‘It felt like covering an NFL team': A reporter's view of Deion Sanders' first spring at Colorado
Last fall, few were thinking about the program Brian Howell covers. Now it's the talk of college football.
There is a tweet, Brian Howell volunteers, that one of his followers loves to rib him over.
It came Oct. 31, 2022, nearly a month after the Colorado Buffaloes had fired coach Karl Dorrell. Howell, the longtime CU beat reporter for the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, had been tracking rumors and speculation for weeks, as is the case with any coaching change. But some Colorado fans had fixated on one target: Deion Sanders, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who was turning heads in his third season as coach at FCS Jackson State.
Really, though? Coach Prime? Taking over a 1-11 team in the Pac-12? Forget about it. Howell replied to a Twitter follower who had been touting Sanders: “You're not getting Deion Sanders in Boulder, so you should be looking at your option B.”
“I thought it was a pipe dream,” Howell told me earlier this week. “My belief was always that the only way Deion was going to come to Colorado was if he had no other Power 5 offers. I don’t know for a fact that he did, but it just stunned me that they got him.”
That Howell wound up being wrong is less an indictment of his prognostication abilities and more a testament to just how un-Prime the Colorado job seemed at the time. Sure, the school has a lot to sell. Boulder is a wonderful, scenic city, and less than an hour from Denver. Colorado fans are passionate, especially relative to recent results, and many of them were around to witness the Buffaloes win a national title in 1990. (How many other Pac-12 schools, after all, have been the subject of a 30-for-30 documentary?)
But CU was so bad the past two seasons that it was difficult to envision a coach with any clout actually wanting the job. Sanders, though, was just unproven enough — he had won consecutive SWAC titles, but JSU was his first college coaching job — that Colorado was able to land him, and at a salary of nearly $6 million per year.
Spring practice means lots of media-room banter. One nerdy reporter topic that a few of us discussed in Seattle this year: what must it be like to cover Colorado right now? Did the Sanders hire make Howell’s job better? Worse? Neither?
It’s certainly different.