed on Saturday (Dec. 3) by Sanders himself.
The 55-year-old has reportedly inked an offer sheet that includes a five-year contract worth $29.5 million before bonuses and incentives. He will also receive an additional $5 million salary pool to hire his assistants and any support staff upon his arrival at CU.
Sanders, who signed a four-year agreement with JSU in 2020 worth a reported $1.2 million, owes the HBCU roughly $300,000 for his contract-buyout. He will remain head coach of the team until after its final game of the season, which takes place Dec. 17 against North Carolina Central in the Cricket Celebration Bowl in Atlanta.
The Tigers are currently 12-0 after defeating Southern University 43-24 in the SWAC Championship game on Saturday night, bringing their overall record during Sanders’ three seasons at the helm to 27-5.
In a clip that surfaced on social media on Saturday, Sanders revealed the news of his departure from JSU to his team shortly after winning their second consecutive conference title. “I would like for y’all to hear it from me and not anyone else,” said the Florida native. “In coaching you get elevated or you get terminated. Ain’t no other way. There is no graveyard for coaches where they die at the place, either you go walk off on your own recognizance or get run off. There ain’t no other way. I have chosen to accept the job elsewhere next year. I am going to finish what we started. We are going to dominate and I will be here until that end and that conclusion and then we are going to move on.”
Coach Prime, as he is referred to by players, later boarded a plane to Boulder, Co. to hold his first meeting with his new team and to attend an introductory press conference at CU, both of which took place Sunday (Dec. 4). Addressing his new squad in blunt fashion, Sanders set the tone for what will be expected from his players during his tenure, from the expected dress code at team meetings to his demand for change in the team’s on-field performance.
“Those of you that we don’t run off, we’re going to try to make you quit,” he told his new team. “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.”
He also warned that current players on his JSU team would be joining him at CU and that members of his new team are encouraged to transfer to another school if they’re unwilling to compete or measure up to his standards.
“I’m coming,” the Super Bowl champion said bluntly. “And when I get here, it’s gonna be change. So I want you all to get ready to go ahead and jump in that (transfer) portal.” He continued, adding, “We have a few positions already taken care of because I’m bringing my luggage with me, and it’s Louis,” referencing the popular luxury brand Louis Vuitton.
As part of his agreement with CU, Sanders would earn $5.5 million in his first season, with a base pay of $500,000 supplemented by $1.75 million for radio, television and public appearances; another $1.75 million for promotion and fundraising; and another $1.5 million for “development of the student-athlete.” For his second season, his compensation would increase to $5.7 million; $5.9 million for his third; and $6.1 million and $6.3 million for his fourth and final year, respectively.
If Sanders were to leave CU prior to the end of his contract, he would owe the school millions in liquidated damages, a figure which would decrease after each season completed. If he leaves following his first season, he would owe CU $15 million; $10 million if he departs after his second season; $8 million if he leaves after his third, and $5 million if he jumps ship following the fourth or final year of his contract. If CU chooses to terminate their contract with Sanders, the university would owe him 75% of the salary remaining on his contract at that time.
Prime Time’s arrival at the University of Colorado comes during a lengthy period of disappointing play from its football team, which has only posted two winning seasons since 2005 and recently compiled an 1-11 record in 2022. During the ’80s and ’90s, the school was a perennial winner and national powerhouse, winning the 1990 National Championship, as well as 27 conference championships and five division championships.
Rick George, Colorado’s athletic director, spoke glowingly of Sanders and his belief in his new hire’s ability to restore the program’s respectability within the realm of athletics and beyond. “We needed somebody like him at this program that could reenergize not only our student-athletes, but our base and our community and our state,” said George. “I think he can do all of that.”
During his opening press conference at CU, Sanders revealed that his son, JSU quarterback Shedeur Sanders, will be the Buffaloes’ starting quarterback, albeit with the caveat that he will have to earn the position with his preparation and play on the field.
Sanders’ move to CU has already yielded positive results for the program in terms of its recruits. Travis Hunter, the former No. 1 overall recruit who chose to attend Jackson State University over the likes of Florida State University, has hinted at his intention to follow Coach Prime to Boulder. On Sunday (Dec. 4), after news broke of Sanders’ arrival at the university, Winston Wakins Jr., a four-star wide receiver in the Class of 2025, announced his commitment to the Buffaloes. With Sanders at the helm, the Buffaloes are expected to attract additional high-profile recruits, both from the high school ranks and the transfer portal.
The former All-Pro cornerback’s decision to leave JSU for a Predominantly-White Institution (PWI) has received a fair share of backlash, with some accusing Sanders of exploiting HBCU’s to further his own interests. Others have voiced their opinion that Coach Prime has no obligation to remain with JSU or any other HBCU for the remainder of his career, and is free to explore his professional options elsewhere.
Check out tweets on both sides of the discussion below.