By Arnie Stapleton and Pat Graham, The Associated Press
Part politician, part preacher and part pitchman, Deion Sanders fired up a crowd of alumni, boosters, former players and other VIPs celebrating his hire as Colorado’s coach on Sunday.
He spewed motivational sayings that he promised will soon adorn the walls inside the complex at Folsom Field and he vowed to lead the bedraggled Buffaloes back to prominence after going 27-5 in three seasons at Jackson State.
“I have the best coaching staff assembled, some of the best scouts, some of the best kids that we’re recruiting, some already coming on the way as I speak,” Sanders told the crowd of hundreds who whooped and hollered at his answers from among the dozens of reporters at his introductory news conference.
“And now that I’ve gotten here, I see it, and understand it, and I can grasp it and I can touch it, I can feel it, I can taste it,” Sanders added. “I truly understand what you want — all you want is the opportunity to win. To compete. To dominate. To be amongst the elite. To be amongst the best.
“And darn it, I’m gonna give you that.”
But first, he reminded everyone, “I have work to finish in Jackson, Mississippi.”
Sanders said he will coach the unbeaten Tigers in the Celebration Bowl, the championship for historically Black college football programs, on Dec. 17
Then he can turn his attention entirely to resuscitating the Buffaloes.
“Simultaneously, like I played baseball and football, I can multitask and I can focus,” assured Sanders, the former NFL and major league superstar and the only athlete ever to play in both the Super Bowl and the World Series.
“This is my job and my occupation and my business and my dream to bring you back to where you know you should belong,” Sanders said.
A person with knowledge of Sanders’ contract told The Associated Press that it’s worth $29.5 million plus incentives over five years beginning at $5.5 million in the first year. Yearly incentives include $150,000 for six wins and $100,000 for each win after six, $150,000 for a bowl berth and $200,000 for a New Year’s Six bowl invitation.
If he wins a national title like CU did under coach Bill McCartney following the 1990 season, Sanders would get an extra $750,000.
Sanders is already assembling his staff, scouting the transfer portal and reaching out to five-star high school recruits to help him fix a program that has just one winning full-length season since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
At one point, Sanders asked his son, Shedeur Sanders, to stand up.
“This is your quarterback,” he told the audience, which replied with one of its biggest cheers.
A couple of recent developments will help Sanders lure the top-level athletes that are expected to cascade onto campus.
The school recently launched a collective for donations that will create a pool of money so that Colorado can compete with its conference rivals in name, image and likeness deals.
The university also relaxed its rules regarding transfer credits, a move that will allow Sanders to compete with established football powerhouses across the country.
“A game changer,” marveled former Buffaloes and NFL standout tight end Daniel Graham. “Now, we’re on an equal playing field with all the rest of the universities. So now we’ll be able to get some big-time transfers in here.”
Sanders met with his players after Jackson State defeated Southern 43-24 in the Southwest Athletic Conference championship Saturday night to tell them he was taking the Colorado job.
Then, he flew to Boulder and toured the football facilities and picturesque campus stadium. He walked onto the field despite a throbbing left foot; Sanders had two toes amputated last year due to blood clots.
“This is a wonderful situation. This city is un-darn-believable,” Sanders said.
CU fans are anticipating a quick turnaround under Sanders much like Southern California’s U-turn from 4-8 last year to 11-2 this season under first-year coach Lincoln Riley.
Sanders provided a promise but not a timeline.
“It may not happen as quick as you may desire it to, but it’s going to happen,” Sanders said. “We’re gonna win. It’s going to happen. I’m not going put a timetable on it, but it’s gonna happen.”
Sanders brings a mix of old-school discipline and newfangled edge as he’s transitioned from “Prime Time” as one of the best dual-sport professional athletes ever to “Coach Prime.”
“Sometimes I may look like an old fool but I’m just old school,” he said. “Guys, after we get finished with this work, I just want you to know we’re on the way. Not to compete, but to win. Not to show up, but to show out. Not to be among the rest but to be the absolute best. We’re coming into work. We’re not coming to play. We’re coming to kill, not to kick it.
“Baby, got to believe that we’re coming. You’ve got to feel that energy inside of you that we’re coming,” Sanders continued like a preacher at the pulpit. “When you get in that stadium, you got to get in early because by time of the kickoff, baby we’re coming. You understand it? Do you feel that? Do you understand the intensity, the excitement, the adrenaline, the rush that I got right now, that I can’t wait for this thing to kick off because we are coming.”
Sanders may be seen as the savior but he said it was he who was humbled.
“Boulder, Colorado, you have no idea what you blessed me with, the opportunity that you give me and I feel like I owe you,” he said. “So every day I’m going to work for you. I’m gonna strain for you. I’m gonna develop for you. I’m gonna commit for you. I’m gonna do the things that others wouldn’t do.
“Baby, we’re coming. So anybody asked you something about, ‘When is he coming back?’ You say, ‘I don’t know, but I know he’s coming.’”