As we enter the pivotal stretch of the coaching carousel, the future of Deion Sanders promises to become more clear.
The wildly successful Jackson State coach — at 11-0, the Tigers sport the first perfect regular season in school history — has made no bones about his desire to coach at college football’s FBS level. While a quiet carousel will limit his options, sources close to Sanders say he has been in discussions with power-brokers in both Colorado and South Florida about their coaching vacancies. A cycle ago, Sanders interviewed at TCU and Colorado State.
Sanders has not talked to anyone representing Auburn as that program’s search goes in a different direction.
Colorado and South Florida, who are each chasing former glory, offer respective perks for the 55-year-old Sanders.
The Buffaloes might not fit Sanders’ recruiting footprint, but as a Pac-12 school they can offer the best chance for Sanders to pay his assistants well and build out the staff infrastructure he believes he needs (two items he doesn’t come close to satisfying at Jackson State). With the resources Colorado could offer, Sanders has mapped out a plan to recruit nationally to Boulder.
A member of the American Athletic Conference, South Florida is not as flush with cash but is right in Sanders’ recruiting footprint. At 1-10 overall and with conference foes UCF, Cincinnati and Houston headed to the Big 12 by the 2023 football season, Sanders would have an opportunity at South Florida to execute an immediate turnaround similar to what he’s done at Jackson State (26-5 overall, 4-8 the year before Sanders arrived).
The one-win Buffaloes fired Karl Dorrell in early October after an 0-5 start. The one-win Bulls fired Jeff Scott in early November.
Sanders carries weight in households across the country for his success and fame as a two-time All-American at Florida State, 14-year NFL veteran and nine-year MLB player. Sanders won two Super Bowls and appeared in the 1992 World Series, making him the first and only athlete to play in both. Sanders is a key endorser of Under Armor and used to coach in the Under Armor All-America Game.
His ‘Coach Prime’ fame allowed him to turn the college football world on its head last December when he flipped No. 1 overall recruit Travis Hunter from Florida State to Jackson State on the biggest Signing Day surprise ever. Sanders also landed top-100 recruit Kevin Coleman and a host of talented transfers from the FBS level. Hunter has shaken off a season-long injury to flourish in recent weeks, with a pick-six and an offensive touchdown in Jackson State’s win Saturday. Also starring for Jackson State is quarterback Shedeur Sanders, Deion’s son. Shedeur has thrown for over 3,000 yards with 32 touchdowns.
Sanders has helped revitalize HBCU football — Jackson State even hosted ESPN’s College GameDay this season — and interested FBS schools are enamored with his ability as a coach, recruiter and unmatched program pitch man.
Jackson State will play in the SWAC Championship Game on Dec. 3. If they Tigers win, they would play in the Celebration Bowl (the winner of the SWAC vs. the MEAC) for the second consecutive season.
Carl Reed is a College Football Analyst for 247Sports and former head coach at St. Louis (Mo.) Lutheran North, where he won the state championship in 2019. He played college football at Austin Peay.