‘He Is An Industry-Created Coaching Celebrity’: Did Paul Finebaum Call Deion Sanders The Caitlin Clark of College Coaches? 

They love to kick a brother when he’s down. When Deion Sanders was working wonders at Jackson State, had the school all over ESPN, was bringing in unprecedented levels of recruits and running HBCU schools out of the stadium led by his sons Shedeur and Shilo Sanders and five-star flip Travis Hunter, he was the toast of Black America. 

In fact, there weren’t many people of any race, creed, color or gender who had anything bad to say about “Coach Prime,” who had the full support of everyone from Tom Brady to the NFL scouting combines.

That was until he bounced to Colorado, took the PWI money and brought his best players with him to the mountains of the now-defunct Pac-12, started 3-0, and then reality set in and the team stumbled to a 1-8 ending to what appeared to be a promising season. 

Now his biggest fan is probably 98-year-old Buffs superfan Peggy.

That losing, followed by the defections of several highly-touted recruits who were critical of their time with Coach Prime and questioned his intentions with his program, has taken Deion Sanders from being one of the most highly coveted and touted college football coaches in the country to a guy who is losing the support of people who once supported his football mission.

Facing an even tougher season in a new conference (Big 12), optimism is still there that Sanders will shock the world, but it is waning, and his act is wearing thin on some college football analysts across the country, who now confidently say they don’t believe in the NFL Hall of Famer’s coaching acumen. 

ESPN’s college football insider Paul Finebaum is one of those people.

Appearing on the “McElroy and Cubelic in the Morning” show, Finebaum wasn’t playing nice about Deion Sanders or his projections for Prime’s Colorado football team. While Sanders has re-invigorated the entire student body and made football games a thing again, Finebaum isn’t buying in.

ESPN college football reporter Paul Finebaum says he doesn’t think much of Deion Sanders’ coaching ability and says the Colorado coach is more celebrity than cerebral. (Photo: Getty Images)

Paul Finebaum Calls Deion Sanders a ‘Celebrity Coach’

Via SI.com: “First of all, he is a celebrity but he’s not a celebrity as a coach. To me, Deion, it’s all about what he did previously, and I think that’s why I give him a lot of credit for calling himself Coach Prime. Because that puts the emphasis on being a coach. But listen, he is an industry-created coaching celebrity. What happened last year was generational, but it was mostly forced and created, and it was really in many ways illegitimate.

Finebaum roasted Sanders, totally devaluing him as a real football coach, forgetting that Sanders fought through some serious medical problems including almost having his foot amputated during his last season at JSU. 

As far as Finebaum’s reflection on Colorado’s 2023 season and the media hype that fueled expectations:

“He really never beat anyone of consequence, but that didn’t stop us from talking about it. By the way, I’m guilty. I was on those shows as you were. But it felt surreal and I’ll never forget being asked, I think Stephen A. Smith asked me in the second week of the season. ‘Hey, do you think they’re a playoff team?’ I had a hard time answering with a straight face, because I think he had just been out there and he believed in it. But that was never real.”

Paul Finebaum Says Deion Sanders Is Not A Great Coach

Finebaum says he doesn’t consider Deion Sanders “a great coach at all.” But it’s hard to determine greatness after three years as a college head coach rebuilding programs that had lost their luster.

But, honestly, Sanders hasn’t been at this long. This is his first Power Five job, and he is trying to build a great program at a school that attracts less and less top athletes each season. Colorado definitely won’t get any more competitive or recruit any better with Sanders gone. Imagine if he was recruiting at Alabama or Florida State? The talent would be twice as good. 

You can sense some peculiar narrative shaping and shifting by Finebaum going on here.

“It’s just a matter of being honest, I don’t consider him a great coach at all. He’s a Hollywood created celebrity primarily because of what he did in other walks of life, namely playing football. But I mean he disappeared for a long time. We didn’t really know what he was up to and quite frankly, his performance as a coach has been less than spectacular.”

Deion Sanders’ Colorado Buffaloes finished dead last in the PAC-12’s final season. But despite the record, no coach was as polarizing last season other than the legendary Nick Saban, who retired.

Colorado Buffs Projected To Win 5.5 Games

Now with the 2024 College Football season about three months away, the hype train is picking up steam again in Boulder, Colorado, despite Vegas putting the Buffs’ wins total o/u at just 5.5 wins next season. 

Any Deion Sanders-coached team is always going to be projected to be better than the talent it actually has. That has to do with Deion’s ability to sell and promote his players and his brand.

As one of the most successful two-way athletes to ever step on a field and possibly the most charismatic player to ever grace the NFL, when Deion talks or tweets, whatever he says is usually a conversation starter.

Finebaum is judging one season at Colorado with a team that Deion tore down and constructed through the transfer portal. Deion won big at Jackson State and then didn’t do well in his first year at Colorado. 

Plenty Of Coaches Lost Games

I’m not sure that Finebaum can credit all of these losing coaches with being better than Deion at coaching. They aren’t great yet either, but

He’s not the only coach who had problems winning big against the powerhouses of college football. To imply that he’s any less of a coach than the coaches of Baylor, Houston or Cincinnati — all who failed to muster more than four wins — is an insult. 

Scott Satterfield’s first year at Cincinnati, a team that lost to Alabama in the College Football Playoffs in 2022 behind the arm of a future NFL draft pick named Desmond Ridder, was a 3-9 disaster. Nobody said he was a fake head coach.

Deion Sanders The Caitlin Clark of College Football Coaches?

Year 1 wasn’t fun, but the process has just begun. Colorado got a ton of press, but the results fell short of the hype.

I guess you can call Deion the Cailtin Clark of college coaches. At least, some people would feel that way about the woman who has been credited with elevating the game despite performing at a very good level during the first 10 games of her career, but well below the high expectations that were set when she was called the best women’s basketball player in the world. A’ja Wilson, Diani Taurasi, Kayla McBride, DeWanna Bonner, Brenna Stewart, Kelsey Plum, Sabrina Ionescu (and the list goes on), are still active players and have something to say about that.

Deion should expect plenty of people to jump off the bandwagon. He knew this moment would come, and how he handles year 2 will go a long way towards proving Finebaum right or wrong.

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