Deion Sanders' unique recruiting style at Colorado: Zero home visits since hiring in 2022

In his first 14 months on the job as head football coach at Colorado, Deion Sanders has reeled in some of the top recruiting prospects in the nation, including offensive lineman Jordan Seaton and cornerback Cormani McClain.

Records obtained by USA TODAY Sports also show he never even had to leave campus to seal the deal with them or any others.

The university confirmed that "Coach Prime" has made no off-campus contacts with recruiting prospects since he was hired there in early December 2022.



"Coach Prime did not conduct any off-campus recruiting visits," the school said in an email Feb. 28.

That means no visits to the homes or schools of recruiting prospects – which normally has been a traditional staple of the recruiting process in college sports.

By contrast, former Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh had 145 off-campus contacts with recruits or their family members from Dec. 1, 2022 until he left for an NFL job earlier this year, according to data obtained by USA TODAY Sports in public-records requests submitted to several universities.

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian had 128 of these off-campus recruiting contacts since Dec. 1, 2022.

Former UCLA coach Chip Kelly had 55 of his own during that time, including seven home visits.

More coverage: Grandpa Prime? Sanders set to become grandfather

Deion Sanders led Colorado to a 4-8 record in his first season as head coach.
Deion Sanders led Colorado to a 4-8 record in his first season as head coach.

The data since Dec. 1, 2022 covers the last two winter contact periods on the NCAA recruiting calendar, which generally restricts head coaches from making off-campus recruiting contacts beyond the months of December and January.

In Sanders’ case, his employment contract with Colorado also gives him an annual budget of $200,000 to use a private air travel service for recruiting called Wheels Up.

He didn’t use it.

"The football staff have not used this service for recruiting since Coach Prime started his term as coach," the school said in response to a records request this month.

But what does this all mean exactly?

It depends on the viewpoint.

How has this been working for Deion Sanders?

Colorado didn’t return messages seeking comment from Sanders, who is on a national book tour this week before starting his second spring practice season in Boulder on Monday.

He does things differently, as he showed when he overhauled Colorado’s roster to an unprecedented degree in 2023, when the Buffaloes finished 4-8.

Sanders, 56, arguably didn’t need to go on the road to recruit and has had physical mobility issues since 2021 because of blood clots in his legs and pain in his foot. He also didn’t recruit very many high school players and instead mostly has recruited transfer players – older players who already have moved out of their family homes and might not need to be wooed by a home visit from another prospective new coach.

The university didn't say why Sanders hasn't used the private air travel service stipulated in his contract. Asked who was using it in athletics if not football, the school said the men's basketball program has used it for recruiting, as did the previous head football coach.

What are his recruiting results so far?

According to several metrics, it’s a style that’s worked for him. He upgraded the talent on the roster from 2022, when the Buffaloes finished 1-11. Sanders’ class of transfer recruits last year ranked No. 1 in the nation.  His overall recruiting class for 2024 also ranks No. 22, including 24 transfer players and only seven high school players, according to 247Sports.

Virtually all of them were lured by his fame and football history as a Pro Football Hall of Famer. They came to him, visiting him on recruiting trips to Boulder.

"I ain’t hard 2 find" is even one of his recruiting mottos, currently for sale on Colorado T-shirts.

In the meantime, Sanders’ assistant coaches have put in legwork for him on the road and had more than 90 off-campus, face-to-face conversations with recruits or their family members during this time period, according to records from CU.

But this approach still is completely different than the traditional model of head coaches traveling to meet with recruits and their families to convince them to sign with their teams.

What is the risk of this approach?

Straying from this traditional approach can become a focus point for critics if the team’s fortunes turn for the worse. In the case of Kelly at UCLA, his record there (35-34) and perceived dislike of recruiting led to grumbling among the fan base before he left to take an assistant coach’s job at Ohio State.

Records provided by UCLA show he didn’t log as much road contact as Harbaugh or Sarkisian, whose data from Texas shows him making multiple off-campus contacts per day during the NCAA contact periods in December and January. For example, on Dec. 6, 2022, Sarkisian made 20 off-campus recruiting contacts, according to the data.

Kelly still was on the road making contacts for a total of 19 days during his contact periods since Dec. 1, 2022. He made 46 contacts at recruits’ schools, seven at their homes and two where contact was made at a meal.

Why else do off-campus visits matter?

It’s generally important to make in-home visits with recruits for two reasons, former coach Jackie Sherrill told USA TODAY Sports. One is to learn more about the player. The other is potentially to gain an edge over competitors.

"I would never offer a player (a scholarship) unless I went into the home and saw the recruit in the presence of his mother," said Jackie Sherrill, the former head coach at Washington State, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. "If he was not respectful to his mother, then I would not recruit him. I signed a lot of players because the mother would say you are the first head coach to come to my house or that you are the only head coach that has come to my house. I could tell more about the recruit's character in front of his mother in five minutes than talking to all the coaches and teachers."

Those who don’t show for off-campus visits risk losing recruits to those who do.

One time, Sherill said he had a player at Mississippi State who asked him, “Do you know why I came here? Because you’re the only coach who didn’t flinch when cockroaches crawled across your feet” during his home visit.

What are the rules for off-campus visits?

A head football coach is generally limited to only one off-campus contact day with a recruit or their family members per year starting during a prospect's junior year of high school and including transfer recruits, according to the NCAA.

The assistant coaching staff has more leeway and often does the grunt work of mining for talent on the road. Assistant coaches also can accompany head coaches on their off-campus visits. For example, Ohio State coach Ryan Day and his assistants made a home visit with Alabama safety Caleb Downs before he transferred to play with the Buckeyes.

By contrast, the rules are different for recruits who want to visit the campus of the college they’re considering. They generally can make unlimited unofficial, unpaid visits to campus and one paid official visit per school.

These limits are why schools log their coaches’ number of off-campus contacts, which USA TODAY Sports requested from various public schools.  The ones who responded so far show a range and didn’t include Georgia, whose head coach, Kirby Smart, has become known for his extensive helicopter travel on recruiting trips.

In January 2023, Smart traveled by helicopter on recruiting trips in eight states on eight days and helped ring up expenses of more than $145,000 on the “Kirby Copter,” including other trips, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

Do recruits even care about home visits?

It varies, but other factors are a bigger part of the equation for recruits now, including earning potential from their names, images and likenesses (NIL). In one case, a wide receiver recruit out of Calabasas, Calif., committed to play for Sanders at Colorado before reneging on his commitment and signing with Texas.

That recruit, Aaron Butler, told USA TODAY Sport that neither Sanders nor Sarkisian visited with him at his home in person.

"I’m not really too much into that," Butler said. "My receivers coach is the one who is going to develop me."

At Texas, that was Chris Jackson, a former NFL player who did visit Butler in California. Before he changed his mind about Colorado, Butler said Sanders called and asked to talk to his parents, including his father Robb-Davon, who crossed paths with Sanders years ago with the Baltimore Ravens.  The call went well, but Butler later said a communication breakdown led him to change his mind about Colorado.

Another factor with home visits

Sometimes the home visit is for the parents. Former Colorado coach Bill McCartney knew this and used home visits to land several top recruits out of Southern California and Texas, eventually building the team into a national contender before his retirement 30 years ago. Sometimes he’d get into personal discussions about his religious faith with a parent.

"In a single-parent household, the mom is the decision-maker," former Buffs linebacker Alfred Williams said on a documentary about McCartney that aired on ESPN in 2015. "So he recruited my mom."

McCartney explained it like this in the same film:

"What that mom wanted to hear is what every mom wants to hear − is that she knows she can trust her son to you."

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. Email:

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Colorado's Deion Sanders has unusual recruiting style: No home visits