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Let’s talk about Deion Sanders and the USF football coaching search

The Jackson State coach and Florida State legend reportedly has talked with the Bulls. What does it mean?
Jackson State coach Deion Sanders is one of the hottest names on this year's coaching carousel. Is he interested in USF?
Jackson State coach Deion Sanders is one of the hottest names on this year's coaching carousel. Is he interested in USF? [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]
Published Nov. 22|Updated Nov. 22

USF fans were buzzing Monday after 247Sports reported that the Bulls have been talking with Deion Sanders about their head coaching job. The site also reported that Colorado has had discussions with Sanders.

Both schools — and any others with open jobs — would be foolish not to talk with Sanders. He’s arguably the hottest coach on the market after taking Jackson State to an 11-0 record this season heading into next week’s Southwest Athletic Conference championship game.

As we await more information about how serious their conversations have been, let’s take a look at “Coach Prime” as a potential Bulls candidate:

Why Sanders might make sense for USF

Jackson State coach Deion Sanders, seen here with rapper Snoop Dogg, would be a splashy hire for the Bulls.
Jackson State coach Deion Sanders, seen here with rapper Snoop Dogg, would be a splashy hire for the Bulls. [ ROGELIO V. SOLIS | AP ]

Sanders checks every box USF athletic director Michael Kelly has listed. He has head coaching experience and is 26-5 as he nears the end of his third season. He has Florida recruiting ties; 16 players on his roster are from the state. Though only five were signed directly from high schools — the rest are transfers — it’s easy to envision the Florida State legend and Fort Myers native thriving in prospects’ living rooms across the state. Snagging the No. 1 overall recruit, Travis Hunter, away from the Seminoles a year ago proves his recruiting power.

Related: USF football coaching search: Who has head coaching experience and Florida ties?

Kelly wants someone who can navigate the fluid modern game with the transfer portal. Sanders hasn’t coached in a time without it. Lastly, there’s no question his hire would boost USF’s profile locally and nationally. He’d be an excellent fundraiser as the Bulls keep working toward their proposed on-campus stadium.

Why Sanders might not make sense for USF

Sanders’ college coaching experience is limited to three seasons at the Football Championship Subdivision level (formerly Division I-AA), and one of those years was the abbreviated spring schedule during the pandemic. That’s a small sample size before a big jump in competition.

The Dallas-area charter school he co-founded, Prime Prep Academy, was a disaster, which might be a concern for the academic side at USF.

Related: USF football coaching search: What types of hires win big at programs like the Bulls?

Why USF might make sense for Sanders

USF has had flashes of success but has never sustained it. Would that profile be appealing to Deion Sanders?
USF has had flashes of success but has never sustained it. Would that profile be appealing to Deion Sanders? [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

The Bulls play in a higher division than Jackson State, providing him more competition and an even larger platform. It’s also easy to see his personality fitting into a pro market.

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Money won’t be his primary concern, but USF paid Jeff Scott about eight times the $300,000 salary Sanders is making at Jackson State and will have a bigger salary pool available for his assistants. Sanders clearly follows his own path, so perhaps the idea of bringing the Bulls their first conference title will resonate more than trying to rebuild a program like Georgia Tech or Colorado. This coaching carousel is relatively slow, so if Sanders wants to jump this year, USF could end up as his best option.

Why USF might not make sense for Sanders

He seems happy and invested in his mission at Jackson State, so he doesn’t have to leave unless it’s for the right job or a major step up. Sanders has said he would be foolish not to listen to bigger offers, but that’s usually in the context of the Power Five.

“Going to the Power Five doesn’t change my lifestyle but guess what — it changes my coaches’ (lifestyle),” Sanders told ESPN last month.

USF is not in the Power Five. Scott’s $2.4 million salary was about $1.5 million less than what Herm Edwards made at Arizona State (another open job this cycle) or what Karl Dorrell made at Colorado, for example.

The job market isn’t crazy yet but could get that way soon. If Lane Kiffin leaves Mississippi for Auburn, the Rebels would seem like a perfect match for Sanders. If not, perhaps Auburn makes a run at him. Sanders also has a longtime partnership with Under Armour and coached in its high school all-star game, but USF is an Adidas school. That’s a minor issue that can be resolved but still worth noting.

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