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Morgan Howen

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The Deion Sanders effect is in full force in college football

Must be the money.

Must be the money.
Image: Getty Images

“Your network is your net worth”

— Every unbearable frat boy has said at least once in their life while claiming to be a sigma male.

In college football, it’s never been more true. With NIL deals becoming reality this season, adjacency to a marketable player only makes you more marketable. I mean, think of that State Farm commercial B.J. Raji did a few years back with Aaron Rodgers. Do you really think Raji would’ve gotten that opportunity if he wasn’t playing on the same team as Rodgers? Heeeeeeeell no!

We see it on social media all the time. A popular influencer blows up and all of a sudden, so do the people close to them. They start to build a brand of their own and that makes them money, just because they put themselves near someone else’s spotlight. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m saying that if you want exposure as well as a chance for big money and career opportunities, putting yourself in a position to get noticed is incredibly important. With Deion Sanders at the helm of the Colorado football program next year, no spotlight will be brighter.

Already, numerous college stars have expressed interest in joining Prime at Colorado.

Trey Sanders is a former 5-star recruit who played at Alabama for four years. He played well when healthy, but a series of injuries derailed his college career and now, the opportunity to have a lead role in an offense that will have national attention has reared its head and Sanders isn’t passing it up. Other players have already expressed interest in joining CU’s team as well. And many more players are likely to follow. Even if their long-term plan isn’t to stay at Colorado, it gives these players an opportunity to earn playing time, face time on a national stage, brand deals, and attention from NFL scouts. Why wouldn’t they take advantage?

There are a few downsides to Prime’s coaching hire. The most obvious problem is the lack of scholarship opportunities for CU commits. In fact, this has already started happening.

The influx of interested student-athletes from the transfer portal has led to less roster space, less opportunity for playing time for incoming freshmen, and less scholarship money up for grabs. These kids, who’d spent the last few months confident of where they would spend their freshman year of college now have to look elsewhere for scholarship opportunities. They wasted potentially months of their lives expecting to play for Colorado when that is no longer a viable option.

Of course, this opens up opportunities for students to get scholarships at other schools where the students are transferring out of, but let’s be honest, someone who had a scholarship to Colorado probably wouldn’t earn a scholarship to Clemson or Alabama or any of the elite football schools in America where these players are transferring away from.

The fact is that, although Deion Sanders might not be the best coaching hire, he’s very likely to turn the Colorado football program around in his first year. He straight up asked his players to enter the transfer portal. While he framed that statement around a message of machismo, essentially claiming that some of his players won’t be able to handle the changes he’s about to make, the more likely reason so many current CU players might hit the portal is because several highly-touted stars are going to want to go to Boulder and play for Sanders, thereby pushing the current players down the depth charts.

NIL money is all about grabbing that spotlight and being a marketable player. Disenfranchised players with immense competition across the country need to seize this opportunity to play for a head coach that will have every reporter’s eyes on him. If Colorado does well, the praise might go to Sanders, but then reporters will start looking at the students making plays and that’s a great recipe for further football success. It’s not rocket science, just the natural advancement of the post-NIL world. We better get used to it.

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