Football is a copycat sport. If a team succeeds with a play, scheme, or philosophy, rest assured others will try to replicate it.
Deion Sanders is 2-0 and ranked in the Top 25 at a previously listless Colorado program because he dared to do something different. Who knows how long the party in Boulder will last?
What is certain: Sanders has forever changed how college football coaches view roster construction.
If you’re a traditionalist who constantly clutches his pearls and complains about change, brace yourself for another seismic shift. Because of Sanders, other coaches will be more aggressive than ever in the transfer portal. The portal used to be looked at as a place to plug in a few holes with veterans. Not anymore.
Sanders boldly brought in over 80 new players. Call him an outlier. Call his strategy “troubling” as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has.
“As we’re talking about providing more certainty and security for student-athletes, the headline can be a bit troubling,” he said, according to Bleacher Report. “I think Deion’s explained a lot. Whether people are okay with that is probably another conversation for another day.”
The toothpaste is out of the tube. Once one Power 5 coach has proven you can successfully reshape your roster in one off-season, other coaches will follow. Does this make a mockery of what is supposed to be amateur sports? Maybe, but who cares? Sankey didn’t use the word “troubling” when his conference pilfered Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12, contributing to the conference realignment mess we’re in now.
You can legitimately feel queasy about the idea that coaches will feel more emboldened to force out players who don’t live up to their recruiting rankings. And Sanders did face criticism for jettisoning the previous staff’s student-athletes. But in big-money college athletics, the ends usually justify the means. Other athletic directors are observing Colorado’s media attention and sudden rise in fan support with envy.
Obviously, not every school can employ a celebrity coach like Sanders. But stealing his blueprint might be the next best thing. There are several programs with more money and more prestige than Colorado. Many of them are in the SEC. For argument’s sake, let’s say Texas A&M has finally had enough of the Jimbo Fischer Experience. (Yes, we know. He has a ridiculously expensive buyout.). If a new coach comes to College Station, he might have the green light to overhaul the roster.
You can bet we won’t hear a peep of protest from Sankey.
Shedeur Sanders with a TD pass and Colorado takes a 10-0 lead over Nebraska. 🏈 pic.twitter.com/HUaxtBxkTz— The Comeback (@thecomeback) September 9, 2023
Like it or not, Sanders is a pioneer. Widespread change usually happens when someone has the guts to be Magellan. Once someone goes in that direction, others quickly get brave. Even college administrators who hate this practice might be compelled to sign off on it. Primarily because, if they don’t, competing schools will. Not every incoming coach will attempt an extreme transfer makeover, but just knowing that the nuclear option is available will be enough.
The debates about the transfer portal are usually pointless. As long as the athletes are students, they should be free to go anywhere. If the college world has a problem, there’s a simple solution: make them paid employees with non-compete clauses.
But that’s going to happen. So, applaud Sanders for his ingenuity. The future is here. Sanders opened a door that will not be closing anytime soon.