Skip to content

Rooney: Possible Prime Time can’t arrive soon enough for Colorado football

Most Colorado Buffaloes fans left by the 4th quarter on Nov. 26, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Most Colorado Buffaloes fans left by the 4th quarter on Nov. 26, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

The sun set on the 2022 football season for the Colorado Buffaloes months ago. Saturday’s grim march to the finish line merely was a formality.

All Buffaloes fans want to know at this point is if it soon will be Prime Time.

As reported first this past week by Adam Munsterteiger of 247Sports, and shamelessly regurgitated by national outlets as breaking news on the final football Saturday of the regular season, Colorado has offered its vacant head coach position to Deion Sanders, the Hall of Famer who has worked wonders in short order at Jackson State.

The question isn’t why Colorado would be interested in Sanders. The empty seats that filled Folsom Field on Saturday — and, really, during the second half of every home game except against California — answers that question plainly enough. Hiring Sanders would bring an immediate infusion of enthusiasm for a fan base whose apathy is teetering at an all-time low. Regardless how this courting plays out, athletic director Rick George deserves a tip of the cap for swinging for the fences.

The question, after the stretch-run tail-whippings mercifully ended with a bumbling 63-21 defeat against No. 14 Utah, is why Sanders could possibly be interested in Colorado.

Winning a Super Bowl? Awesome. Setting the NFL’s all-time return touchdown record (since broken by Devin Hester)? Incredible. Playing in an NFL game and an MLB playoff game in the same day? Unprecedented, and unlikely to be repeated. Same with playing in two Super Bowls and one World Series. Turning around Jackson State, while luring five-star recruits to an FCS-level campus, in just two full seasons? That’s why Sanders is the hottest commodity on this fall’s coaching carousel.

Yet achieving in Boulder anything resembling what Sanders has done at Jackson State might top the entirety of all the above.

Whether it’s Sanders or anyone else, the job ahead for rebuilding the CU program will be a monumental task.

As reported by my colleague Brian Howell this past week, George and CU’s administration have begun the process of tweaking the credit requirements that often leave CU unable to court certain players in the transfer portal. It’s a necessary step for CU to level the playing field against its Pac-12 peers. Yet the Buffs are much more than a few transfers they might not have landed previously away from turning into Pac-12 contenders.

Then again, that’s one area in which Sanders likely could make an immediate impact. One has to assume the next coach, particularly one of Sanders’ stature, will require having those transfer issues corrected as a basic premise of the contract agreement. If he ultimately passes on the reported offer, it probably will only take a matter of hours for Sanders to get another offer at a place more ready to succeed quickly than the trainwreck-on-the-gridiron in Boulder. Yet if Sanders wants to embrace the biggest challenge possible in his next coaching step, CU certainly fits the bill.

It is telling the best the Buffs could offer in the finale of a dismal 2022 season is a few tricks and gimmicks in support of their battered veterans.

On the game’s second play, tight Brady Russell — a warrior for certain, but hardly the fleetest of foot —  was tasked with beating defenders to the corner on an end around. He was thrown for a 1-yard loss. Casey Roddick, a stalwart on the offensive line and a player who deserves respect for being a standup interview after one lopsided loss after another, was given a carry on fourth-and-1. He didn’t make it.

Yet the Buffs’ season might have been summed up with a sequence early in the second half. It takes a special level of ineptitude to gain seven yards on first down, complete passes on the next two downs, and then punt after turning those completions into a fourth-and-9.

For CU and long-suffering Buffs fans, Prime Time can’t arrive soon enough.