Deion Sanders says report of job offer from Colorado is true

Barbara Gauntt/Clarion Ledger / USA TODAY NETWORK
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BOULDER, Colo. – Deion Sanders said Monday that a report stating Colorado has offered him its head coaching job is true and he has also received interest from other schools.

The Jackson State coach didn’t say whether he’s considering any of the opportunities, including trying to turn around the Buffaloes’ beleaguered program.

Sanders didn’t specify in a teleconference for the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game participants who else has reached out besides Colorado, saying, “I’m not going to sit here and tell all my business, but they’re not the only ones.”

The university hasn’t commented on any candidates to replace Karl Dorrell, who was dismissed in October. Interim coach Mike Sanford finished out the Buffaloes’ 1-11 season.

On Saturday, Fox reported without citing sources that Colorado had offered Sanders the job.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer has guided Jackson State, a historically black college that plays in the second tier of NCAA Division I football, to an 11-0 mark this season. The Tigers host Southern in the SWAC championship Saturday.

Known as “Prime Time” during his playing career, the magnetic Sanders prefers “Coach Prime” these days. He said the offer to coach the Buffaloes isn’t a distraction.

“To someone else that hasn’t been that dude, it’s intoxicating. I’ve been `Prime’ for a long time, dawg,” Sanders with a laugh. “Attention ain’t nothing knew to me. Like, come on. I’m not being braggadocious – that’s a wonderful word, isn’t it? I just came up with that – but this isn’t new to me. Being in the spotlight isn’t new to me.”

Whoever takes over in Boulder has their work cut out. The Buffs went 1-8 in the Pac-12 and concluded their gloomy season with a 63-21 blowout loss to No. 12 Utah at Folsom Field on Saturday.

Before the season, Colorado lost several starters through the transfer portal, an area Sanders could surely shore up should he accept the Buffaloes’ job.

Hired by Jackson State in September 2020 after coaching his sons at a Texas high school, Sanders called the fit “a match made in heaven.” He quickly lifted the school in Mississippi’s capital to SWAC champion in one calendar year.

The Tigers followed up a 4-3 finish in a pandemic-delayed spring season with an 11-2 showing last fall, a remarkable jump led by Sanders’ son, Shedeur Sanders, at quarterback. They lost to South Carolina State in the Celebration Bowl.

Jackson State’s performance was significant beyond earning its first conference title since 2007. A program that has produced Hall of Famers such as Walter Payton, Lem Barney, Jackie Slater and Robert Brazile was relevant again among HBCUs, and Sanders was determined to keep it that way.

Sanders has also scored on the recruiting trail, landing five-star defensive back Travis Hunter and four-star receiver Kevin Coleman for this year’s unbeaten squad. Sanders told The Associated Press in an October podcast that both players chose JSU because he and his staff will prepare them for careers in the NFL.

Yet, Sanders has noted schools such as Jackson State remain at an inherent disadvantage in recruiting.

“So now it’s becoming an option,” Sanders said of top recruits choosing HBCUs. “But it’s not truly a balanced option because of facilities, because of the housing. Because of all the aesthetics at HBCUs. We’re underfunded and overlooked. So it’s not the same.”

Sanders’ success in lifting the Championship Subdivision program’s profile – not to mention drawing attention to Black college football and the challenges JSU and other programs face in fielding programs – sparked speculation about Power Five schools pursuing him for coaching vacancies.

On the ESPN show “Keyshawn, JWill & Max,” longtime NFL receiver KeyShawn Johnson urged Sanders to take the Buffaloes job.

“This is a perfect situation,” Johnson said. “Here’s why: Prime can recruit. He can get me to hang out in Colorado for sure, there’s no question about that. He can recruit California, Texas, Arizona, Florida. He can get the best players in Colorado to stay in Colorado.”

Even before Sanders took the Jackson State job, he met with officials at Power Five schools about their coaching vacancies and impressed with his preparation.

Sanders was a All-American at Florida State before a stellar NFL career with five teams that included the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, where he won a Super Bowl with each.

The 55-year-old Sanders – or whoever it may be – would step into a Colorado program that’s a long way from its glory days under Hall of Fame coach Bill McCartney, who led CU to a national championship following the 1990 season.

The Buffaloes have had only one full-length winning season since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.

No. 8 USC routs Colorado 55-17, but loses RB Dye to injury

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LOS ANGELES — Everybody on Southern California’s sideline poured onto the Coliseum field to surround the cart transporting running back Travis Dye, whose collegiate career had just ended with one awkward tackle.

The Trojans then shook off that abrupt heartbreak and kept rolling toward their ultimate goals for a remarkable rebound season in which Dye has been a prime producer and an emotional leader.

“There’s no way we would be sitting here as a football team if it wasn’t for him,” coach Lincoln Riley said.

Caleb Williams passed for 268 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for two more scores, and No. 8 USC overcame their top ball-carrier’s left leg injury in a 55-17 victory over Colorado on Friday night.

Williams accounted for five total touchdowns in his fourth consecutive outstanding game for the Trojans (9-1, 7-1 Pac-12), who warmed up for season-defining games against No. 9 UCLA and No. 20 Notre Dame in the next two weeks with a slow start followed by a blowout victory over the Buffaloes (1-9, 1-6).

Former Colorado receiver Brenden Rice had 70 yards receiving and a touchdown for the Trojans, while Tahj Washington and Austin Jones caught TD passes from Williams in the third quarter. Jones threw up a 2 and a 6 after his score to honor the jersey number of Dye, the Pac-12’s second-leading rusher with 884 yards.

“To see him go out like that, it hurts me,” Jones said. “We’ve got to step up and take on what he’s been doing so well, and keep it going.”

Dye left the field with an air cast on his left leg after going down awkwardly in the second quarter. The Oregon transfer and Los Angeles-area native has been a key component of the Trojans’ immediate transformation from a four-win program to a College Football Playoff contender.

Riley said he doesn’t expect Dye to play again this season, but the injury shouldn’t cause him long-term damage. Dye flashed USC’s signature V for Victory to his cheering fans on his way to the Coliseum tunnel before he returned to watch the second half from the sideline on crutches.

“He’ll be playing on an NFL team next year,” Riley said.

The Trojans still scored at least 41 points for the fourth consecutive game with a prolific offense led by Williams, who had another standout game despite throwing only his second interception of the season. Williams has accounted for 37 total touchdowns in 10 games at USC.

“I just care about competing and winning,” Williams said. “If I come out with five (touchdowns), I come out with five. If I come out with one, I come out with one.”

Alex Fontenot rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown for the Buffaloes, who have yielded 188 points during their four-game losing streak under interim coach Mike Sanford.

J.T. Shrout passed for 124 yards and rushed for a late TD while Colorado fell to 0-16 against USC in a series that began in 1927 and includes 11 straight Pac-12 losses for the Buffs.

USC’s defense had its best game in a month, with Tuli Tuipulotu recording 2 1/2 sacks to increase in FBS-leading total to 11 1/2, but the Trojans actually trailed 3-2 after an ugly first quarter.

“Looking at the last two weeks in particular coming into this game, I mean, there’s all the reasons in the world probably to hang your head and not start fast defensively,” Sanford said. “It just shows the resolve and the belief that those players have, and I think you’re also starting to see some great individual efforts.”

USC’s second drive ended when Williams’ underthrown long pass was wrestled away from Rice by Nikko Reed, but USC’s defense scored the game’s first points on a safety moments later when Tuipulotu pressured Shrout into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone.

Williams quickly took control, and he excelled even with a third straight week of minimal help from his top two receivers. Jordan Addison made only one reception in limited action during the Biletnikoff Award winner’s return from a two-game injury absence, but receiver Mario Williams missed his third straight game with an injury.

THE TAKEAWAY

Colorado: The Buffs’ first quarter will look good on film when Sanford tells them they’ve got a chance to win one of their final two games. This lost season is a motivational challenge, but Sanford’s team clearly is still playing hard with what it has.

USC: Dye’s absence is a blow to the Trojans’ leadership and heart, but they’ve got talented options in Jones and Raleek Brown, who had a career-high 90 total yards and made a 25-yard TD catch from Miller Moss in the fourth quarter. USC’s defensive play, not its running game, almost certainly will determine where the Trojans finish this regular season.

INJURIES

Colorado RB Deion Smith and S Trevor Woods both sat out with injuries, but Sanford expects them to play in the Buffs’ final two games.

UP NEXT

Colorado: At Washington on Saturday, Nov. 19.

USC: At UCLA on Saturday, Nov. 19.

Colorado faces steep climb to return program to glory days

BRIAN HAYES/STATESMAN JOURNAL/USA TODAY NETWORK
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BOULDER, Colo. — Longtime NFL linebacker Chad Brown owes so much to the University of Colorado, his alma mater. He won a national title while with the Buffaloes. He met his wife there. He sent his kids to school in Boulder, too.

That’s why going back these days brings such an array of emotions.

Brown so deeply wants to see the Buffs return to the glory of ages ago, when bowl games were just a matter of which one, not just hoping for a berth. But he also realizes it’s an Everest sort of ascension out of a rocky slide that’s seen the program tumble to 1-6 this season (all losses by 23 or more points) and cost coach Karl Dorrell his job earlier this month.

The Buffaloes, who are 1-3 in the Pac-12, have free-fallen to near the bottom of the college football landscape.

“I look at life through black-and-gold glasses,” said Brown, who helped the Buffaloes win their only national football title during his sophomore season in 1990 before the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him in the second round of the 1993 NFL draft. “But if you can’t recognize and see the lay of the land, and the difficulty ahead for the Buffs, you’re fooling yourself.

“It’s an incredibly uphill climb.”

For their recent fall from grace, there’s a myriad of reasons. Partly, the transfer portal (Colorado lost a chunk of players before this season). Partly, the money surrounding name, image and likeness deals (complicated by state policies). But perhaps more than anything, a not-so-clear understanding of precisely what’s necessary to win in Boulder.

At least, that’s the take of former Colorado coach Gary Barnett, who’s now a radio analyst with KOA in Denver. Since Barnett’s departure – he went 49-38 from 1999-05 – the Buffaloes have had nine coaches, including three interims (with Mike Sanford currently in charge). They’ll have to win the rest of their games – as underdogs, no less – to avoid a fifth losing season in six years.

“It’s more complicated, probably at Colorado, because the appearance from the outside is one thing. But once you get here, and realize that it has its own set of values, its own set of things that are important, and if it didn’t fit with what you thought it was going to be, it’s easy to get resentful or to feel like nobody’s helping you,” explained Barnett, who was a longtime assistant coach in Boulder before taking over at Northwestern and then returning to Colorado. “Fortunately, in my case, I’d been here. I knew what to expect.

“You’ve got to have the right attitude going in.”

The names being mentioned as possibilities to become CU’s next head coach range from veteran coaches (Gary Patterson, Bronco Mendenhall) to up-and-comers (Ricky Rahne of Old Dominion ) to former Colorado players (Ryan Walters, defensive coordinator at Illinois; Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs) to instant national attention (Deion Sanders, Jackson State).

Sanford has a shot, too, should he be able to right the reeling Buffaloes. He’s 1-1 since taking over for Dorrell.

Sanford pointed to what Oregon State has done as an ideal blueprint. The Beavers went 2-10 in their first season under coach Jonathan Smith in 2018. But after beating the Buffaloes 42-9 last weekend they became bowl eligible for a second straight season.

“A lot of those players that were playing against us on Saturday are guys that had gone through those tough years,” Sanford said. “They had the continuity – how they were developed, the strength coach, the position coaches, all the way down. You see them grow up and become a veteran team that looked like a true Power Five, upper-echelon-of-the-conference type of team.”

Following this season, the Buffaloes could experience another exodus via the transfer portal, with players chasing a more stable environment, maybe even an easier course load. Or more lucrative NIL deals, which is a realm the Buffaloes are looking to be more competitive.

“I do not think it is a matter of altering any of the rules and policies,” University of Colorado Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said when Dorrell was fired on Oct. 2. “I believe that you can have excellent academics and excellent student-athletes coming together. They are not mutually exclusive.”

Back in his day, Brown was a standout player in California who happened to see some big names in his state being heavily recruited by Colorado. That included Bieniemy and later quarterback Darian Hagan. It enticed Brown to Boulder as the Buffs were rising in prominence after going 1-10 under Hall of Fame coach Bill McCartney in 1984.

There was a game plan in place. The 1990 season culminated with Colorado earning a national title following its win in the Orange Bowl over Notre Dame.

Bottom line: The next coach needs time to grow the program.

“If you get the right coach and he’s able to build his program, you can get back to respectability, and maybe even some years be a part of the bigger national picture,” said Brown, a sports talk show host on 104.3 The Fan in Denver. “That’s my hope.”