Prior to last season, the NHL made history when it inked new seven-year media rights deals with both ESPN and TNT, reportedly totaling in excess of $1 billion. Following an exciting season of hockey that culminated in the Colorado Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup championship for the first time since the 2000-01 season, the rest of the league will try to prevent the formation of a bonafide dynasty through the winter months. The broadcast of the Stanley Cup Finals on ESPN, however, will not be repeated until next season, as the media rights deals rotate which network gets to broadcast the coveted best-of-seven series annually.
This year, Turner Sports’ coverage of the National Hockey League will be the exclusive home of the Stanley Cup Finals, marking the first time the network holds such a distinction. Last season, Turner Sports covered portions of first- and second-round matchups and finished its inaugural season by broadcasting an exclusive presentation of the Western Conference Finals between the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche.
The network experienced a 58% increase in viewership from the previous year’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Montréal Canadiens broadcast on NBC Sports. Play-by-play announcer Kenny Albert was joined by analysts Eddie Olczyk, Keith Jones, and Darren Pang to bring viewers the live game action which was preceded by NHL on TNT Face Off.
The studio-based show traveled across the border to both Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta and Ball Arena in Denver, providing fans with insightful pregame and postgame coverage. The panel, which includes studio host Liam McHugh and analysts and former NHL players Paul Bissonnette, Anson Carter, Wayne Gretzky and Rick Tocchet, returns intact for its second season together. The group is ready for a chance to showcase their broadcast and promote the game of hockey on the game’s biggest stage at the end of the season.
“I’m very excited to cover the Stanley Cup Finals,” said McHugh, who joined Turner Sports after spending nearly a decade with NBC Sports. “This group is a special one; it’s one that I feel lucky to get to work with. It was a blast doing the Western Conference Finals, especially going to Edmonton with Wayne Gretzky and seeing the reaction there. Now we get to do it for all the marbles: to see who gets to hoist that Cup.”
From the moment the Colorado Avalanche won the Western Conference championship, the team at Turner Sports has been focused on improving its coverage of NHL games for the 2022-23 season, which began earlier this month with an exclusive Wednesday doubleheader. The group has a growth mindset amid an evolving media landscape and aspires to continue being voices that garner the trust and reliability associated with delivering news and giving informed opinions.
“What I love about this group is how we always think about, ‘Hey, how do we get better from last year?,’” expressed Tocchet, a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins – one as a player and two as an assistant coach. “We’re not complacent…. There’s just so many storylines that we can tackle.”
Aside from the Stanley Cup Finals, Turner Sports will also broadcast the 2023 Discover NHL Winter Classic from Fenway Park in Boston, Mass. in a matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins. Moreover, the network will broadcast several marquee matchups between rival teams – including tonight’s game between the New York Islanders and New York Rangers from UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y. – games that could have significant factors in determining which teams can make championship runs.
“With the product and trying to deliver it to the fans… constantly improving is definitely at the top of the list,” Bissonnette said, who is the co-host of the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast with Barstool Sports and a color commentator for the Arizona Coyotes. “….Agents might not be happy about the hard cap but… from a parity perspective in the league, I think we’ve got 10 teams with the possibility of winning the Stanley Cup.”
Authenticity is highly regarded and valued among media members; therefore, generating discussions in which the analysts can utilize their knowledge and expertise to accurately convey and translate what may seem like esoteric information to viewers is most optimal for the growth of the game and success of the program. While the show does not center itself around debates, there are occasionally disagreements – none of which are contrived – which affords viewers the opportunity to hear a broad range of perspectives and ultimately choose a side or form their own dissenting opinion on a subject.
“I think the best part of our show is [that] we don’t rehearse,” said Carter, who also works as a television studio analyst on MSG Networks. “What you see is what you’re going to get…. It’s fresh. If you were to rehearse, your first take is your best take and it usually goes downhill from there.”
Amid a media landscape where fans have augmented levels of jurisdiction over which programming they consume, along with when and where they do it, understanding and appealing to a target audience is ostensibly essential in maintaining success. Following in the footsteps of Inside the NBA with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal, the panel has tried to differentiate itself in terms of their parlance and types of segments. For example, the show had Gretzky and Barkley face one another in a shootout during the show’s premiere last year. In the playoffs after Bissonnette lost a bet to his podcast co-host Ryan Whitney, he had his head shaved bald on national television in a segment that went viral on social media.
“Whether it’s a week before or the summer or even [on] a [gameday], one of the guys may be like” ‘Hey, let’s try this,’” Tocchet said. “We’re not afraid to try things and obviously the company we work for wants that; they welcome that. They don’t want to be overprepared, and I think that’s a big part of why this is successful.”
The key in being relatable to fans who may not be familiar with the parlance and nature of every discussion being had on the show will be to adjust the dialogue and simplify certain aspects of it – especially to prevent coming off as being arrogant regarding their roles. At its core, the purpose of studio programming within a live game broadcast is to preview a matchup, analyze it between periods when it is taking place and reflect on how the game was won or lost after the final buzzer. The team at Turner Sports realizes this goal and goes beyond it to make their program unique and a memorable watch for viewers worldwide whether or not they are dedicated hockey fans.
“We make mistakes out there and I think people kind of laugh about the mistakes,” Tocchet said. “….I think that’s something that we’ve tried to learn even from the NBA guys and their Emmy Award-winning show. We kind of watch them and how they do it. I think that’s the future of televising the game of hockey; [that is], trying to get that person who doesn’t know much about hockey.”
“A lot of people working on our show behind the scenes weren’t ‘Hockey people,’” Carter added. “They would ask a ton of questions that [we] would take for granted. [For] your non-traditional hockey fans though, those were legit questions… [some of which] we thought, ‘Yeah, that’s a no-brainer; every hockey fan gets it.’ We had folks in the studio who didn’t follow hockey in the past [and] they gave us a window into the audience we’re trying to tap into.”
Planning for each show extends far beyond the panelists and producers, as there is always the potential to come up with new ideas or talking points that could enhance the broadcast and that night’s game coverage. The best ideas for a given show, according to McHugh, can be sourced from a number of different areas, including those working as video editors and graphics coordinators tasked with creating the visual elements of the show. It is genuinely a group effort to cultivate a compelling and elucidative program at Turner Sports, one that captivates viewers and keeps them coming back for more.
“I think we’re a show that is willing to take some risks,” McHugh expressed. “We’re all-in as a group in the studio where once we decide we’re going to do something, we’re going full steam ahead… but we’re probably going to have a few laughs either way and maybe we’ll have some more if it’s a trainwreck.”
Sometimes, the conversation being had on the show does not directly relate to hockey but may be relevant in the world of sports or on an even larger scale. As a result, the panelists and crew at Turner Sports need to be ready to conform to potential breaking news or a change in the rundown that may alter the remainder of a given broadcast.
“I like what we’re doing because it’s something different every week,” McHugh said. “At the same point, we’re a show where if there’s something serious or something unpleasant, we don’t shy away from it either. It’s a show that’s willing to pivot.”
As the broadcast has cemented itself into the hockey landscape, Turner Sports has gradually gained greater trust from teams and players around the NHL, giving the network more of an ability to reach players and personnel. Whether it is being able to speak with stars, such as Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid or Igor Shesterkin, or members of various front offices and coaching staffs, it usually requires fostering some level of trust and respectability. One year after the launch of the broadcast, teams are ostensibly being more open to working with them to elevate the level of game coverage and maintain hockey’s positive growth trajectory.
“Being around the league so long, teams are so protective and not willing to give the access to players that we’re looking for,” Carter said. “….Now that they see we’re trying to do the right thing for our players, they’re granting us more access [and] I think as we continue to work on our broadcasts, we’ll continue to get more access.”
Highlighting the personalities of athletes engenders an enrichment in pathos between fans and teams, sometimes extending to the league as a whole. The panel, with its wide array of experience and vast hockey knowledge, could likely carry a successful show on its own but adding interviews and features with current players only makes the coverage more comprehensive and germane to each specific matchup. Hockey is surely an adrenaline-inducing sport filled with heart-pounding moments and dynamic action, all of which is seemingly amplified once the playoffs begin. Using these facets of the game to its advantage draws sports fans to the game and allows it to leverage its position in a marketplace infused with incessant amounts of choice and freedom in terms of content.
“You see these other leagues – in particular the NFL and NBA – they’re personality and star-driven,” Bissonnette said. “The more you can amplify that and show that off, the more you can grow the game…. I think hockey is catching up to the other leagues… based on a parity standpoint. You get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs – [and] I don’t think there’s anything else like it.”
Turner Sports continues its second year of a seven-year media rights agreement with the National Hockey League, bringing fans exciting matchups largely taking place on Wednesday nights, along with other select games throughout the regular season. Once the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin, the NHL on TNT will have coverage of the first three rounds leading up to the Stanley Cup Finals, of which it is the exclusive rightsholder for the first time. It is arguably the pinnacle of professional hockey and a source of motivation and fervor for those working on NHL broadcasts this year with Turner Sports.
“It stunk watching the Stanley Cup on another broadcast,” Carter said. “I’m not saying [the ESPN] broadcast was bad; I just wanted to be a part of it…. Just being on the road and being a part of it; that’s the best time of year. The weather’s great; the stakes are high; people are pumped up [and] all stakes are on the game. We’re crowning a champion and we’re going to be a part of it.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Marty Smith Loves The ‘Pinch Me’ Moments
“I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have.”
I tell this story all the time. It is told for laughs, but it is absolutely true. Marty Smith once gave me a giant box of beef jerky.
I was in Charlotte visiting him and Ryan McGee on the set of Marty & McGee as part of a larger feature I was doing on the SEC Network. We spent probably 3 hours together that day. It was a lot of fun. The last thing I watched the duo shoot was a promo for Old Trapper Beef Jerky, the presenting sponsor of their show.
As they finished, I shook their hands and told them I had to get on the road. That is when Smith presented me with a box of twelve bags of Old Trapper and told me, in as sincere a voice as you can imagine, that he wanted me to have it.
“I mean, listen, if you give a man beef jerky, by God, you like him,” Smith said to me when I reminded him of that story earlier this week. “That’s redneck currency right there, bud.”
There just aren’t a lot of people in this business like Marty Smith. ESPN definitely knows it too. That is why the network finds every opportunity it can to use him to tell the stories of the events and people it covers.
Last week, he spent Monday and Tuesday with the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. He got a day back home in Charlotte before he headed to Atlanta for the SEC Network’s coverage of the SEC Championship Game on Thursday. Saturday, after his duties for SEC Nation and College GameDay were done, he hit the road for Tuscaloosa to interview Nick Saban and be ready for ESPN’s coverage of the reveal of the final College Football Playoff rankings.
As if that isn’t enough, this week he heads to New York. It will be the second time ESPN will use him to conduct interviews and tell stories during the telecast of the Heisman Trophy presentation. It’s an assignment that Marty Smith still cannot believe is his.
“I’ve had a ton of pinch-me moments, but in the last five, six years, seven years, there are two that kind of stand out above the rest. One was when Mike McQuaid asked me to be part of his team to cover The Masters. The other was last year when my dear longtime friend Kate Jackson, who is the coordinating producer over the Heisman broadcast, asked me to be a part of her Heisman broadcast team and interview the coaches, players and families of the finalists,” Smith says. “You know, brother, I’ve been watching the Heisman Trophy my whole life.”
We talk about what the broadcast around the Heisman Trophy presentation is and how it differs from being on the sideline for a game. He is quick to point out that on a game day, the old adage “brevity is king” is a reality. In New York though, he will have more time to work with. He plans not to just fill it, but to use it.
Marty’s interest in his subjects’ backgrounds and their emotions is sincere. It is part of a larger philosophy. He respects that everyone has a story to tell and appreciates the opportunity to be the one that gets to tell it, so he is going to do all he can to make sure the people he is talking to know it and know that they matter to him. That means putting in the time to be respectful of his subject’s time.
“When I’m interviewing these players or coaches before a game, I want to interview them, and I’m saying not on camera, but when I’m doing the record. I want to get as thorough as I can get. Then you take all of that and you try to pare it down into a very small window. It’s not easy. I mean, look, most of the time you come home with reams of notes that never even sniff air.”
Marty Smith has always been a unique presence. As his profile has grown and he shows up on TV more often and in more places, more people question who this guy really is.
That is par for the course though, right? Someone with a unique presence sees their star rise and out come the naysayers ready to question how authentic the new object of our affections really is.
For me, there is a moment that defines Marty Smith, at least in this aspect. I cannot remember the year or the situation, but he was on The Dan Le Batard Show, back when it was on ESPN Radio. Smith was telling Dan about friends of his that are stars in the country music world and Dan asked what it is like when they are hanging out backstage before one of these guys goes out to perform.
I cannot remember Smith’s exact answer, but a word he used stood out to me. He said it was just buddies having a cold beer and “fellowshippin'”.
I told Marty about this memory of him and said that I am not accusing him of being inauthentic or his persona on television being an act, but I was curious if he was concious of the words he chooses. Even if the version we get of Marty Smith on TV is the same one we would get if we were part of the fellowshippin’, does he think about how he wants people to think about him?
He is quick to note that is isn’t an act at all. What you see when you see Marty Smith isn’t a persona he cooked up when he decided he was going into television. That is just his personality.
“It is a lifelong field from where I’m from to where I am,” he says of what we see on TV. “It is relationships made that pinched my clay and remolded who I was to who I am and reshaped me as a person.”
Anyone from The South can tell you that there is no one monolithic “South”. The gregarious, larger-than-life personalities in Louisiana may not always feel real to people from the more reserved and anglo-influenced South Carolina. The Southern accent I got from growing up in Alabama sounds nothing like the Southern accents I live near now in North Carolina.
Marty Smith is from Pearisburg, Virginia just outside of Blacksburg. Surely that informs who he is, but he is also shaped by the wealth of conversations he has had and the characters he has met from his professional life.
“At our company, you have to work really hard to not only make it, but to sustain it. I try hard to do that every day,” he says. “I’m sure I’ve said it before, man. I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have. You piece all of those different things together, and along with opportunity you can do something special, and I’m trying to do that every day.”
The Marty Smith you see on TV is the guy that will hand you a box of beef jerky just because you had a great conversation. He is the guy you see in that viral video from a few years back giving a young reporter advice and encouragement.
You can be confused by Marty Smith. You can have your questions about him and his motivations. They aren’t going to change him though. It took too long for him to become who he is to start second-guessing it now.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Another World Cup Run Ends And There’s Still No Soccer Fever In The USA
“We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.”
Soccer fever? Hardly. Not in the United States at least. The US Men’s National Team lost in the round of 16 against the Netherlands 3-1 last Saturday. The ratings are in. And the ratings are revealing.
An average of 12.97 million viewers tuned in to see the Netherlands-United States World Cup match on FOX. Before you say, “Hey, not bad,” consider the fact that the ratings are down from eight years ago when 13.44 million viewers watched the USMNT lose to Belgium in the knockout stage on ESPN.
Even more damning are the ratings of the USMNT’s initial match in the 2022 World Cup against Wales, an unhealthy 8.31 million viewers.
Let me get this straight; fans waited, waited, and waited some more to finally see the USMNT in World Cup action, and the first game in eight years drew 8.31 million viewers? Really?
There were 5.5 million viewers across TV and digital that watched the NFL Network’s telecast of the New York Giants-Green Bay Packers game in London. That was a Week 5 game in the NFL compared to the World freaking Cup. Network television (FOX) compared to cable TV (NFL Network). And the ratings are comparable? Come on, US Soccer. Y’all gotta do better than this.
*Mini rant alert — it drives me crazy when soccer in this country is consistently compared to soccer in this country. The promoters of the sport paint an obnoxiously rosy picture of the growing popularity by comparing US soccer now to US soccer then. It’s a joke.
It would be like comparing Nebraska’s 4-8 record in college football this year, to Nebraska’s 3-9 record last year. “Hey, things are looking up!” Never mind the fact that the Cornhuskers are significantly trailing several teams in its conference and many other teams across the country. That’s US soccer in a nutshell. Don’t compare it to other leagues and sports that are crushing it, just say we’re up 10% from last year. Ridiculous.
*Mini rant continuing alert — the Michigan-Ohio State game drew 17 million viewers last month. The New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving drew 42 million viewers. Those are regular-season matchups compared to the biggest stage soccer has to offer. But go ahead and just compare US soccer to itself.
And no, the edge you might feel in my words isn’t born out of fear that soccer will somehow surpass the popularity of football. That would be like Mike Tyson being scared that the Stanford Tree mascot could beat him up. US soccer isn’t a threat, it’s a light breeze. I just hate a bad argument. And many soccer apologists have been making bad arguments on the behalf of US soccer for years. *Mini rant over
The World Cup didn’t prove that American fans are invested in soccer. It proved that we love a big event. It’s the same recipe every four years with the Olympics.
During the 2016 summer games in Rio, when swimmer Michael Phelps was in the pool for what turned out to be his final outing in an Olympic competition, the ratings peaked at 32.7 million viewers. Phelps helped Team USA win gold in the men’s 100-meter relay and then rode off into the sunset.
We don’t really care about swimming. When’s the last time you asked a friend, “You heading out tonight?” and the response was, “Are you crazy? The Pan Pacific Championships are on.”
Whether it’s the Olympics or World Cup, Americans care about the overall event much more than the individual sport. We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.
Ask yourself this, at the height of US swimming’s popularity, would you have paid $14.99 per month to watch non-Olympic events? Me either. US soccer isn’t exactly on fire following its showing in the 2022 World Cup, so the timing isn’t awesome to introduce a paywall for the sport’s top league in this country.
Apple and Major League Soccer have announced that MLS Season Pass will launch soon. I know you’re excited, but try to stay composed. Yes, MLS Season Pass will launch on February 1, 2023. It’s a 10-year partnership between MLS and Apple that features every live MLS regular-season match, the playoffs, and the League’s Cup.
Have I died and gone to heaven?
It’ll run you $14.99 per month or $99 per season on the Apple TV app. For Apple TV+ subscribers — make sure you’re sitting down for this, you lucky people — it’s $12.99 per month or $79 per season. If you don’t have US soccer fever right now, I doubt you’re running out to throw down cash on a product you aren’t passionate about.
Now if the USMNT won the 2022 World Cup, cha-ching. The popularity of US soccer would definitely grow in a major way. Even if they had a strong showing while reaching the quarterfinals, the momentum would be much greater. But a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the group of 16? Nope. This isn’t it. I don’t expect much more than some tumbleweed rolling by instead of cash registers heating up for MLS Season Pass.
Colorado Hiring Deion Sanders Will Be Constant Gift for College Football Media
“If Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers, he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor.”
Deion Sanders quickly made it clear why the University of Colorado chose him to be its next head football coach.
Coming off a weekend in which the four College Football Playoff teams were announced and all of the other bowl-eligible teams accepted their invitations, Colorado — which went 1-11 this past season — made news for hiring Sanders, the former NFL star who was phenomenally successful at Jackson State.
The media that covers college football and sports as a whole should be thrilled that the Buffaloes program decided to take a big leap for attention and notoriety. Sanders is a bold, risky hire. But he’s also been successful in virtually every venture he’s taken. “Primetime” had a Hall of Fame NFL career and also played Major League Baseball. And he’s a master at drawing attention to himself.
During his first meeting with his new team, Sanders made sure to mention that he has Louis Vuitton luggage to make the point that some of his Jackson State players are coming with him to Boulder — including his son, quarterback Shadeur Sanders. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart probably don’t cite luxury fashion when explaining to their players that they’ll have to compete for starting positions.
Coach Prime will not be boring to cover. (That self-appointed “Coach Prime” title, which was on his name plate at his introductory press conference, is a big clue there.) He never has been. This is a man who said during the 1989 NFL Draft, after being selected No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, that if the Detroit Lions had selected him at No. 3, he “would’ve asked for so much money, they’d have had to put me on layaway.”
Even if he doesn’t win as much as Colorado hopes, Sanders will pursue top talent — players who want to perform on a larger stage than the FCS-level Jackson State allows — and impact athletes will be attracted to him. He got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, cornerback and wide receiver Travis Hunter, to play for him. (Hunter is following his coach to Boulder.) Now that Sanders is at an FBS school in a Power 5 conference, more stars will surely come.
But if Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers — going 27-5 in three seasons, including a 12-0 campaign in 2022 — he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor. And he’ll get the attention that such figures typically draw from media and fans. According to the Denver Post‘s Sean Keeler, at least 400 people attended what felt more like a celebration than a press conference.
Coach Prime wasn’t going to just win the press conference, which is what any school and fanbase want when a new coach is introduced.
If Colorado wanted someone to sit at a podium, and give platitudes like “We want to win the Pac-12 and get to the College Football Playoff,” “We’re going to build a program with young men you’ll be proud of,” or “It’s time to restore Colorado to the football glory we remember,” Sanders isn’t the guy for that.
“Do I look like a man that worries about anything? Did you see the way I walked in here? Did you see the swagger that was with me?” Sanders said during his introductory presser. “Worry? Baby, I am too blessed to be stressed. I have never been one for peer pressure. I put pressure on peers. I never wanted to worry, I make people worry. I don’t get down like that. I am too darn confident. That is my natural odor.”
To no surprise, Sanders announced his presence in Boulder with authority. He had cameras following him as he met with Colorado players for the first time. How many other coaches would have recorded what many would see as a private moment for posterity and post it online?
Sanders caused a stir by putting his players on notice. He warned them he was coming, telling them they’ll be pushed so hard they might quit. He told them to enter the transfer portal and go someplace else if they don’t like what he and his staff are going to do.
That candor, that brutal honesty surprised many fans and media when they saw it Monday morning. For some, that message might have felt too familiar. How many in media — or many other industries — have worried about their job status when a new boss takes over? What may have seemed secure days earlier is now uncertain.
But how do we know other coaches haven’t said something similar when taking over at a new job and addressing their team? We just hadn’t seen it before. But Sanders has been in the media. He knows social media. He understands controlling his own message and telling his story.
Sanders also knows what kind of value he brings to any venture he takes on. How many people would have left an NFL Network gig for Barstool Sports? But Sanders went to where his star would shine, where he was the main show, where he could be Deion Sanders. Maybe he’ll have to turn that down just a bit at Colorado. But athletic director Rick George knows who he hired.
Colorado could have made a safer choice, including previous head coaches Tom Herman, Bronco Mendenhall, or Gary Patterson. A top assistant from one of this year’s Playoff contenders — such as Georgia’s Todd Monken, USC’s Alex Grinch, Alabama’s Bill O’Brien, or Michigan’s Sherrone Moore — could also have been an option.
But what fun would that have been? What kind of tremor would Colorado have created in the college football news cycle? How much attention would a more conventional hire have received? Yes, Sanders has to recruit and win. However, if the objective was to make Colorado football a talking point again, that’s been accomplished.
There could be some friction too. Sanders has already been criticized for being a champion of HBCUs, only to bolt for a mainstream Power 5 program when the opportunity opened. (To be fair, other columnists have defended the move.)
At Jackson State, Sanders tried to control local media when he didn’t like how reporters were addressing him or covering a story. Last year during Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day, he balked at a Clarion-Ledger reporter addressing him as “Deion,” not “Coach,” insisting that Nick Saban would’ve been shown that respect. Earlier this season, Sanders admonished a school broadcaster (and assistant athletic director) for speaking to him more formally on camera than he did off-camera.
Will that fly among Boulder and Denver media, or the national college football press? It’s difficult to imagine. Maybe Sanders will ease back on his efforts to control reporters within a larger university environment, metropolitan area, and media market. But we’re also talking about Deion Sanders here. He doesn’t bend to outside forces. He makes them bend to him.
Sanders’ stint in Boulder — whether it lasts the five years of his contract and beyond, or less than that — will not be dull. There could be no better gift for the media covering Colorado football. Or college football, a sport already full of bold personalities, eccentric to unhinged fanbases, and outsized expectations. Coach Prime will fit right in.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.