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Sunday, October 1, 2023

National spotlight shining on Coach Prime’s CU Buffs – Boulder Daily Camera

Colorado was still a fairly new member of the Pac-12 when ESPN and play-by-play announcer Rece Davis came to Boulder for a game on Oct. 11, 2012.

In the midst of a 1-11 season, the Buffaloes were blown out by Arizona State, 51-17, that night.

“You could have thrown rocks into the stadium and not hit anybody,” Davis, now the host of ESPN’s College GameDay pregame show, said this week about the atmosphere that night.

Davis made a return trip to Boulder this week and it’s certainly a much different vibe in Boulder with the Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders-led Buffaloes taking the sports world by storm.

GameDay was in Boulder for the fourth time ever, but the first time since 1996. In addition, Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff pregame show was in Boulder for the second week in a row (after also going to Fort Worth, Texas, for the Buffs’ opener at TCU). CBS’ 60 Minutes has been in town filming a story that will air Sunday.

Also, ESPN chose to broadcast live shows on campus on Friday and celebrities, such as The Rock, Lil Wayne and Offset were in Boulder this weekend.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing because if it wasn’t for Deion Sanders, Coach Prime and Colorado, it’d be a boring … beginning of the college football season,” said Desmond Howard, a former Heisman Trophy winner who now sits alongside Davis on GameDay. “We’d be talking about the same old crap. So this is refreshing, it’s new, it’s exciting. It is great for the sport.”

BOULDER,CO SEPTEMBER 15:Shannon Sharpe, and Deion Sanders, have a laugh during ESPN's sports analysis show, "First Take," on September 15, 2023 on the CU Boulder Campus.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER,CO SEPTEMBER 15:Shannon Sharpe, and Deion Sanders, have a laugh during ESPN’s sports analysis show, “First Take,” on September 15, 2023 on the CU Boulder Campus.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

By the way, there was a football game Saturday, too, as the 18th-ranked Buffaloes hosted in-state rival Colorado State. (Check BuffZone.com for coverage of the late game). Make no mistake, though, ESPN wasn’t in town to showcase the Rams or the Rocky Mountain Showdown.

“I would be disingenuous if I said we’re here because of the rivalry,” Davis said. “We’re here because of the story of Colorado. That’s something that we always try to do on College GameDay is wherever the game is, no matter who’s broadcasting the game, we go to the best story of the week or the year. This has been the story of the early part of the season. That’s why we’re here.”

GameDay hasn’t been here in a long time, and with good reason. The Buffs haven’t been a very good football team. Davis saw part of that 1-11 season in 2012, but that wasn’t even the low point. Last year’s 1-11 season might have been worse. More often than not, the Buffs have been at the bottom of the Pac-12.

“We haven’t spoken of Colorado very often on the show since I’ve been on it; I’m in my ninth year now,” he said. “And, really haven’t talked about them a lot in my 20-plus years of covering college football at ESPN in the studio.

“The fact that they are the No. 1 story of the first two weeks of the season speaks for itself. … To see (Folsom Field) be full as it was last week against Nebraska I think is great evidence of the impact that Deion and his entire staff have had on this on this university and this program, and sort of resurrecting a proud tradition here. They’ve been sensational.”

Projected by many as one of the bottom-feeder teams in the Pac-12 this season, Coach Prime has engineered a remarkable turnaround in the early going of his first season. After upsetting then-No. 17 TCU, 45-42, on the road in Week 1, the Buffs routed rival Nebraska, 36-14. They were 23.5-point favorites against CSU.

“I thought that they would be very fortunate to win more than one game in September,” Davis said. “What I said in the preseason is that I thought that they would be a team that would get better and would clip one or two teams closer to the end, because of their improvement. The fact that they came out of the gate and got TCU and then just hammered Nebraska was really, really impressive.”

Even more impressive than the results on the field is the impact of Sanders off the field.

Known as one of the greatest athletes of all time, Sanders was a flashy and brash star in the NFL and Major League Baseball. He won two Super Bowls and played in a World Series. He’s also a Pro Football Hall of Famer known as the best cornerback to play the game.

Boulder, CO – September 16, 2023 – University of Colorado: Head coach Deion Sanders of the University of Colorado Buffaloes and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on the set of College GameDay Built by the Home Depot.(Photo by Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

On top of that, Sanders has always had a personality that has put him in the spotlight, not only as a player, but as a broadcaster for many years before he began his college coaching career in 2020.

Simply because he’s Deion Sanders, he was going to be in the spotlight this season and CU has benefitted since hiring him in December. The Buffs have obliterated school records for ticket sales and merchandise sales while their social media accounts have grown tremendously.

The fact that Sanders’ unique roster overhaul – bringing in 87 new players this offseason – has worked so far has only added to the intrigue and excitement.

“Oh, it’s been great,” CU athletic director Rick George said of the attention on CU. “It’s great for our football program, it’s great for our department. It’s great for the university, for the community. That kind of exposure is hard to hard to quantify, how important the impact that has on our community.”

CU got a taste of that exposure in 2016 when it came out of nowhere to go 10-4 and win the Pac-12 South, but as George said, “This is a different level.”

It’s a level that Colorado hasn’t seen in a long time, if ever. GameDay can only get to a few places a year and there hasn’t been much reason to get to Boulder in the last couple of decades.

Coach Prime has changed that, with CU and Boulder taking center stage.

“We give a free three-hour infomercial about the team, the program, the school and the community,” Howard said. “There’s no other show on TV that does that. … They deserve it. Coach Prime, obviously everyone knows what he brings to the table and what he’s been able to do and we’re just happy to come here and give them the attention that they deserve.”

Boulder, CO – September 16, 2023 – University of Colorado: Guest picker Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Lee Corso, and Kirk Herbstreit on Corso’s 400th pick on the set of College GameDay Built by the Home Depot.(Photo by Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

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