BOULDER, Colorado (AP) — New Colorado coach Deion Sanders can’t yet point to any on-field wins in Boulder, but signs of a massive shift in mood and expectation abound at this school and in this city around what has been a forlorn football program.
Hired in December after a highly successful run as Jackson State’s head coach, the NFL Hall of Fame cornerback is in the midst of running practices with his new team in preparation for Colorado’s annual intrasquad spring game on April 22.
The school announced earlier this week that the game, which is also being nationally televised on ESPN, had sold out with more than 45,000 people expected to be on hand. It would stand out as the highest attendance ever for Colorado’s spring game, eclipsing the previous high of 17,800 in 2008. Indeed, according to the school, the anticipated attendance will be higher than the combined total for the previous nine spring games.
“We haven’t won a game. There’s no impact right now,” Sanders said at a news conference Saturday. “The financial aspect of what’s going on, that’s a blessing. Somebody’s profiting really well and I’m happy for that, especially this university because they deserve it. And to display and show what’s here, in your beloved city, I think that’s a beautiful thing to bring that to fruition.”
Sanders, popularly known as “Primetime” in his playing days but better known now as “Coach Prime,” said he likes the way the team is starting to mesh. He can sense the eagerness and desire among his players and the students he’s met to turn around the program.
“I can’t wait for the spring game, really looking forward to it, because I want to see the difference in the atmosphere and the feeling and the spirit of everything,” said Sanders, who is taking over a program that has had a losing record in its last six seasons, including a 1-11 finish last season.
“I spoke to the School of Business yesterday and it was phenomenal,” Sanders said. “Those kids were hungry. Every kid had a pencil and piece of paper and taking notes and they were on every darn word, every thought, everything I uttered, they were on it. They wanted it. I loved that.”
Sanders insists change has to be made by both players and fans.
“If we’re going to change the game here, that means the fans have got to change, too,” he said. “We want to impact them as well. We want them to be ready for us like we want to be ready for them.”
If his players are anything like their coach, they’ll be ready, for primetime. Sanders attended the conference wearing a cowboy hat with a gold chain and traditional coach’s whistle draped around his neck. He was asked if he would like to see some of his players, which include his son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders, take on any of his football characteristics as is sometimes won’t between players and coaches.
“I hope so,” Sanders said with a smile. “God, I hope so. That’s what I want. That’s what I’m looking for.”