He’s a self-proclaimed humble servant of God, yet his boastful bling includes a flashy nickname, designer sunglasses and a giant, gold-encrusted cross necklace. He communicates the tenets of discipline and loyalty via dramatic preaching, but he bolted his supposedly ordained “calling” the moment a higher-profile opportunity complete with $5 million-a-year raise presented itself. His 21-year-old son drives a $190,000 Mercedes Maybach, and he’s desperate for all your attention and accolades, because he measures success in the currency of maximum fame and material fortune.
Surprise, he’s not Joel Osteen. He’s Deion Sanders. And, this year, his mega-church is all of college football.
A sampling of Sanders’ epic self-aggrandizement:
- On his persona: “I just have ‘it,’ and that makes people nervous.”
- On the best coach in college football: “Somebody bring me a mirror.”
- In 2022, on taking the head coaching job at historically Black Jackson State: “I truly believe with all my heart and soul that God called me here. This is what I’m supposed to do.”
- In 2023, on leaving Jackson State for lily-white Colorado: “God wouldn’t relocate me to something that was successful. He’s brought me somewhere that needs me.”
Deion “Prime Time” Sanders is one of the greatest, most legendary athletes in the history of American sports. He played in both baseball’s World Series and football’s Super Bowl. He is both one of DFW’s all-time sports heroes (the free agent who signed with the Dallas Cowboys and helped lead them to their most recent Super Bowl victory in 1996) and one of its most fraudulent blowhards (the charter school founder whose namesake abruptly closed after years of scandal, mismanagement and even administrative physical altercations).
By transforming Colorado from 1-11 a year ago into a surprise team that upset 17th-ranked TCU in Fort Worth to start the season, Sanders has turned his Buffaloes into the Cinderella darlings of the college football season. Season tickets in Boulder sold out for the first time in 27 years. Colorado has played in three of the five most-watched games of the season.
Because of Sanders’ charisma, five-star recruits and national TV shows – from ESPN’s College GameDay to CBS’ 60 Minutes – are flocking to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
His revolutionary impact has added $7 million in tuition revenue. CU merchandise sales are up an astounding 800%. And his endorsement with Blenders Eyewear has netted the company a cool $4.5 million.
Said Blenders CEO Chase Fisher, “We found our Michael Jordan.”
But suddenly – and much more quietly – Deion’s unique style has camouflaged his ugly substance. It’s as if his current swag, braggadocio and success is shrouding the skeletons in his superstar closet.
With the expected bumps in attendance, commerce and buzz, postseason games such as Arlington’s Cotton Bowl are already salivating at the thought of bringing Sanders and his media megaphone to town.
But suddenly – and much more quietly – Sanders’ unique style has camouflaged his ugly substance. It’s as if his current swag, braggadocio and success is shrouding the skeletons in his superstar closet.
After his team upset the Horned Frogs as 21-point underdogs, self-anointed “Coach Prime” bellowed about his naysayers in a fabricated “us-against-the-world” toldja-so sermon.
“Do you believe now?!” he said. “I’ve got receipts. I know who they are.”
Unfortunately for the coach, the same goes for the slice of Dallas he left in shambles in the mid-2010s. His Prime Prep Academy is littered with receipts of fraud and colossal, controversial failure. Revered by most Cowboys fans, Deion is reviled by some in Dallas.
In 2012, the same flamboyant character who wrote a book titled Power, Money & Sex and starred in reality TV shows called Prime Time Love and Deion’s Family Playbook was planning to open his own charter school in Dallas, fittingly called Prime Prep. The Observer feverishly chronicled his ambitious endeavor. Scandals started before the doors even opened.
The school’s co-founder, D.L. Wallace, was inexplicably being paid rent for a Prime Prep building that he didn’t own. When the Observer approached Sanders about the peculiar arrangement, as well as other allegations, he offered no rational reason and instead brushed reporters off with a patronizing “God bless you.” Prime Prep’s application to the Texas Education Board (TEB) was found to be plagiarized from another school. Along with promising students a “world class education,” the hyperbolic document also contained outright lies about securing hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from corporate giants Walmart, Home Depot and NFL Network. When contacted by the Observer, those companies were dumbfounded that Sanders was starting a school, much less securing their pledges of financial assistance.
During its three-year run, Prime Prep was a series of embarrassments, including being ranked as the “worst academic institution in North Texas” by the nonprofit Children at Risk. Sanders was front and center, twice fired as football coach, accused of choking two employees, and telling school administrators – on a tape recording – that he not only wanted a hefty pay raise, but also a new job title: “HNIC.”
Prime Prep shuttered its doors in 2015 with less than an hour’s notice, leaving students without a school and employees without paychecks.
Said a TEB member upon the school’s closing, “Prime Prep will no longer be a financial lottery ticket for those who don’t care to understand how to educate children.”
To this day, some in Dallas mock Sanders’ failed school as “Crime Prep.” For a celebrity who relies on reputation as oxygen, that’s quite the legacy.
On an episode of Deion’s Family Playbook in 2015 Sanders admitted to “locking up” in a physical fight with a Prime Prep faculty member, but also squarely blamed Wallace as the scapegoat.
“I realized I didn’t partner with the right dude,” Sanders said. “I’m not saying D.L. is a bad guy. We just don’t have the same passion or purpose in regards to kids.”
While Wallace remains the CEO of the Dallas-based Success Training Institute, the 56-year-old Sanders has swept Prime Prep under his expansive rug. He rarely responds to questions about the school, other than during an interview with co-Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe earlier this year.
To this day, some in Dallas mock Deion’s failed school as “Crime Prep.” For a celebrity who relies on reputation as oxygen, that’s quite the legacy.
“Prime Prep was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Sanders claimed. “You know why? Because without that failure and me attaching myself to someone that I thought loved kids as much as I do … It taught me a valuable lesson I never will forget. Now, I’m very careful where I put my name and who I’m involved with. That was the best thing that ever happened to me. Failure, yes.”
We know first-hand many former Cowboys teammates and acquaintances who swear by Sanders and vouch for him as a person. That list includes Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman, Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones.
Here’s hoping “Prime” has matured, evolved and improved from Prime Prep to Coach Prime. But let’s not hold our breath.
After Colorado was served a heaping dose of humble pie via a 42-6 loss at Oregon on Sept. 23, Sanders was anything but daunted.
“You better get me right now,” he warned. “Because this is the worst we’re going to be.”
For such a divine holy roller, Sanders somehow gets lost between Matthew 5:5 and his vanity-fueled ego. According to God’s word, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.”
According to Coach Prime, “I’m gonna win, but I’m also gonna dominate. That’s what I do. That’s who I am.”