If we are lucky, this could be epic.
If we are lucky, Coach Prime lives up to the old ethos of Deion Sanders, of Neon Deion, of Prime Time, of the guy who has rankled college football’s establishment since his days as an uber-talented and unapologetically confident Florida State cornerback (and baseball center fielder and track sprinter, of course).
Sanders' stated plan this weekend is to lead Jackson State to its first ever 12-0 season by winning the SWAC championship game on Saturday and then on Sunday announce where he will coach next year.
This alone might be unprecedented. A scheduled coaching choice announcement?
Football coaches generally treat even the slightest speculation about changing jobs like CIA secrets.
They lie to their bosses and players about their interest, use agents to operate behind the scenes and then often ghost everyone after sending a group text saying they are bailing. Sometimes they even walk out in the middle of a recruiting dinner. (In this world, it's considered senatorial.)
Instead, Sanders is acknowledging his job offers, including at Colorado, because well, he’s Deion Sanders, and of course people want to hire him.
“To someone else that hasn’t been that dude, it’s intoxicating,” Sanders said.
For him, though, it’s no big thing.
“I’ve been ‘Prime’ for a long time, dawg,” he said Monday before laughing. “Attention ain’t nothing new to me. Like, come on. I’m not being braggadocious — that’s a wonderful word, isn’t it? — but this isn’t new to me. Being in the spotlight isn’t new to me.”
So, yeah, he is also sticking with bending for no man and no system and making his decision on his timeline and in his own manner.
Which means, if we are lucky, Coach Prime could sit behind a table Sunday like the elite recruit he once was, not to mention the current elite recruits who flock to him, and spread out a few hats (Colorado, South Florida, Jackson State and maybe Cincinnati) before making his choice in the most dramatic way possible.
Come on, Prime, do it.
“They don’t pay nobody to be humble,” he declared to Sports Illustrated back in the 1980s. Not even Sanders' high-wattage smile and prodigious talent could stop the eye rolls in some circles.
In some ways, nothing has changed.
Sanders is 55 now but no less of the megastar personality he was when he was starring for both the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Braves — once on the same day — or when he was winning Super Bowls in Dallas and San Francisco or that time at FSU when during a break between the baseball conference semifinal and title games, he decided to anchor the Seminole 4x100 relay in a track meet.
He is 26-5 as a college football coach, having not just resurrected JSU but also helped uplift and promote the game at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He’s a one-man hype machine, fundraiser and attention-grabber — in everything from Aflac commercials with Nick Saban to “60 Minutes” sit downs.
He is the most feared recruiter in the game. Sanders has brought seven players ranked as four- or five-star prospects in high school or junior college to JSU, an absurd haul for any FCS school, let alone an HBCU. That includes flipping Travis Hunter Jr., the No. 1 overall recruit in America, from Florida State in what was the biggest recruiting surprise ever.
Put Sanders at a high-level program, with all the resources and facilities, and anything is possible.
“In recruiting, he will take anything in his footprint, no matter where he goes,” said Mike Farrell, the longtime recruiting analyst who runs MikeFarrellSports.com. “He’s a Hall of Famer, greatest cornerback to ever play, but he’s also extremely personable. You get around him, and he draws you in.”
“A lot of coaches will bring players in and tell them what they will do," said Adam Gorney, the national recruiting analyst for Rivals. “Deion shows kids what he did. He just connects with kids in a way that other coaches simply can’t. He’s 55 now, but he still connects.”
Deion doesn’t fit anyone’s mold, and that’s the point. Why would he want to? Why wouldn’t he try to land top-five players to an HBCU? Why wouldn’t he tell Colorado, 'Hey, sounds good, let me get back to you'?
His way has almost always worked for him.
Parts of college football have never fully grasped Deion Sanders, which is one reason a man who is 22-2 the past two seasons with so much ability to get elite talent will make a decision Sunday that features mostly mid-level opportunities.
Sanders might represent a lottery ticket for a school, a generational chance to immediately take a program and have it win recruiting battles against Alabama and Georgia, but in major college football, that somehow isn’t enough — at least not yet.
He isn’t someone who is expected to glad-hand boosters or take a lot of guidance or handle the job the way the job has always been handled. Deion might be difficult to manage is what college athletic directors say off the record, and that might be true, but then again, which college coach is easy to manage?
The best job in the South to open this year, Auburn, tried to hire Lane Kiffin before settling on Hugh Freeze.
There is never a guarantee that any coach will succeed at a job. Some of the most heralded hires fail. Yet Sanders' upside is greater than just about anyone else’s. Why that isn’t enough for some places, only they know.
Coach Prime doesn’t seem too concerned about who doesn’t want him, though. He sounds excited about who does and is making a big deal about it.
Maybe he stays and continues to boost Jackson State. Maybe he heads elsewhere, with likely seven or eight ready-to-play transfers in tow, perhaps including Hunter and his own son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders.
Maybe to the cold of Colorado and the Pac-12. Maybe to the strong and rising Cincinnati, which is headed to the Big 12. Maybe to the sun and potential of his home state and the University of South Florida.
On Sunday, we find out what’s next for Coach Prime. He’ll let the world know, as always, in his way and on his terms.