Deion Sanders leaving Jackson State to become head coach at Colorado

Deion Sanders is headed to the Pac-12.

Sanders informed his team at Jackson State on Saturday night that he has agreed to become the next head football coach at Colorado. After Sanders told the players at JSU, Colorado made the news official.

"There were a number of highly qualified and impressive candidates interested in becoming the next head football coach at Colorado, but none of them had the pedigree, the knowledge and the ability to connect with student-athletes like Deion Sanders," Colorado athletic director Rick George said. "Not only will Coach Prime energize our fanbase, I'm confident that he will lead our program back to national prominence while leading a team of high quality and high character."

Sanders, a member of the pro football and college football halls of fame, has spent the past three seasons as the head coach at Jackson State, an FCS program in Mississippi. During that span, Sanders has amassed a 27-5 overall record and two SWAC championships.

This season, Sanders has coached the Tigers to a 12-0 record, including a 43-24 victory over Southern in the SWAC title game Saturday.

Sanders acknowledged last week that Colorado had offered him the job and that CU was "not the only one." At that time, Sanders declined to go into his thought process about whether he would pursue another opportunity or stay at Jackson State.

On Saturday night, we got our answer.

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ESPN's Pete Thamel reported Friday that Sanders has been preparing behind the scenes to make his move to Boulder, including contacting potential additions to the roster.

With Jackson State on the cusp of the SWAC title game Saturday, Sanders and his associates have spent the week making inquiries to both potential members of his on-field staff and support staff at Colorado, pitching them to join him in Boulder, sources said.

A source told ESPN on Friday night that Sanders' outreach included a call to a prominent player in the NCAA transfer portal, encouraging him to not make a decision because Sanders was heading to Colorado and wanted to recruit him there.

Deion Sanders will take the head coaching job at Colorado after three seasons coaching at Jackson State in Mississippi. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Deion Sanders will take the head coaching job at Colorado after three seasons coaching at Jackson State in Mississippi. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

At Colorado, Sanders will replace Karl Dorrell, who was fired in October after an 0-5 start to the season. The Buffs closed out their season with a loss to Utah last Saturday, giving them a 1-11 record on the year. Dorrell was hired in 2020 after Mel Tucker left Boulder for Michigan State. CU went 4-2 in 2020 and 4-8 in 2021.

Other than the shortened season in 2020, Colorado has had just one other winning season since 2005. The Buffs went 10-4 and won the Pac-12 South in 2016 under Mike MacIntyre. However, the school fired MacIntyre after going a combined 10-14 in 2017 and 2018.

With the hire of Sanders, the school is hoping to significantly raise the profile of its football program. Sanders brought the national spotlight to Jackson State, winning high-profile recruiting battles off the field and games on the field. Most notably, Sanders recruited Travis Hunter to Jackson State. Hunter was the No. 1 player in the class of 2022 and a longtime Florida State commit. On signing day, Hunter ended up signing with Jackson State rather than FSU, Sanders’ alma mater.

Jackson State was the first college coaching job for Sanders, who played 14 seasons in the NFL as a standout defensive back. Sanders also played Major League Baseball and had stints with four different franchises. After he retired as a player, he spent several years as an on-air NFL analyst for CBS Sports, NFL Network and Barstool Sports.

"Deion Sanders' stature transcends sports, and his hiring elevates not only the football program but the university as a whole," said CU Boulder chancellor Philip DiStefano. "I'm thankful Deion has chosen to join our Buffalo family and I applaud Rick George for a truly inspired choice. This is an exciting new chapter in the long, storied history of Colorado football and I look forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our students, supporters and fans to cheer on "Coach Prime" and our student-athletes next fall."

Jackson State athletic director Ashley Robinson thanked Sanders in a statement for his years of service with the program.

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